For the past several weeks, Digital Adventures has completely transitioned our instructor guided, in-person studio classes over to an online format. While this switch has not been easy, we have learned a lot about our students, our families, ourselves, and our business.
Through the process of working with these various groups, we have identified 3 key elements to creating a great online learning experience for kids.
1. Make it social
Kids all across the country and all across the globe are starving for social interaction and engagement. Just a few weeks, many of us may have taken for granted just how important connecting with people outside of our family really is. At Digital Adventures, we’ve been fortunate to work with students locally, nationally and globally.
What we have learned is that, the online learning experience must be social. Social can take many forms. From introducing students to each other at the start of the lesson to having a dedicated time to share their progress at the end of the session, it’s important for students to have as many opportunities as possible to interact and engage with each other.
It’s also ok to have students share about how their day or week is going at the start of each session. Normally, in classes, there is the desire to jump right in and begin the project. However, we must allow space for kids to have social interactions with other kids that right now are super limited. The online format is a great way to facilitate this social engagement.
2. Make it engaging
While we are grateful for the abundance of videoconference platforms and tools that allow us to connect. However, these tools only provide the platform. And, in many cases that is not enough to engage students. Videoconference software simply provides the opportunity to connect those with an internet connection and a laptop or desktop computer. However, the structure of our program and type of project will make all the difference when it comes to students enjoying your online program.
At Digital Adventures, we have organized our web platform around a series of 8-15 challenges for each project. Students have the opportunity to work through these challenges semi-independently while the instructor guides them. When students get stuck, which they inevitably will, instructors are able to view their screens and quickly figure out what is going on & go through a Socratic process of asking the right questions to help them figure out how to get unstuck.
To make sure that there is a tight feedback loop, instructors only unlock each subsequent step after they have had an opportunity to review a students progress. This allows for students to work in 5-10 minute increments and then receive measured and meaningful feedback on how they are progressing. This also prevents students from working for long periods of time only to realize that they have made a minor error in the beginning of the project that is relatively harder to troubleshoot towards the end of a session when everyone is showing off their projects.
3. Make it supportive
At the end of each project, we have a share out. During this time, students are able to share with the instructor and their peers what they have built over the course of the session. This is a great opportunity not only for students to show off what they have done but for the group to collectively encourage each other.
Building is such a challenging endeavor. Building in the midst of a global pandemic represents its own unique challenges. Since the environment will always have certain elements of limited control, it’s important that future inventors and innovators have the opportunity to create regardless of the circumstances beyond their control.
By and large, most students are doing a great job navigating these externalities. However, it’s important to recognize that they are doing a great job. One of the key challenges in education broadly and instruction generally is helping students to maximize their individual potential.
Through group share-outs and encouraging feedback from instructors and peers, students are able to be recognized for their effort and can thereby be motivated in future builds to continue to refine and develop their skills in a way that is authentic to themselves.
While the online environment can be challenging from an instructional perspective, there are still opportunities to deliver great experiences for students in this format. However, you have to be cognizant of the differences and be willing to develop creative solutions in order to overcome the limitations. By focusing on creating a great experience for students that is social, engaging & supportive, you will see that teachable moments and student growth will result being thoughtful about how you structure the online learning environment.