Finding a community is a vulnerable and difficult experience, especially for students. It requires not only feeling comfortable with your peers, but also trusting them enough to be able to ask questions and learn without fear of condemnation.
I was lucky – I found my first community in my freshman year. Sitting in the common room at 2am, panicking with classmates the night before the exam, we established strong ties.
Whether it’s a general sense of impending doom in connection with the ordeal, or a sense of collective relief after its completion, there is something magical about learning with the community. That’s why the isolation caused by the pandemic was so devastating to the students.
It was already difficult to build a real student community before the pandemic. Now, after two years of instability caused by COVID, finding it is even harder.
З student demarcation and mental health problems on the rise, edtech solutions are trying to help reconnect students. At this year’s ASU GSV summit, the annual meeting of edtech investors and companies, the main topic was the expansion of learning communities.
But is it really possible to scale something as intimate as community? And if so, what seems to work?
I was able to talk to several edtech leaders during the event to try to get answers.
Sharing disappointments and successes
One of the most powerful ways to build communities between students is to solve problems collectively. Persistently performing difficult tasks is not only much more enjoyable with others, but the process also naturally allows learning to take place with equals. Having someone else to talk to and celebrate with makes learning much more valuable and exciting.
Organizations like Flatiron School and Stack overflow especially good to use this strategy. Focused on helping software developers build their skills, these businesses promote collaborative learning through group problem solving and community feedback. “It’s also simple [having] people to talk to, ”said Kate Cassino, CEO of Flatiron. “How are you doing?”
A sense of what is seen, heard and connected
Companies targeted to one specific type of learner, such as software engineers, naturally have a certain level of shared identity between users. But how do organizations that support a wide range of students make each of these students feel noticed and heard?
Tools that promote more personalized peer-to-peer communication may be one answer. A handshakeThe Early Career Platform for College Students, uses student-to-student messaging to help users connect with other people like them on the platform.
“One of the things we really recognize is that on the way to finding opportunities, you often need to have a relationship,” said Christine Cruzvergara, Handshake’s chief education officer. “We want to make Handshake a place where students who don’t yet have connections … can come to Handshake to build [them]».
Ruben Harris, Chief Executive Officer Karma career, a platform for career navigation and mentoring, highlighted how powerful audio rooms can be as a tool for meaningful conversations and community. “I can just organize everyone together and they’ll give you a sauce you’ll never be able to find,” he said. “Someone of underestimated origin who has already invaded [to the tech industry] can give you an understanding ”.
Search for mentorship
The main part of creating a true learning community is mentoring, especially by teachers who share similar experiences, hobbies and goals as the wards. Strong mentoring not only allows the ward to learn from their teacher’s experience, but also helps both the teacher and the ward feel less isolated.
Audrey Wich, co-founder and CEO of the company Curious cardinals, well considered the importance of individual mentoring. “We focus on one-on-one,” she said. “That’s where you find the greatest connections, and that’s where we feel, at least for now, the greatest value is being optimized by our teachers.”
When my discussions at ASU GSV came to an end, I had one last observation. Given all the coffee chats and panels on strengthening student community and engagement, it seemed that the conference actually felt a significant shortage of students and faculty.
Today, incredible edtech solutions are being created to help reconnect students with each other – and with their love of learning. I have no doubt that technology will continue to play an important role in education; let’s just not forget the students ’voices while making these decisions.