We, at Vedantu, have always been curious to do something new and better. So when One-to-Few (OTF) online batches were launched on Vedantu, we thought of finding the best ways to make it more meaningful and interactive for our students. One of the most engaging ways that we could think of, was making a group outside the class. This would be a kind of offline Vedantu group, where the students are still in touch with each other even if they are not in the class. After researching on what can be done to break the ice between the students and the teacher of a particular online OTF batch before the first class, we ran a student community building experiment using asynchronous interactions via a WhatsApp group. And lo, there we were. Creating our own WhatsApp experiment! we were sure it would work best in a small OTF group tuition where a focused group of 5 to 7 students learn in a common online classroom.
The reason we did not exceed this number by 5 to 7 was simple, we didn’t want the personalized interaction to be compromised in any way. From our experience it appears that when there are more than 7 participants, the learning outcomes are compromised and the learner satisfaction goes down. Smaller group sizes make this phenomenon less likely to occur.
In launching such batches we ensured that the students enrolled for a particular class be comfortable with each other from the very first online session on Vedantu, as they are new to each other. The teachers are also guided to be sensitive to different communication styles and behaviors for various cultures to be seen in a learning community.
Here are a couple of pointers we kept in mind for a successful group interaction and meaningful learning of the group in an online environment.
1. Start WhatsApp interactions well in advance!
The course teacher creates a WhatsApp group a few days before the course starts. The teacher initiates the interaction by framing a simple activity for the learners to introduce themselves to the rest of the focused group, by writing one or two paragraphs about themselves, their interests, hobbies etc. The teacher then have students respond to at least two of their fellow course mates in the forum.
When learners feel connected, the barrier of the technological infrastructure comes down. Learners feel they are part of a community and establish a social presence. The social presence, which is an important & intangible dimension in an online ecosphere.
2. Highlight the Purpose!
It is vital to highlight the purpose of the group. This helps learners and their parents know that the WhatsApp group is a special group – A group that would help improve the learning outcomes of the entire online study group you are part of. Also, it is a great medium to stay connected with the teacher, fellow learners and understand their academic needs, anytime and anywhere.
3. Early contacts lasts long!
As soon as the the group is created, the course teacher ensures that he/she induces some interaction. We saw some really amazing work from the teachers to break the ice. It involved sharing ‘Question of the day’, ‘Thought for the day’ or a fun activity that engaged the entire group. Doing this early on really helped in ensuring that a bonding is created amongst the group members and learning became fun.
4. Profile pictures – Make it real
The admin of the group also encourages students to upload a profile pictures of themselves in the WhatsApp Group. Although it is not a compulsion, but having a profile picture helps putting a face to a name. We are sure you’ll agree, this minor change of putting across a picture helps building and strengthening personal connections multifold in a student community online.
5. Utilize the Group Better
The teacher, who is also the admin of the WhatsApp group, makes sure that it does not becomes a yet another place to chit chat, but also plays a key role in major announcements of online tests and assignments. It was observed that whenever a doubt was posted, not just the teacher, but fellow students do come ahead to clears the doubts. Here is where the magic happens and social connections get stronger with a whole new meaning. The key remains in striking the balance! Whenever it was possible, we ensured creating groups based on experiences and kept a healthy mix of experienced online students and first time online learners.
6. Be available at the need of the hour!
The teacher makes sure the concerns and questions of the students are resolved well in time. We observed, in most cases the doubts were peer-solved and the teacher remained a facilitator in the group. while this enhanced the peer learning amongst the students, teacher makes sure to go an extra mile to arrange for a one-to-one session for further doubt clarification. As a matter of fact, when a teacher is involved and supportive of his/her students, higher levels of learning outcomes are more likely to be achieved.
The entire exercise was so much fun and gave us some really great insights – How a small study group behaves, how the interaction amongst complete strangers can be achieved, and what enhances the personalization in a group of 5-7 students learning an academic topic. Overall it was a great learning experience for all of us. It also paved way to an awesome community at Vedantu – Our very own OTF student community!
Image Credits – Google Images
About the author:
Namo works with Vedantu as Product Research Manager and is a Physics enthusiast. In his free time he loves to explore new cuisines and restaurants.