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Learning in Virtual Proximity

How can we create virtual proximity to engage students in peer relationships during remote learning?

Photo of Colleen Seifert
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Written by

I am a.....

  • Teacher
  • College

Tell us about your idea

Students go to school to see their peers! Middle and high students follow individualized class schedules but share physical proximity to drive peer relationships. With remote learning, students are cut adrift in a sea of interchangeable sessions with no place to interact. Now, virtual peer groups can "co-locate" students in a co-working environment to support individual and collaborative learning. Each group, guided by a coach, moves together through online courses and shares services, resources, and schedules to create continuity in experiences over semesters. In new meeting technology, students in work sessions move around for conversations in pairs and small groups, post Pinterest boards with playlists, and share resources and social media finds. Schools provide a virtual proximity for joint and collaborative peer learning, and peers move together through learning milestones.

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

Pre-COVID, many students are lost within large systems with little individual attention or consistency. The model in middle and high school prioritizes ease of scheduling and physical constraints over learner's needs. Students are independent agents with random assignment to teachers and classes so that relationships depend on the luck of the draw. Instead, we can offer stable virtual groups to meet students' needs for continuity, guidance, and rich interactions with peers as they learn.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

As a parent, I saw how students experienced the loss of peer engageent with the move to online learning. Social learning in the physical classroom is more fun and motivating for students, and the norms and joint actions in a shared environment support students as they move through instruction. Losing physical co-location results in undesirable consequences for both learning and peer relationships. What if we could design a virtual class where new relationships can emerge naturally over time and enrich learning experiences?

What region are you located in?

  • North America

Where are you located?

Ann Arbor, MI is a medium-sized town with very large schools and student bodies, and high expectations for academic success.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Rachel Siegel

Hi Colleen Seifert - I'm one of the Community Coaches! As I was reading through other submissions, I wanted to tag a couple of folks whose submissions might also serve as inspiration for yours! Yeon Lee is a student who has some solid ideas of how students prefer to interact virtually and Amy Cowgill 's idea focuses on small, virtual cohorts.

Enjoy your weekend!

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