April 14, 2022

Wellbeing in online learning environments with Maria Puertas

A discussion on assessing and improving well-being.

Maria has been in education for a decade and a half - first as an in-school teacher, then as a principal for students in both higher and lower grades, and now as a learning designer in the UK. She wrote her masters dissertation on assessing and improving well-being in learning environments and guided fellows through a discussion along the same lines. Here is a summary of our takeaways:

3 interdependent dimensions

Keeping learner wellbeing at the centre

A lot of the ideas to create happier learners circled around being intentional. For example, by designing learning experiences to be fun and immersive, wellbeing becomes an implicit but deeply ingrained value. On the other hand, explicitly creating spaces for people to check-in with themselves can be a core driver to help them be more present in the moment.

Creating communities

There is no questioning the power of a strong community and its benefits towards fostering social interaction but it's equally important to acknowledge the difficulties of building one online - How do we empower learners to continue building the community independently? How do we enable interactions that allow people to exist beyond just a name and face on a screen? What can we learn from in-person and bring online? While there are tools and practices that aid virtual communities, there are some things that cannot be moved to zoom such as reading body language and creating a collective physical presence. 

Collective identity 

The basic human need for belonging is deep and it has a strong correlation with learner wellbeing in an environment. Building rituals and exercises along with facilitating practices that aid collective identity are crucial and can take different forms, from community agreements to group routines, that all ultimately lead to higher trust between learners.

Keeping emotion in mind

How do we design these learning experiences around feelings? Just like films have a very strong emotional component tied to them, learning experiences do too. By looking at a learner’s emotional journey like a graph, we can be aware of what the learner is going through and tailor experiences accordingly.

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