The concept of virtual exchange is not new to the education space. As jobs become increasingly diverse and more specialized skills are needed to succeed, students must have experiences that expand the boundaries of learning and inspire them to take action.
Multiple tools exist for virtual exchange but many are too expensive for educators, lack safety parameters while filming students and can be difficult to coordinate on your own.
That’s where Empatico revolutionized classroom virtual exchange.
Empatico is a free tool for educators to connect their classrooms with others around the world. Its platform combines everything needed for a successful virtual exchange: live video, file sharing, a partner classroom and activities.
Empatico launched in 2017 with interest from educators and some success but faced significant challenges:
Through a process of inquiry and design, Empatico partnered with Participate to create an ongoing learning experience that would incorporate collaboration, communication and celebration.
This experience was called The Empathy Project Fellowship. It aimed to change the world through kindness and participation in collaborative learning and would be hosted in a Participate Community of Practice.
The main goals of the fellowship were:
With intentional and active recruitment, flexible and personalized professional learning experiences focused on action research and expert facilitation, the Participate team helped Empatico achieve their goals and successfully recruit and engage 150 Empathy Project fellows during the fall 2018 fellowship.
Participate and Empatico recognize that educators, just like students, have individualized learning styles. For this reason, the fellowship showcased dynamic and diverse learning experiences. This provided personalized professional development pathways for educators and challenged them with relevant, authentic learning opportunities.
Each discussion thread, self-paced course or resource collection within the Community of Practice weaved in the Empatico platform and gave the freedom for fellows to learn at their own pace.
Fellows were encouraged to complete at least one virtual exchange with their partner classroom during the fellowship. Before and after this exchange, the Community of Practice served as a collaborative space for fellows to process and share experiences with one another.
As a result of the fellowship, brand awareness has dramatically increased across social media and by word of mouth, as educators across the globe celebrate the impact of virtual exchange and a focus on building empathy in the classroom.
The combination of sustained professional development alongside virtual exchange had a lasting impact on classroom and teacher engagement. The fellows using Empatico were more engaged, rather than those who sign up for the free EdTech tool and never come back.
In addition to the numbers below, fellows achieved some monumental milestones:
As part of the personalized learning pathways, many educators from the fellowship collaborated outside of the community on Twitter.
Many educators expanded their learning beyond the fellowship’s online course offerings. 792 digital badges awarded to educators in the Empathy Project community for completing courses focused on the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The fellowship gave Empatico the visibility into educators’ experiences with their product. Through community discussions and course learning products, Empatico saw first hand how to enhance the user experience. This form of product research resulted in critical product improvements and teacher satisfaction. Participate’s Communites of Practice gave the means of communication between end user and EdTech provider. Not only did the community provide insight into how educators use Empatico but also provided a communication tool to aid educators on how to use Empatico better.
The fellowship provided global educators opportunities not only for the virtual exchange itself but also:
With this success from the inaugural Empathy Project Fellowship, Empatico and Participate decided to host three fellowship cohorts in 2019. The goal is to reach 1,000 educators throughout the year, with each cohort lasting three months. Another goal of the fellowship will be to engage entire schools and districts in a commitment to virtual exchange and teacher collaboration. Fellows from the first cohort will become part of an alumni community to continue collaboration and share their learning experiences. Participate and Empatico will continue to a provide personalized, community-based learning experience to help educators grow.
We continually improve our process and look for ways to create bold and meaningful solutions with our partners.
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