‘In order to respond to global crises such as climate change we will need to transform education.
I believe the CBE virtual peer method can make a significant contribution in that process.’
Charles Hopkins, UNESCO chair, York University, Canada
Established in 2003, Crossing Borders Education (CBE) creates content and programs to build peer communities, develop 21st century vital skills 1 and nurture a sense of purpose during concerning times. In order to serve a wide variety of people in very different sectors, we developed a peer-led method that nurtures the depth of small group connections while scaling through technology.
We have delivered proof of concept in running multiple, international group dialogues simultaneously with organizations including the British Council, Cisco Green Team, Purdue University, UNESCO, and the TED Audacious project Glasswing International. Our approach has supported students in dialogue across 25 countries, professional teams working across six time-zones, and institutions seeking a cost effective, pedagogically sound way to connect and nurture their constituents.
Our pilots have confirmed that we can scale simultaneous workshop groups with the WebEx infrastructure, workflow and technology from 4 groups to 400 (and more).
Online interactions offer incredible potential for learning and connection. If not facilitated carefully, they also pose challenges:
- Creating emotional distance between participants
- Exacerbating online fatigue, disengagement and loneliness
- Further highlighting cultural, economic and social differences
- Causing people to feel a lack of authenticity
- Setting an impersonal tone for dialogue
We have built our Virtual Peer Methodology (US Patent Publication No. 2021/0304631) through the expertise, insights and practices of high impact learning, transformative learning, peer learning, storytelling and filmmaking to address the challenges of online interactions. Our media-enhanced methodology unlocks the vast potentials of online interactions for easily scalable virtual communities through program elements such as:
- Virtual WebEx sessions to ensure global access across social and national borders
- Peer Led Processes to strengthen motivation
- A Scaffolding of Responsibilities to enable peer facilitation on three levels (small groups, workshop groups, community events)
- Media-enhanced interactive peer trainings of facilitators on the three levels
- Consistent small groups to build relationships
- Group agreements to support trust building and safety
- Emotional Media Prompts to inspire personal involvement
- Short Multimedia Contents to grow 21 st century skills
- Peer Awareness Activities to sensitize for self and other
- Media Awareness Nudges to highlight our group values
- Peer Videos with Authentic Voices to inspire peers and model empathic dialogue (building on the research of Social Learning Theory)
- Written Reflection Moments to prepare contributions
- Storytelling to connect people deeply in their narratives
- Practical Media-Enhanced Design to support the communication process
- Participatory Culture to build virtual communities in easily scalable formats
- Creative Open Spaces to harvest insights on online platforms
- Community WebEx Events to interlink intimate small groups with global communities
Research indicates that the attention span of listeners in the online environment is around 15-20 minutes and needs to be interactive in order to be efficient. 3 Yet, webinars mostly encompass passive-listening due to the labor-intense nature of high-impact interactive designs. The graphic below gives an indicator of the flow of group processes between: peer facilitation (green), CBE peer media and individual writing/drawing reflection(blue), and break out rooms with the same group of four (orange). In doing so approximately 80% of the session design is interactive.
This model leverages scalable technologies while emphasizing meaningful interactions and deep learning. Our partners (e.g. British Council, Purdue University, etc.) underlined the strengths of the CBE methodology for: relationship-building, social learning, vital skill practices, transformative learning and civic engagement.
Our main task and objective at this time is to build the virtual infrastructure for scaling up sustainably and affordably. We experienced WebEx Video Conferencing combined with WebEx Events (formerly Socio) as the ideal tools for achieving those goals to serve and transform education to interactive blended learning models. The CBE methodology and resources can be enhanced with the help of Cisco-WebEx infrastructure into a Global Peer Model that can empower individual students, strengthen local connections, and grow global learning communities in diverse sectors.