By: Anna King
Virtual reality is our new reality. Well, not really, but we most often operate and interact virtually in our COVID-19 world. We discussed how human connection is often the first thing to go when it comes to working together virtually in our June 15 blog post on “Humanizing the Virtual Experience.” While often ignored or not prioritized, human connection is what gives depth and helps sustain virtual experiences, so learning can happen and work can get done.
We recently partnered with the International Space University (ISU) situated in Strasbourg, France on the development of a 5-week virtual experience that until 2020, has always been offered in-person. The international, interdisciplinary program provides an innovative environment in which students use their range of backgrounds and experience to generate collaborative solutions to both real and potential challenges that involve space.
This year’s mission scenario occurs in the year 2120. Humanity has settlements across multiple planets and space habitats with dozens of stations in earth’s orbit for research and recreational purposes. Various planetary stations are permanently occupied on both the Moon and on Mars. A crew of approximately 80 students from around the world is tasked with exploring “how space can help in the monitoring, preparedness, mitigation, and prevention of pandemics.”
Beyond achieving their mission, relationships built during the 5 weeks (and leveraged over students’ careers) are the keystone of the program for its participants. Concerns around planning a virtual International Space Program (ISP) centered on ensuring the experience was engaging for students. The program ran smoothly from a technology perspective and gave students a chance to meet and build relationships with their peers. Integrated Work partnered with ISU to weave human connection activities throughout all aspects of the program to achieve this final objective. Some specific strategies used:
- Design your session to support interaction, engagement, and human connection from the beginning. Use facilitation techniques and technology tools.
- Ensure adequate time for participants to get to know one another at the start of a virtual event or experience. Format low-stakes introductions based on the size of the group.
- Develop shared commitments for interacting. In partnership, generate agreements around how individuals and the group will communicate and interact with one another during the virtual experience.
- Use small group discussions early during an event to foster greater sharing by more people and increased understanding of various perspectives across the whole.
- Leverage tech tools that bring out the human qualities of individuality, contribution, vision, purpose, perspective, and empathy. Customizable polling tools and annotation combined with effective facilitation are just a few examples.
- Weave in appreciation. Feeling heard, seen, and valued are at the heart of our humanity. Find ways to incorporate expressing gratitude for the efforts of others at some point during the event.
We wish you the best in planning and delivering meaningful virtual events. To learn more about ISU, our partnership, or virtual planning and delivery, please contact us at: email@example.com