ᴅᴀᴠɪᴅ ᴘᴇʀᴇʟʟ ✌ @david_perell "The Writing Guy" | Host of the North Star Podcast: perell.com/podcast | Writing at perell.com/ | Teaching at writeofpassage.school/ Feb. 07, 2020 2 min read

In full transparency, let me take you behind the scenes of an online education business.

Write of Passage is an online writing school. But we also want to help people make friends on the Internet.

Here's how we plan to do that.


Our #1 Goal: Strengthening student community.

In our last cohort, we had 178 students from 28 different countries. All of them came together to help each other write online.

But we weren't satisfied with the student experience.

Some background:

∙ We hold class (via Zoom video conferencing) on Monday and Wednesday evenings.

∙ During the 90 minute sessions, students meet fellow classmates through breakout rooms, which are small group chats of 2-4 students that are assigned randomly each class.

Our post-course survey and feedback calls had a clear theme: Students found the course valuable, but they want deeper relationships with their classmates.

Unfortunately, virtual outreach can feel awkward and uncomfortable, especially for students who are new to the Internet.

In the past, it's taken too long for Write of Passage students to feel like part of the community.

Students developed relationships as the course went on. But we want to compress the get-to-know-you phase from five weeks to five days.

We want people to feel welcome right away.

What's the answer?

Make our BIG class feel SMALL.

A story: When I was applying to colleges, my dad told me I'd make more friends at a small school. He was absolutely right. Paradoxically, the smaller the social group, the more friends you'll make.

Enter feedback groups.

Instead of submitting your article drafts to a public section of the forum, students will share it with a small private group (~10 students).

This is where people will build relationships by helping each other refine their ideas and level-up their online writing skills.

Our solution is inspired by Harvard Business School, where students take every class with the same group of people during their first year.

Likewise... through small teams, Write of Passage students will join a small group, and stick with them throughout the course.

Here's our big challenge: It's hard to build camaraderie online.

Everyone knows how to bond with someone in person, but those same norms don't exist for online courses.

We want students to leave with incredible friendships, and we think small communities are the solution.

Will Mannon is our Director of Student Experience, and he deserves all the credit for creating this plan for our students.

Improving the student community is our #1 priority.

Here's @will_mannon's original post.


You can follow @david_perell.


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