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Creating remote student communities

Currently, Lambda School is a 9-month, fully remote program. We support 100+ students in their journey of breaking into the design industry. We focus on community-driven design education by creating opportunities for students to interact with each other and get to know each other. As instructors, we try to create fun opportunities to teach something new every week. Here are some ways we create interactive experiences:
🎈Question of the day

This is a simple method, but we post a question of the day a few times a week for students to answer! We get some pretty creative and funny responses and it's a short break from design work.

This question was apparently very controversial 🤣
💬 "Conversational" learning

We try out lots of different ways to get students thinking about job hunting. Here, we tried out a learning method where Elizabeth and I had a "conversation" about editing her cover letter in Slack.

We try to make things like writing cover letters fun and engaging! Here, we edit a sample cover letter piece by piece.
💙 Design history

We created a design history series in which we highlight important movements and individuals that pushed design forward. We hoped to encourage our students to be aware of design history and underrepresented designers, but we also learned a lot in the research process!

We created threads in Slack with discussions on topics like the origin of printing, the history of the Pride flag, and microaggressions in forms.
🔥 Portfolio roasts and lightning talks

One of our pressing goals was for students to finish their portfolios. We created portfolio roasts as a fun way for students to volunteer to get their portfolios "roasted" by Elizabeth and I pretending to be hiring managers. We found that students are often nervous to be critiqued by their peers and community—so, by presenting it as a "roast," we hoped to take off some of the pressure of being worried like in more traditional critiques.

Elizabeth and I try to make them as conversational and funny as possible to show that "roasts" are a casual, conversational way to get feedback on your portfolio.

Lightning talks are casual talks where students can talk about whatever they want for 5-10 minutes! They get practice presenting, speaking, and making slides, and we get to hear about everyone's interests. Talks have ranged in topic from cars to pets to working styles!

Students send us their portfolios-in-progress to roast. Here I'm signaling to increase margins by pushing my hands together. (My students have seen me do this gesture many, many times.)
✨ Visual design club

Visual design club meets every Friday and was originally started by Elizabeth! During visual design club, students participate in learning about different visual design concepts every week. Sometimes the topics are more technical (like practicing shortcuts) and other times they're more conceptual (like defending your design decisions). Visual design club is a great opportunity for students to come together and keep their visual design skills sharp.

Sometimes, Visual design club has a focus on technical skills and refinement! Here's an example of a hotkeys challenge we did where students recreate the top image as fast as possible.
We also go into topics that explore design in new ways! Recently, I taught a lesson on teaching design. Students were encouraged to come up with sample lesson plans and activities about typography.

These are just a few ways we encourage students to participate in their learning community! We're always thinking of new ways to engage students while they're on the same journey.

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