Sora Schools Team Spotlight: Tara Baumgarten

Sora Schools Team Spotlight: Tara Baumgarten

What did you do before working at Sora?

Before Sora, I was an instructional designer at the Education Design Lab where I worked with colleges and employers to build micro-credentials for 21st century skills. I built out learning experiences for life and career skills like communication, collaboration, empathy, and creative problem solving. And the curriculum was co-designed with college and employer partners to get everyone on the same page to define these critical skills and their component parts. 

I’ve always been drawn to innovative education. I learned this at the start of my career working inside a traditional higher ed institution, and getting told “no” a lot when trying new things. I was grateful to work with boundary spanning institutions at the Lab who were willing to push those limits and test new models, but I still found the constraints of a 380 year system restrictive. In time, I found myself wanting to focus my efforts in the adjacent space entirely to really think without boundaries. That’s how I found myself building the best high school in the world! 

How did you hear about Sora, and why did you decide to join the school?

I first learned about Sora Schools on November 26th, 2019. I know the exact date because I checked the page history on a notion page I made after listening to Garrett on the Skill.FM podcast ????. On the page I jotted down the three keys in self-determination theory: relevance, autonomy, and competence. I worked hard to integrate these principles into my work, but it felt like an afterthought since everything was already built. This summer the stars aligned ????, and I got the awesome opportunity to join the team and build these principles into product from the ground up! 

What do you do here?

As Sora School’s Learning Experience Designer, I’m using my human-centered design powers to deeply understand and empathize with the student and faculty experience. There is so much learning goodness going on at different levels and spaces at Sora, and we want to make sure that can scale as Sora grows. This includes generating new ideas for interactive zoom sessions, implementing a new LMS that will automate a lot of tedious tasks for faculty, and dreaming up new solutions to make the student’s learning experience truly the best in the world. 

What’s one thing you’re excited about for the future of Sora?

 We are learning so much every day from students! From the roadmap club that meets every Friday to give feedback and brainstorm, to bi-weekly experiments to test new ideas, this team is deeply embedded in the student experience. I’m excited to build in the public and share what we’re learning to see the Sora model grow in impact. Now especially so many people are looking for resources and “what works”  for online learning, I’m excited to get the student perspective out there!

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