What Makes a Good Digital Classroom?

EdSurge recently featured an article written by the Principal of a Secondary School in China that completed the transition to distance education. Among the tips for educators taking on this challenge, was the importance of optimism and positivity in our interactions with learners.

As the leaders in conversational learning, the Paper team decided to take a deep dive into our data, looking into millions of online learning sessions that learners have had on our platform.

Our team partnered with a group of Master’s students from Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy, to study the role that positive sentiment and emoji use plays in a student’s learning.

After analyzing millions of messages sent between students and our Paper educators, our results showed that positive sentiment during learning, built through the use of optimistic language & emoji use, leads to more motivated learning.

What The Data Says

Essentially, we studied the “sentiment” of online learning sessions on Paper’s platform. We searched sessions for certain keywords and emojis that carried either positive or negative connotations.

It was found that the more positive the sentiment of an online learning session, the more likely the student was to log back onto our platform in the future.

We also studied how sentiments changed over time with sessions.

We saw that the first time students logged onto our platform was often while feeling stressed or frustrated about their school work. This was hypothesized to be the trigger to seek help from one of our educators.  

Tracking the progression of students’ sessions, we discovered that each time students logged on, as they were greeted with positivity by our educators, these students’ sentiments became more and more positive with each visit.

Overtime, sentiments grew positive to the point where power-user students almost always used positive keywords and emojis as they started new sessions. In other words, they began logging onto sessions excited to have Paper’s educators help them learn.

Takeaways for educators

Our findings point to the need for ongoing positive interactions from educators in digital learning environments.

While this data may seem intuitive, we know that educators have a lot on their plate right now. With the shift to distance learning, it can be difficult (even awkward) to make that shift from real-life interactions with their students, to strictly virtual ones.

As experts in conversational and digital learning we hope that this data report can serve as a reminder of how far optimism and positivity (and emojis!) can go not only for our students, but for ourselves, during stressful times.

So educators, remember to keep on! 😊


Founded in 2014, Paper is an educational support system providing students with 24/7 live help and essay review, and teachers with real-time feedback and intervention tools. Paper partners with districts across North America to close the achievement gap and support educational equity.