Create teams in virtual settings

I can't wait to use Classcraft in the virtual setting.  Last year before Covid, the students were picking their teams.  Now during Covid, we are remote learning.  How can I create teams with students input?  I don't want a student to not be solo, but randomly assigning middle schools to teams can result in no involvement cause they are not with their friends.  What suggestion are there for making teams with friends while making sure there are not solo players in the virtual model.

Each term I give my students a survey to help me create teams. They can put down upto 3 names they want to work with and I try to get them with at least one of their choices.

I ask for a social name, a wellbeing name and a academic name.

I also let them put down 1 name who they don't want to work with, but they have to explain why.

So I teach higher ed fully online (asynchronous) classes and have for many years.   My students are extremely unlikely to have ever met before taking my class (we're a big institution with over 50,000 students across 6 locations).    So what I do is ask them to 1. self-assess their comfort level with the class and 2.  tell me their character preferences.   Then I create groups with a mix of students based on these answers.   I don't want a group where everyone feels uncomfortable with online learning for example.   I also try to get a mix of genders to the extend that I know this.   At this point in the class, I really just know the student's name (not always an indicator of gender identity) and whether they want their character to appear male of female.   

Now, with online learning, especially in higher ed, we always have a few students in each class who sign up and never participate.  Or who discover part-way through the term that trying to take 12-15 credits while working 60 hours a week and caring for family won't work for them.   So I also anticipate that a couple of people on each team may not participate.   That means I make the teams significantly larger than they need to be.  

I am also teaching a structured remote class this fall.   It will have weekly Zoom meetings and it's an honors class, meaning the students may well know some of their classmates.   So there, we will have a couple of class meetings.  In those meetings I'll put students randomly in breakout groups to discuss primary sources (I teach history).  This will let them get to know each other.   Then I'll ask them if they have any team preferences and go from there.  But you can't really do that if the class is fully remote and asynchronous (no required times when everyone is online together).  If you do have meeting times, I'd suggest doing activities during those times that will let students get to know each other and then take their preferences into account.  

And remember - you don't need to put them in teams on Day 1!   You could start them all in the same team, then move them as you get a feel for the class.  

Super late but just throwing my $0.02 in. 

I teach high school so some of my students know each other for years and others don't. I honestly randomly assigned groups with zoom breakout rooms the first day we did CC and those are the teams for the rest of the semester. I do A LOT of work community building with Growth Mindset, mindfulness, meditation, and general wackiness though.

I did have some students request changes, but unless there are serious behavior issues in a group (only had 1 group I've had to break up in 3 years of CC), that's how they stay in my class. I get them talking in groups before they're doing math, try to get them to develop a group identity for themselves, and generally want them to be a committed group for the whole semester.

Oh thank you so much Luke.  I like that. I really like the idea of one they don't want to work with and why.  You just saved me tons of stress.

I do what Luke suggested.  Except, I will definitely incorporate the input on one person they would like to avoid and why.

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