Tim's Newsletter 10/16/20

Courses, Communities, Digital Education City

Hey Friends 👋,

Welcome to the weekend.

As you know, I’ve taken a handful of online courses this year and I’m starting one more before the year ends. Today, I’m sharing four ways these courses create communities. While many of you have been a part of these experiences, others haven’t. I’ve noticed online courses improving throughout the year so am sharing a few ways the best stand out.

No two courses had the same format. Some are videos on Teachable, others have this plus engaging live classes on Zoom and forums. When done poorly, classes resemble boring webinars. While the best ones create experiences where you learn by doing in a group setting.

The courses that are pushing online education balance skill development, accountability, and community. People take courses for a transformation, but it’s just not the skill that matters. The memorable ones form strong communities.

Community is formed by creating environments with high engagement. The more ways people interact with each other, the more likely it will continue beyond the end of the course.

Relationships extend over to:

  • Writing Groups

  • Email and Twitter

  • New companies being created

  • Collaborations on Newsletters, Youtube and Podcasts

The strongest communities have depth to them. People meet online and eventually in real life.

4 ways to build community in Live Courses

1. The first is what not to do. If you’re presenting a full hour lecture, post it as a video instead. Live courses should be interactive so they are optimized for engagement. This is important because people drop out of online courses at a high rate. Students need to feel they are missing a class because they can’t recreate it. It needs to be an experience, not just a video. To add to the experience teachers should be asking questions for students to answer in the chat.

2.Zoom's strength is the breakout rooms. Teachers can give a short lesson before moving to a prompt for students to work together. Moving into smaller groups allows time for live exercises. This gives the opportunity to create connections with classmates.

In WOP, David Perell often gave a short lecture on a framework to use for writing. One popular one is CRIBS (Confusing, Repetitive, Interesting, Boring, Surprising). It’s used to give feedback on what to remove and what to double down on. After introducing a concept, you’ll be sent off to a breakout room to practice using the framework with work from a past assignment.

Breakout rooms give students an opportunity to practice and get feedback in small groups. This gives fast feedback cycles that help to learn.

3. Mentor Groups and office hours are a great addition to the curriculum because they can be slower paced. Live courses move fast. Each week you take in more information than you can act on. A loose agenda one day a week allows anyone to catch up on questions throughout the course. This can be Q/A with the teacher, sessions led by Alumni, or current students that have the experience to add to the course.

4. Accountability Groups can be used during or transitioning out of the course. This could be partnering people 1-on-1 in the course to check in with each other. Or allowing people to opt into groups that run after the course ends. Accountability helps people form the habit they showed up for. It also gives a great place to get feedback along the way.

I’ve found the more ways courses connect students, the longer the relationships last afterward. Not all the learning comes from the teacher. We all need to learn by doing. The communities help facilitate continued growth, which is why the courses with stronger communities have been more memorable courses.

Digital Education City

One interesting byproduct of joining multiple courses and workshops is you’ll see familiar faces. It feels like there is a new city being formed online. Much like a college wherein elective classes you see friends from different majors, online courses allow you to connect with people from different backgrounds around the world. The online world is always active. It’s amazing to meet people in courses, then see them elsewhere in Zoomland.

Until next week,


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