Peer 2 Peer & Coast 2 Coast

And we’re off!

Thanks to a grant from the Knight Foundation, we’ve started to expand learning circles across the United States.

Learning circles are lightly-facilitated study groups for learners who want to take online courses together. We started running learning circles as a pilot with Chicago Public Library in 2015 and after a year and a half, learning circles are now fully integrated into Chicago Public Library’s programming across 14 of their branches. We are really proud of this work and delighted to see it recognized with a 2017 Digital Inclusion Leadership Award.

Since April, we’ve expanded to 9 new public library systems:  Detroit Public Library, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, Richland Library, San Jose Public Library, Wichita Public Library, Boston Public Library, Multnomah County Library, Pierce County Library and Providence Public Library.

Libraries which are currently running learning circles in 2017

With each library system, we’ve been training librarians as learning circle facilitators, introducing them to facilitator handbook and our learning circle dashboard, as well as building a community of librarians and educators through our forum. Our goal is support 100 new learning circles in 20 libraries by the end of 2017, and as you can see from our graph below, we’re getting there!

Number of learning circles per week since January 2017

We’re really excited about this growth and what learning circles can do. With the space and light facilitation provided by libraries, we believe learning circles can create a supportive environment for people to access learning opportunities who otherwise would not.

At the same time, we’re thinking big. These initial learning circles are part of a larger plan to transform the local library into the go-to gateway for accessing high-quality education.

But simply counting heads isn’t enough to say this idea works. Lucky for us, we’ve partnered with the the Technology and Social Change Group (TASCHA) at University of Washington to do an indepth analysis of the learning circle model. Even before some librarians begin to run learning circles, TASCHA has already begun tracking baseline data.

What’s next?

We want to sustain this momentum the best way we know how: by creating opportunities for people to connect.

Along with our community forum, we’re also inviting new and experienced learning circle facilitators, as well as any interested educators from around the world, to share their experience through our monthly community calls.

Our next Community Call will be on Wednesday, May 31 at 2 PM Eastern Time using this Google Hangout link: Think of it like a meet and greet as well as a chance to pose questions and offer advice to other facilitators and librarians.

During the call, we’ll also be hosting a presentation from Wendy Pearson, Digital Inclusion Fellow from the Kansas City Public Library. Wendy will discuss her approach in running learning circles over the past six months, best practices when starting learning circles and also share some mistakes she made along the way. She has previously written about her experience running learning circles – check it out here.

Got an idea for our next blog post? Let us know!

Until next time,


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