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Learning about Learning Circles: How we onboard new facilitators

If you’re reading this, you probably already know that you can run a learning circle for free whenever you like. You probably also know about our facilitator resources, Juliana’s guide for local organizing, and of course, the global community of facilitators who are ready to help you out on our forum.

However, there is a new resource in town; one that we think will make onboarding new learning circle facilitators easier, more successful, and more fun: it’s our new online course!

Wait…I thought P2PU is all about in-person learning…? Well, we are. But most learning circles use an online course as the basis for in-person learning, and so we decided that there would be no better way to onboard new facilitators than by modeling what a typical learning circle felt like.

This course is designed primarily to be taken in a group setting (like a learning circle), but if you want to go through it online by yourself that is fine too. The course is divided into six modules, each of which can be explored in as little as 20 minutes, or as long as a few hours. Each module consists of three types of resources:

  • Background materials from P2PU to read and watch
  • Discussion prompts if you’re taking this course as a group
  • An activity that can be done either individually or in a group

Many of the resources and materials that you can interact with were developed by learning circle partners from around the world. In fact, pretty much everything you will see comes from discussion that started on the P2PU community forum. This course is dynamic in that it’s always being updated to reflect the latest insights and experiences of the P2PU community. This is only our first of many iterations.

Our hope in making this course is that we can help people feel more comfortable and excited about facilitating a learning circle on whatever topic they choose. These are some of the many things that we’ve included in the course:

  • Learning about P2PU and the values of the learning circle model
  • Considering what is needed for learning circles to work effectively in your community
  • Understanding how to find and assess good online courses
  • Becoming comfortable facilitating a small group discussion
  • Knowing where to reach out for help

In the first month after launching this course, we’ve already seen it used as a basis for learning circle trainings five times on three continents!

In April, Nico (P2PU) and Marsha (San Jose Public Library) facilitated a training for 30 librarians from the Los Angeles Public Library in California.

Learning circles work best with 4-16 people. Therefore, a 30-person training required two facilitators.

Two weeks later, Wendy and Alexis from Kansas City Public Library visited their neighbors at the Mid-Continent Public Library in Missouri and facilitated a training workshop there.

Wendy is in pink. She’s been with us since the beginning 😀

In early May, Nico drove down south across the border to Syracuse, New York to facilitate a training with Onondaga Free Public Library. They also invited representatives from a local community college and housing authority.

Al Oliveras has been leading our work in Syracuse since 2018.

At the end of May, Nico flew to Berlin, Germany to meet up with Nicole, our colleague from the Cologne Public Library. The two of them facilitated our first workshop in Germany at the ZLB. In Germany, they call learning circles “lernteams”.

See more from Berlin at http://berlin.p2pu.org

Finally, Catherine from Kawempe Youth Centre in Lira, Uganda used the course for a training she ran with some of her colleagues. We are still waiting for a photo from that one :).

So, whose next?! Learning about learning circles is ready for you. Of course, if you’d like some help getting started, we are available to help. Just let us know on our forum or by emailing thepeople[at]p2pu[dot]org.

(By the way, we wrote a separate blogpost about how we created the course itself. We used our town tool called Course in a Box. It’s open source and available to use should you want to create an open online course anytime soon.)



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