Summary: Learning with a community is the best way to learn nowadays. It inhabits peer learning which is a powerful tool for a transformative learning experience. It’s no doubt that by turning your community into a classroom, which means making learning part of your community rituals, you will not only give more value to your members but will also sustain your community for the long term.
Communities are great especially when you meet like-minded people with shared interests. If you’re like me who are working with technology, I bet you have more than one online community that you’re part of. Sometimes, joining these communities that discuss topics in line with our interests is addictive. We get FOMO which makes us dig into rabbit holes.
If you’re the community lead, the manager, or the builder, you always have this question in mind how you can make your community more engaging? What are the ways to sustain the engagement and make everyone participate?
One of the best solutions is to make learning happen in your community by transforming it into a classroom. Or I have to say, create a space where everyone can meet, share, and learn from one another. Some ideas to start with are:
1. Organize a live event
In fact, this is the simplest thing you can do to start. Figure out the topic that members are eager to learn. Then either invite a speaker, a member, or a non-member, for a live discussion. Examples of this kind of discussion are:
- AMA (ask me anything!)
- fireside chats
- facilitated debates
- or sometimes, a group discussion will do
If you can’t figure out the topic and who to invite, create a poll in your community. Or if you count yourself as an expert, then you can be the best resource person on your first community event.
2. Conduct weekly learning sessions
This is the best way to start transforming your community into a classroom. Now that you have members already, it will be easier for you to validate if you should add a course offering in your community. What do I mean? Not all communities can be learning hubs. Validation among community members is necessary by conducting weekly learning sessions.
Here are the steps to do that:
- Start with 4-week learning sessions where you can mix up the self-paced and live learning.
- Take a look at how many members will join and participate.
- Track how many members will complete your weekly learning sessions. How many members missed out 1, 2 or 3 of the weekly sessions? And how many complete the four weeks?
- Observe how many are engaging and enthusiastically participating.
- Find out how much they like the sessions and how much it helps them through feedback & survey.
- Lastly, figure out if they want more. Ask them if they will participate once you create a cohort-based course out of the learning sessions. If they do, then you’re about to turn your community into a classroom style successfully.
3. Create a cohort-based course
Bring the classroom inside your community by creating a cohort-based course. If the weekly learning sessions are successful, then it’s time to do it longer and better, with structure.
The great thing about turning your community into a classroom style is you don’t have to build everything yourself. You have your members ideate, iterate, and experiment with you. How can you do that?
- Plan your curriculum along with your members through brainstorming meetings, polls, feedback, and survey. What works and what doesn't work well in the learning sessions? What topic do they care about learning the most? How can you make it better?
- Reuse relevant community resources that were shared by the members. Collaborate with your members to speak or host the live sessions. But be careful to invite only those who are capable and know the topic very well. You don’t want to compromise the quality of your course.
- Lastly, ask them to invite non-members to join the cohort-based course. It’s a win-win thing: you’ll have more people to attend the course, plus your members will have the opportunity to share what they’re doing and influence the new joiners through their expertise.
Although the difficult part is to ask the community members to participate, and give their time and energy to co-create the cohort-based course with you. Plus, if it goes well, how are you going to monetize it where everyone will earn from it? If you’ve built a community where you foster belongingness and camaraderie, this should be manageable for you.
The common types of communities that you can transform into a classroom:
1. Interest-based community.
A community where people are connected based on their shared interests or passions. Examples are those creative genres such as music, photography, gaming, sports, and many more. You can see most of these on Patreon and subreddits.
2. Mission-based community.
This is the common type of community that is run by non-profit organizations, activist groups, and social entrepreneurs. This is mostly built to run fundraising events and purpose-driven activities that can help the community to support its mission and certain social cause.
3. Product-based community.
Startup companies nowadays are building a community for customers who love their products. It’s also a good strategy to retain their customers and provide much more value than the products alone. One of the biggest product-based communities is Notion. They grew the company through their community-building strategy where their users became their ambassadors.
4. Profession-based community.
This is also one of the common types where people with the same profession gather together to give feedback, share opinions, and learn from each other. This is mostly seen in Slack, WhatsApp, and Telegram groups.
Examples are teachers who want to learn from each other to improve their teaching strategies. UX designers, software engineers, and marketers gather to improve their skills and grow their careers. In fact, these are the best communities to turn into a classroom.
Tools you need to transform your community into a classroom
Transforming your community into a classroom isn’t an easy task. Expect to have a long list of to-dos and months of validation to do it right. Using a learning platform to help you with the automation process can be a good decision.
Surely, you can choose from the thousands of learning platforms available out there, so don’t forget to look for these important features to ease your work:
- Curriculum builder. allows you to create your course in a structured manner. Don’t forget to choose a builder for both asynchronous and synchronous learning sessions so you can make your course scalable.
- Peer review. Make a space where you can encourage your members to learn from each other through a peer review feature. It would be easy for you and for them to review each other’s homework, assignments, and projects if you have this kind of feature.
- Built-in community. You don’t want to have several tools in your hand in transforming your community into a classroom. Saving costs plus saving time are both important. Choose an all-in-one platform where both community and curriculum builders are built in one place.
That's all, folks! Share this article with a friend who is also struggling to create engagement in their communities. You might help them a ton!