Building an Online Learning Community

Growth School is an educational platform that helps its members learn and upskill their careers. Om Asnani has been a part of Growth School since it was in the ideation stage. He has been building the Community. In this session of LikeMinds Community Deep Dive, Om shares with us the case study of Growth School and more tips on building an online ed-tech community.

He starts with a few initiatives that have helped grow the Community of Growth School:

  1. Icebreaker session
  2. Project Track
  3. On-Demand Video Track
  4. Guest Sessions
  5. Community Spotlight

Deep Dive Session with Om Asnani

Let's dive a little into these:

Icebreaker sessions

An icebreaker session is a session where people are divided into 1-1 or in groups before the cohorts/sessions start. This helps in the activation of the sessions and better member-to-member engagement.

On-Demand Video Track - Weekly watch parties!

Watch parties are sessions where people come together and watch on-demand videos. Jamming sessions follow these. It was noticed that after that t the completion rates of programs increase up to 80% due to such sessions.

Peer-to-Peer Feedbacks

In the case of Ed-TEch communities with many members, it can get difficult for experts to review the work of all the members. This is where peer-to-peer feedback comes in handy. This leads to quality submissions, better portfolio building, and more opportunities.

Community Spotlight

Community Spotlight can be an opportunity for community experts to show their skills. This helps with better networking and personal branding.

The audience asked him some follow-up questions, which Om answered briefly. Read them here:

Nipun: You mentioned that Watch Party helped increase the course completion to 80%. Could you break down the process and tell us more about it?

Om: Initially, Watch Party was not a mandatory activity. However, for the session, we did not host a Watch Party, and there was a significant dip in engagement in the community.

Let's say a course went live on Sunday. For this, we host the Watch Party session on Monday. We sent out invitations and very strong communication to embark on the FOMO. These people already know each other from the icebreaker sessions. They know that there could be potential for collaboration. The Watch Party is therefore a good opportunity to connect with them again.

So, as the announcements go out people are interested. They join the session, watch the content together, discuss it, and share their thoughts, doubts, and questions. The session leads members to interact with each other, at a deeper level. This encourages them to discuss the assignments, their challenges, and much more. This process translates to better completion rates.

Nipun: Were there any hacks to create the initial FOMO?

Om: Sometimes when we saw the attendance was low, we posted screenshots of what was happening on the call. what are the chats about what's happening in the group, just constantly putting out and sharing what we were doing? This creates a FOMO and people join in as and when they get free.

Pranjal: How do you manage your time? A lot of Community Members get overwhelmed trying to do everything. What's your mantra?

Om: The first thing I must mention specifically about this is that you need to have just sheer passion. It's not like forcing yourself to love your work but what you do. Being a comedian, I like to entertain people, and I like to talk to people a lot. That's why I have conversations with people in the communities. It also helps me identify a lot of people. I met a lot of evangelists. It helps connect at a personal level and creates word of mouth about you and your brand too.

Avani: What part of community building gives you the most joy?

Om: Collaboration. It is something that keeps me going. I regularly reflect on these questions:

  1. Is there a scope for member collaborations?
  2. How can I encourage member collaborations?
  3. How can I contribute? Can I form some little groups or help them do some activities?

For example, I am starting cohort-based sessions. These help people find their niche. These are live micro-learning sessions, that helps members explore and have skills complementary to what they are learning. I think such initiatives help us showcase what exactly a community looks like. We have experts in different areas and people working in these areas. These people come together to help and guide each other. It amplifies a lot of the team's effort. The community is also growing as a community where the members help it grow.

Eila: How do you build personalized experiences for different communities and different cohorts of people?

Om: The first thing you should always do while working in a community is to realize the purpose. For GrowthSchool, we target the audience based on our running program. The audience can be of different age groups. However, there are a few rituals that we follow:

  1. Curating some daily/weekly activities to practice the skills
  2. Identifying the cohort's pain points and planning activities to resolve them

The activities can involve having interactive sessions, having an expert on board, or even having one-on-one sessions with experts. assisting them in collectively learning more than just the video lectures.

Avni: What were some things you tried but didn't work in your community?

Om: One recent failure was that we created just one general community for all the members.

It was a mistake because:

  1. This is very overwhelming for the customers
  2. In the case of repeat customers, the content was also repetitive

So now, we are focusing on micro-communities to keep things simple, drive more engagement, and easy navigation for the users.

Tushar: How do valuation and revenues work in community business?

Om: I still have to learn a lot on this topic, but I can talk about some important KPIs:

  1. Churning User-Generated Content.
  2. Building Brand Success Stories
  3. Referral Revenue
Abhishek: What are a few organic ways to market a Discord server?

Om: Success stories will always help you attract more customers. Constantly put your community's work out there. Make your members your ambassadors. People who were able to make it big because of you will also feel a sense of giving back; you should leverage that.

Contests can quizzes can help you grow your community organically. Try to keep them open to people who are not a part of your community yet.

Ashish: How do you manage privacy, data sharing, moderation, and compliance? Is that something people should be concerned about a lot? Not so much.

Om: During the initial stages, there is little concern about privacy. However, as you grow, probably around 2000 members, your team should focus on moderation and privacy a little. The Web3 generation is concerned about the control they have over their information.

A few tools that can help you with this on Discord are:

  1. Auto Mod
  2. Dino Bot
  3. Threado

Nipun: Moderation becomes very important as soon as you start preparing for scale because the culture sets can help you resolve conflicts in your community.

Ayushi: Any suggestions on automating some community-building activities as you scale your community?

Om: Watch Parties and Ice breakers can be automated. Peer-to-peer feedback is automated.

Nipun: Ruthlessly building playbooks. Initially, build a lot of playbooks on whatever you're doing and then look for tools. There can be tools for most things you are trying to automate.

Pranjal: How do you develop moderators in the community to run the community in the automation phase?

Om: All the people giving you ideas are your ideal moderators. Spend time with them, and help them draft how the initiative can play out and resources. Give them the responsibility of running it and just help them with resources and amplify their efforts.

I have at least 5-6 moderators for each domain who can answer and drive members to the right resource.

Nipun: Is it a good idea to start your community on WhatsApp and what are the advantages?

Om: I personally like Slack and Discord better than WhatsApp.

Advantages of WhatApp: It has a lot of conversion rates.

Disadvantages of WhatApp: If multiple conversations are happening, people get confused, and it might shift their vision

Nipun: Many brands are building their core inner circle for the community WhatsApp. However, as they start scaling, they look for the right platform, whether Discord, Slack, or some of these new-age community platforms.

Avani: Do you have a sales funnel in your community? Do free sessions act as a sales funnel?

Om: Instead of doing a one-way conversation with people who attend our workshop on WhatsApp, we are trying to add everyone to our Community. This way they get engaged from the very first day, or the very first event they attend. This helps us nurture these users better.

Nipun: Any final piece of advice for anyone who is building a learning community specifically or in general, who is building a community

Om: Content is something that has helped me a lot from the very beginning. I know the content because people are here to learn. People might not like some of the activities they are doing for fun, but if you can tie it up with the content, I think it will amplify a lot of engagement and effort. So whatever you're doing, just be sure of what are the things or what are the outcomes that they are looking for from the program or content and tie the initiatives with them. That has been the most learning that has given us a lot of amplification in learning or other initials.