Expert Roundup: Understanding Why Community Learning Is The Future Of Online Education

In today’s world, communities play an important role in running an online learning business. In the offline world, all of us learned with people, whether it was in a classroom, a coaching class, our parents sitting with us, or otherwise. And when it comes to the online world, a lot of us today sign up for self-paced programs.

But think about this for a minute:

How many of us actually complete those courses?

The course completion rate in such courses is low because we don’t have someone to talk about it. And that’s where an e-learning community plays a very important role. It doesn’t just aid or enable the online learning journey, it ensures you complete your online learning journey. Online study community helps learners in maintaining accountability.

And from the perspective of long-term business goals, when you put people together, in the same room, where they can work on something, achieve their goals, or grow personally, then there is no shortage of potential. And your e-learning community acts as that network or proof of work to bring in more people who want to achieve that same result. Because of experiences that people have had previously with online education, like self-paced courses or self-learning programs – this is what sets online community learning apart or ties it into one’s business goals.

So, in a nutshell:

That’s where the online study community stands. It gets you to do those things together. Because at the end of the day, none of us learned on our own even in the offline world.

In our panel discussion called ‘Community Based Learning: The Future Of Online Education’, we discussed the following things:

  • What metrics should be used to measure success?
  • Why should communities be considered for an online learning business?
  • What are 2nd order learnings that the e-learning community adds?
  • How to decide the duration of MOOCs and the size of cohorts?

… And much more!

But before we dive deeper, if you’re looking for an online learning community platform that can help you manage your online study community better, then check out LikeMinds right now! It comes with inbuilt tools that make it super easy to monetize your e-learning community and increase engagement.

What Are The Metrics In FrontRow, And STOA That The Community Team Is Responsible For?

Arshdeep told us, “If you talk about the primary metric, its retention. Keeping people hooked on the app, keeping them coming back, keep them pursuing and progressing in their passion. That’s the primary metric.”

He adds, “And then there are some metrics like, are they getting enough validation while doing so? Are they making enough friends while doing so? Are they getting enough personalized feedback while doing so?”

So, these are the things that FrontRow primarily focuses on:

  • Retention
  • Helping Students In Achieving Goals
  • Providing Students Validation & Friends

On the other hand, when it comes to the metrics used at STOA to measure outcomes or success, Shelton said, “When it comes to community there is a bit of a sweet spot, and there is a tough spot. The sweet spot is the things that you can look at. That are tangible.”

So, they look at say metrics of engagement and retention like:

  • How many people engaged on the online learning community platform?
  • How many people are active?
  • And what times of the day are they active?
  • How often are they coming back?
  • What are they putting out there?

“But something that I personally find very interesting to look at is some of the intangible outcomes from community. And to give you an example: 2 of our community members, 2 members from different cohorts, just happen to have a short interaction on STOA community server… and within over the last 4 days, they’ve launched a project together, which is now live on Product Hunt.”, told Shelton.

That is of the craziest stories of success for Shelton. He feels when it comes to intangible aspects of an e-learning community like this, it’s impossible to figure it out as a business to measure it.

In his words, “What score do we put for these other magical things that are happening behind the scenes in an organization or in a community like STOA’s.”

To summarize:

Retention from FrontRow, and getting people together to do something which becomes something larger than what you expect from STOA.

So you got it right?

You gotta look out for Retention and Magical Things people!

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Why Should An Entrepreneur Consider Communities For An Online Learning Business?

From an online learning platform or school perspective, online study community is the future. And here’s how our experts Shelton and Arshdeep back this up:

  • Common Goal: Shelton would suggest the person to look back to their offline college campus experience and think about the infrastructure that they need to put in place. So, he thinks even before the community question, one needs to answer – Where do I put people together, and what are their goals? People in an e-learning community need to have a common goal that they want to achieve.
  • Best Outcomes: He thinks that an online study community is a center where great outcomes happen when people have a common purpose. And more so when a person is an enabler for that goal. Shelton feels when someone is putting together the content, bringing together the guests, and structuring everything to create that environment to learn – one can’t avoid an e-learning community experience.
  • Offline-like Experience: Shelton often thinks about – what enables things to happen back in college? Why do certain colleges have great outcomes and others don’t? He says, “With online you gotta think about what are these levers that exist? If I remove them, how can this enhance the experience? Or if I add a constraint, how can this change the experience?”
  • Help People Make Friends: Arshdeep feels in an offline world friendships happen very naturally. People make friends, meet up for jamming, call each other up and ask questions like, ‘Hey, did you listen to that song?’. But, in online community learning, community managers also help those who are not good at making friends, and the experience of online community learning goes from zero to a hundred.
  • Accessibility: “I remember, for example: In early days, we had a collaboration challenge, and people who didn’t know each other from Pune, Bombay, and Delhi came together to create a rap song together. And that was like, these are the things what online does. Accessibility was the biggest factor.”, says Arahdeep. Learners get accessibility to people from across the globe.
  • Loop Of Positivity: He thinks that when it is difficult for people to network with others, that’s when community managers and builders come in. In his words, “Community managers and builders come along and to create that network of like-minded people, to create that constant loop of positivity around them. And that’s where communities will help people learn in the future. Especially in the online medium.”
Top 6 Benefits Of Communities For A Learning Business

And now, if you are an entrepreneur considering starting an online learning business, we hope these reasons are enough for you to consider opting for an online learning community platform.

What Are Some Of The 2nd Order Learnings That Community Adds?

From a STOA perspective (where people are learning to be business executives): Just by putting a combination of these folks in a room gives them so much to learn from each other. That includes, from founders and seasoned veterans from the industry to early career professionals – this diversity works in their favor.

Shelton says, “Why online enables that is because you have someone from say, building a startup in South India, talking to someone from North-east India, learning about how they built x. Just the 2nd order effect is peer-to-peer learning. Learning from each other’s experiences, learning from each other’s stories, I think is more than anything.”

He feels that another key 2nd order effect is just to have a positive mindset which is common now in the young startup circles and which they also enforce at STOA.

Adding to which Ritu says, “Whether it’s offline or it’s online, every single individual as a learner has their own respected style of learning and absorbing and assimilating that information. Some of us learn really well when we have a professor who’s very structured. Notes, submissions, dates, deadlines. Some of us prefer professors who are very chilled out, and some of us just prefer learning by reading a book or by watching YouTube.”

“What digital education allows you is creating multiple such experiences on one platform – synchronously or asynchronously. There is so much knowledge that’s available from your peers that you can really, really evolve with. So, the way things are going to move, everybody needs a mix of both – offline – digital, synchronous – asynchronous.” adds Ritu.

And we completely back up her thought that communities can enable such an experience at any point in time now!

Also, to watch the complete panel discussion, click below:

How Important Is The Dynamics Of Duration Of MOOCs And The Size Of Cohorts?

And here are some golden tips to decide the duration of your MOOCs and the size of your cohorts:

  • From Arshdeep: Understand what kind of personal attention do they need? And that need will decide the size of your class or a cohort or whatever word you want to use for it. One online learning community example is: FrontRow currently has different models. They have ~400 users for a week-long workshop and a 20 people cohort for 3 – 4 month-long courses. It boils down to what works best for the outcomes.
  • From Shelton: He suggests talking to customers extensively. And just keep experimenting until you find the sweet spot that is getting that positive score from your learners. Another online learning community example is: STOA realized it’s not feasible to have classes daily for the customers, so they changed the duration of their program from 3 months to 6 months and experimented with their modules too.
  • From Ritu: She recommends: (a) define the role of the community first and (b) think if a 2, or 4-day workshop enough time for people, colleagues, and learners? So, when it comes to duration, be very clear what works for an e-learning community model and what doesn’t work in an online study community model. Another online learning community example is: Currently, NextLeaps’ APM fellowship has 350 folks and 2-week sprints have ~50.

So know your e-learning community, figure out what is the timing that will work, and then design the program accordingly.

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What Are Some Hacks For Keeping An Online Study Community Super Engaged?

And we bet this is your favorite part of our blog. After all, we’ve got hacks coming up straight from some of the leading community builders of India today!

One hack that Shelton swears by is nudging! He says, “Nudge, nudge, nudge. Identify who are the people who you know have potential. I think a big part of being a community manager is you have to understand and be able to read people really well.”

“This means stalking their LinkedIn and stalking their Instagram. Do they have a YouTube channel? Find out who are these people who have unique stories or unique skills. And just nudge them.” adds Shelton.

He believes in being a cheerleader for the people. Shelton thinks an online study community is a great means to give them the spotlight and create spaces where they can share their talent & knowledge. He feels that there is a lot of mimetic learning that goes on in an e-learning community. The other community members, who are a bit shyer, look at one person and feel enabled & empowered.

In his words, one could feel that, “Oh, ya, if this guy came out and say, spoke about cryptocurrency, I also can come up. I know say, origami really well. So I can come up and talk about that. And I can share its knowledge with others.”

On the other hand, NextLeap’s Ritu believes in partnerships and collaborations when it comes to online study community engagement. She said, “As much as you can, go out. If you’re gonna be a close community, you’re not gonna grow. Go out there, partner up with people, collaborate with people who are complementary or supplementary to what you are offering.”

“Don’t think of competition. This is a huge market, all of us can happily coexist at the end of the day. Go out, collaborate, you will see growth, you will see engagement, you will see value.”, she added.

That is a tried and tested hack by Ritu. She says it works every single time, and there are no two ways about it!

And our third hack for high engagement in an e-learning community comes from Arshdeep, which is enabling friendships. Arshdeep said, “Begin collaborations inside your community. Ensuring and getting them to get away from that shy feeling and being able to talk freely whether in text format, or video format, or audio format, or whatever format works for them. And ensuring that they connect with someone.”

“They connect, and they stay… I think everyone has their own biases… And that’s something that you can use to your benefit… And once you start conversations about them, you will see that people are vibing with each other automatically. So, once people start vibing, they make friends.”, Arshdeep added.

So what are you waiting for?

Get going and start nudging, enable friendships and make some collaborations happen in your e-learning community!

On that note, if you’re looking for an online learning community platform where you can upskill yourself, then join CommunityHood today and grow along with other community builders! Learn how to run and scale a live learning business from the absolute best in our community.

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