The Purpose of MOOC Discussion Groups
In Week 2 or 3 of each module, we encourage participants to interact with each other in real time in small groups. These are opportunities for you to share your own experience, expertise, and questions, and crowd source the knowledge of others about the issues.
Engaging peers in small groups enhances learning and invites a deeper exploration of module resources and exercises. Of course, life circumstances vary, and we welcome those who prefer to work individually [There are many other discussion forums in each module for you to learn from and contribute to the learning of others].
That said, we encourage you to join a discussion group.
How We Place Individuals in Small Groups
Upon entering the MOOC and the Canvas learning platform, you will be asked to complete a short Welcome Survey. We use your responses to place you in small groups (three to six folks) by time-zone and help the group arrange a common time to meet in week 2 or 3 of each module.
In the survey, you will be asked to estimate your expected level of participation by selecting from one of the five general categories of participation below:
Information Harvester: Your sole interest is in reviewing the content in each module. You currently do not want to be part of the small group discussions. You are, however, welcome to post your views and reflections to the whole MOOC forums.
Explorer: You are new to the field but aware of the many challenges we are facing and want to learn more about solutions and effective ways of making change happen.
Changemaker: You are familiar with many of the issues, have some experience working for positive social, political, environmental and/or economic change, and want to connect the dots between issues to strategically target your efforts.
Deep Diver: You are experienced practitioners, educators, movement activists, researchers and policymakers. This stream anticipates that you have a significant degree of experience with the issues and with mobilizing change. You want to explore such topics in dialogue with other experienced peers and make use of supplemental resources. At the same time, you are willing to share your experience with Explorers and Changemakers as opportunities arise in the collective MOOC discussion forums.
Individual Study: You don’t want to be in a small group but are keen to participate in the discussion forums with others worldwide and to share your reflections.
Take some time to consider the options above before going to the Welcome Survey. From your survey responses, we will group you with others in your time zone.
You don’t have to join a group, but if you do, there is an obligation to try your best to work with them to find a common time to meet up every Week 2 or 3. Or make other arrangements to discuss. Heck, it can’t be any harder than addressing climate change!
If you decide to go it alone, Independent Study is welcome. Remember too that all of you are also encouraged to join in the general module Discussion Forums to exchange ideas with others worldwide.
Note: You can always drop back to individual study if need be.
Once your group is assigned, instructions for how to choose meeting times and advice on running the group will be shared during Orientation week, and via announcements. A facilitator will be available to help you get started in the first few weeks, then we expect the group to develop its own leadership or rotating meeting leader and note-taking strategies.
Preformed Group Options: Study Circles and Action Groups
What if a group of people (2 or 3 or more) wish to work together on the MOOC? Facilitating people who are already connected by place, interest, and purpose to join the course as a pre-formed group is a priority for Synergia. Why? The reason is simple. We believe that groups from the same community, network or organization who take the MOOC together will deepen learning, take effective action sooner, and extend the impact of the MOOC.
Pre-formed Study Circles
Formed in advance, study circles are made up of individuals linked together by common interests – whether by an organization, enterprise, network, geography, movement, or even as a group of friends. Each individual reviews module resources and then engages with their peers in group exercises and discussions.
Study Circles can extend your activity beyond the MOOC and help the group identify and specify priorities and objectives they are working on. The frameworks and tools help deepen insights and strengthen strategic thinking. And the group work provides opportunities to strengthen trust and increase capacity for strategic dialogue, to set goals and priorities, and plan action. When done well, collective work also strengthens and fosters the emergence of new leadership.
Pre-formed Action Groups
Action Groups are composed of people who are already working together to advance systemic change in some way. Like Study Circles, they engage the course materials and exercises. The difference is that an Action Group already shares a common purpose and a set of priorities they are working on.
The frameworks and tools increase critical reflection on current efforts and potentially open discussion to new strategic options for action. We believe this is a powerful way to clarify assumptions, undertake intersectional analysis, identify priorities, and sharpen critical thinking about effective strategies for action.
If you wish to register a preformed study circle or action group, contact us by email. We will send detailed instructions. In general, all participants in the preformed group first register in the MOOC as individuals. Then one member of the preformed group sends us a list of their names and emails (the ones that they used to register in Canvas). We will use this information to set up access to group tools and forums in Canvas. Give your group a fun descriptive name for communications and follow-up evaluation purposes.