Evaluating Courses
Because the learning circle model is designed to support facilitators who aren't experts in the material, it can be tough to know how to choose the right course.
For facilitators evaluating materials, here are a few key points to consider:
  • Open Access: Far more than being free to use, open access allows for the 5 R's: retaining, reusing, revising, remixing, and redistributing. Open access allows for knowledge sharing and adapting in ways that simply isn't possible with proprietary courses, even if they are freely available. A Creative Commons license is a good sign! Note: many free courses aren't always available: make sure it aligns with your schedule. (OER = Open Educational Resources).
  • Clear Prerequisites: Even the most basic course has pre-requisites (time, literacy). Ensuring alignment between the stated goals of the course and what is expected beforehand is important.
  • No Additional Materials Required: There's nothing more discouraging than beginning a course only to learn that there is an expectation that you have access to software or a book that aren't freely available to everyone in the learning circle.
  • High Quality of Instruction: Are the course materials and the platform intuitive to use? Who wrote the material? Where does it come from?
  • Adaptability to learning circles: Do the activities make sense being done together as group work? Is information shared in a linear format that will be easily adaptable to group study?
  • Acceptable Workload: Does the weekly time commitment and duration of the course align with your expectations? It's totally fine to decide that you'll only work through part of a course; just make sure you set a reasonable goal for participants.

Accessibility Considerations

Particularly when meeting online or in a space where digital resources can't be provided for participants, it's important to keep accessibility in mind when assessing learning materials:
  • Support for low bandwidth: If your learners don’t have reliable internet connections at home, courses with fewer videos and interactive elements might be more accessible.
  • Mobile-friendly: Many learners may not have a computer but can still participate via a smartphone or tablet. Fortunately, some course providers (including edX, FutureLearn, Coursera, and Udacity) offer mobile apps.
  • Digital literacy: Will learners need guidance or tech support to navigate a course website on their own?
  • Tool Requirements: Consider the things your learners will need to complete a learning circle. Are there tools or materials they need to anticipate having access to?
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