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We’ve broken down our list of 101 Quick Ideas to Ignite your Online Learning Community (click on it to see the full list!) into bite-sized chunks that are easier to digest. We are offering you a little taste of the seven part series that provides tips on igniting passion and sparking conversation in your personal online learning community.
Remember Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs?” Your high school teacher probably taught you that all humans have basic, foundational needs (e.g. food, water) and higher-order needs (e.g. love, success). Without meeting your basic needs, higher-order needs don’t really matter all that much.
Did you know that an online learning community also has a hierarchy of needs? It does, and believe it or not, you already know what they are. Just try answering this simple question: does it matter how many gift card raffles you do if management doesn’t support the initiative?
Ninety-nine percent of the time, the answer’s no (if it’s yes, then I’d love to learn more about your business). As you can see, gift card raffles don’t matter all that much compared to top-down support. And that’s why it’s our first idea. Here are some ideas for your pre-flight checklist.
- Top-down support – A company we know got a foosball table for the office. Over the next several months they noticed that the people being let go were the people that played foosball most often at work. Don’t let the learning community become your foosball table. Get leadership support before launching to the general membership. Ideally, leaders should be actively posting at least once per month, even if it’s a short 2-minute state of the union. It let’s everyone know that it’s OK to play foosball.
- Bottom-up Support – Kids don’t start dancing just because the chaperones are dancing. In fact, they’ll probably be freaked out if the chaperones start dancing. You probably want to find a group of grown-up “cool kids” (some salespeople call them “champions”) who will support your community initiative. Don’t start calling the VP—the most effective champions are the ones who are just like everybody else. Use the “cubicle rule”: if you can imagine the champion sharing cubicles with your community members, then you’re good to go. Arm your champions with tools to infect their peers.
- Purpose – Remember when you first joined Facebook? What did you want to do? If you were like me, the first thing you wanted to do was figure out a way to remove the big ugly zero on your friend count. That gave you a mission, and Facebook cleverly used your mission as an opportunity to guide you around their platform. Although you’re probably not trying to start your own internal Facebook, what you do want to do is give members a purpose. When first-timers join your community, they’re probably wondering, “OK, so what do we do here?” Create a purpose statement for the learning community in as few words as possible. Maybe use that statement as your community’s tagline. Post it on all internal marketing materials surrounding the initiative. Get creative and think of something that will stick.
- Rules of engagement – Sometimes no rules can be scary, especially when almost every other part of the organization has rules and processes. Use other rules to your advantage—especially if you already have policies that guide corporate communications and behavior. Extend these policies to cover activity on the learning community so expectations are clear. It’s all about creating a safe environment for people to share without getting their hands slapped. After all, some learning communities are simply extensions of a classroom. Make it OK if someone gives a wrong answer or asks a dumb question. That’s how learning sometimes works.
- Start a nursery – If you’ve worked at a garden, you’ll know that expert gardeners get a head start by starting a nursery long before growing season starts. To apply the nursery strategy to an online learning community, simply invite 10-30 of your champions in early to seed the community with great content and activity before everyone else arrives. This way, when everyone else arrives fashionably late for the party, they can avoid looking awkward by simply mimicking what’s going on around them. Have your early-bird champions manufacture the first impression everyone else gets.
- Make it fun – Who were your favorite teachers growing up? The ones who made it fun, right? There is no single thing a teacher can do to make their message stick than by making it fun. This doesn’t have to be stand up comedy. It can be creativity, silliness, passion, or great insight. It was Mark Twain that said, “People will forget what you say, but will never forget how you made them feel.”