Self-Organised Learning Environments have revolutionised education by giving students control over their learning. Hanna Celina has taken this concept and applied it to online courses to creating Learning Circle. In partnership with United World Colleges, Learning Circle delivers five-week online courses for high school children around the world. The courses focus on activism and encourage students to take an active role in shaping the course, taking part in group discussions and working on projects together.
LearningCircle.io is an online education platform, built with activism-focused courses in mind. These courses bring high school students from all over the world together in a five-week program. All of the course editions that we have done so far were done in partnership with United World Colleges.
Our mission at Learning Circle I/O Ltd. is: “Learn, engage and create change with our online courses”. We provide the space for students and participants to learn from experts, from each other, and from the vast amount of information that is available, primarily on the internet. Having created fertile ground for learning, we then encourage students to engage with issues or subjects through undertaking regular assignments, which often involve real-world action. This helps to create change in the lives of students and those around them.
Global problems, local communities
Our online courses are usually civics-focused, meaning we help students from all walks of life build the skills and networks needed to tackle global problems, starting with their local communities. At the same time our students develop international and intercultural friendships through our interactive course format, where students meet face-to-face with other course participants via regular small group video conferences.
Technology and innovation are at the core of our approach to education. Students learn how to access and analyse all available information, and learn to understand bias embedded in data. Assignments are designed to suit the different talents of the student community, allowing for creative expression using different media.
We are inspired by the idea that education can be student-led. We want to encourage our course participants to identify their own interests and grow as independent thinkers. With our unique flexible curriculum and assignment structure students can design a course that best fits their learning objectives. This approach allows the students to develop skills that are crucial in today’s world: teamwork, creativity, independence and adaptability.
We help students challenge the unknown, embrace complexity, and accept failure as a stepping stone. This is done through our five-week course format. While the day-to-day structure may vary, depending on the needs of the students and the course provider, each week tends to run as follows:
On the Sunday of the preceding week students receive a reading and video list for the coming week. This is usually composed of newspaper articles and/or YouTube videos (such as TED talks) related to the week’s topic.
On Wednesdays students receive a video lecture from an expert in the relevant field. Students can watch the lecture live and ask questions, or they can submit questions in advance and watch it later.
On Thursdays students take part in a ‘group session’, a video conference with a group of around eight students. These group sessions are typically an hour long and usually also attended by a ‘mentor’. Mentors are volunteers, often former Learning Circle I/O Ltd. course participants, who have been trained to facilitate these group sessions, although students are encouraged to start taking a lead, by chairing meetings and taking notes. Depending on the course, some group sessions will not have a mentor, but will be self-organized. Instead, mentors will be on call as experts students can call upon to answer particular questions.
Following the group session, students are set assignments which they have to complete, often in collaboration with their fellow course participants, over the weekend. These assignments can be anything from making a creative introduction to themselves for the rest of the students on the course to producing an infographic or video on a particular subject.
Throughout the course we encourage students to get involved in their communities. Civic engagement of the students is at the heart of all our programmes; in most courses each student is encouraged to initiate and/or complete a community service project or social enterprise to apply the knowledge from our course.