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Photo by Adam Przewoski, via Unsplash

Mindshift’s Ki Sung reports on an interesting partnership between librarians at the Chicago Public Library (CPL) and Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU), which is an online education nonprofit organization. The article starts out with the statistic that about five percent of those enrolled in massive online courses (MOOCs) actually complete the course. Perhaps if online students had access to more support from others also taking the course, there will be greater success with completion rates.

Enter an innovative partnership that offers a Learning Circles program which, with the help of a facilitator, brings together people taking an online course for six to eight weeks. “Learning Circles add a social element to what is otherwise a solitary learning experience.”

As stated in the article, libraries are a perfect fit for Learning Circles because:

  • they already serve the local community
  • they are equipped with meeting spaces
  • many have computer stations
  • librarians know how to help people find answers

In the partnership, librarians, in their facilitator roles, promote discussion and help learners use research tools.

How can something so great not produce positive outcomes? These were mentioned (directly quoted) in the article:

  • CPL’s outreach efforts helped a new population of learners take advantage of MOOCs — 90 percent of those who attended a Learning Circle heard about it through the library and 65 percent of those had never taken an online course before
  • Retention rates were around 45 – 55 percent… [and] students were more compelled to take online courses on their own after the guided experience and continued to do work outside of the learning circles
  • Learning Circles also helped librarians interact with patrons in new ways. They found themselves forming friendships and building community through repeated interactions
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