How are you creating community in your course?

Three years ago I signed up a well-known blogger’s course and was pretty underwhelmed by the content.

I offered feedback in the Slack channel and a couple people messaged me with similar feelings. Yet, one student said something that shocked me:

He didn’t care about the poor content. For him, the community made the course worth the price.

That was my first realization that some learners value informal learning over formal learning.

If you’re not familiar with the term informal learning, I’m referring to learning that happens through experiential and/or social situations, i.e. on-the-job training or information shared in groups. 

This type of learning is different from formal learning that takes place in structured, traditional learning environments. 

Formal learning programs are typically synonymous with full-scale learning management systems (LMS), with courses and curricula mapped in a very structured way.

For instance, you can take a million business courses but until you run a business, it's all theory.

My point is that groups, or communities, are at the center of deeply rich and powerful learning experiences. In fact, informal learning is often the key ingredient for transformation to occur.

Think about it: have you had more transformative experiences in self-paced courses or courses with a thriving community?

THE 70-20-10 RULE

It turns out I’m not crazy (at least about this); other people have come to this conclusion as well.

Have you heard of the 70-20-10 rule? 

70-20-10 is a much debated formula for developing learning that is 70% experiential, 20% social, and 10% formal.

Many educators and leadership development experts are big believers in this formula (although it’s still unproven).

Regardless of the evidence for the 70-20-10 rule, there are real-world applications all around us.

For instance, in my interview with jazz saxophonist Bob Reynolds we discussed his realization that rigid, structured curriculum didn’t work well for his music students. But when he just played, shared tips and fundamentals, and encouraged his students to play along with him they progressed.

Are there examples of the 70-20-10 formula in your life?

As a DJ, I took structured in-person classes. But did those classes prepare me to rock a party? Nope.

Those classes were only 20% of what I needed to know.

You’ll only learn to rock a crowd by spinning in front of one--over and over--and even that real-world experience is only 60% of what you need to learn.

I learned the final 20% by hanging out with other deejays, watching them play, learning which songs hit and which ones bomb, seeing how they work the crowd, etc. That’s the social part.

60-20-20. Close enough.

The percentages in the formula aren’t important, the implication is: informal learning, via community, is transformative. 


There’s a number of ways to add community to your education model. But first, let’s talk about the types of groups/ communities out there:

  • Facebook groups

  • Online forums

  • Slack channels

  • LinkedIn groups

  • Membership communities

  • Mastermind groups

  • In-person meetups

So, which one do you choose?

The type of group you set-up largely depends on where your target audience hangs out online, privacy concerns, your business model, and the features you need.

  • For example, one of my clients teaches writing. Her audience has concerns about sharing their work on Facebook, so we knew that wouldn't work. We went with a hosted platform with a clear and comforting intellectual property policy.

  • Alternatively, if you want to create a public group to build brand awareness and generate leads, Facebook or LinkedIn may work well for you, depending on your audience.

  • Or, if your group is part of your online program and you want to minimize the number of tools/ log-ins your learners have, a forum built into your WordPress Learning Management System may work best.

As we move into a new phase of online learning within entrepreneurship, the question isn’t which tool should you use. The question is how are you fostering community in your business?

This question has been top of mind for me lately. Coming up, I’ll be sharing some new ways to connect with you in a group environment.

For now, back to you:

How are you fostering community in your business?

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