Mon 13 Apr 2020

Online learning for co-operatives

KW Kate Whittle Public Seen by 150

I would like to start a discussion about producing a guide to online learning for worker co-ops


Kate Whittle Mon 13 Apr 2020

Dear Loomio pals:

It seems social distancing will be a reality for some time, however our need for sharing information and learning from each other will continue, so I thought this might be a good moment to produce a guide to online learning for worker co-operatives. I do have some experience, including an ancient dissertation on moderating online conferences (see Some background for details if you’re curious) and back in 2013, Co-operantics (Nathan Brown & myself) persuaded Jim Brown to allow us to deliver the Understanding Co-operative Enterprise section of the ILM Core Competencies Programme online for 9 participants who had expressed an interest. We used OnSync, beginning our preparation in September 2013 with a technical support session in early October. There were 6 sessions in all, from mid-October to mid-December, with follow up tutorial sessions in early January 2014. (See Some background for an extract from the participants’ feedback).

Rather than write the guide myself, I thought it better to ask Solidfund members if anyone would be interested in contributing? I am aware that despite my early interest, my actual experience is thin, and that there may well be people with more recent experience on here. So please do respond below if you are interested, and perhaps haven’t got anything better to do in these strange times!

I thought it would work best if I started writing a first draft, available on Google docs at:


Structured under the following headings:

1.      What do I mean by co-operative learning?  How can we replicate those concepts and techniques in an online workshop or webinar?

2.      Organising

3.      Designing

4.      Delivery

5.      Evaluation

6.      Resources list

So, if anyone has an interest in working on this with me, I’d be delighted. If you do, please amend/edit the document, and perhaps add any comments at the end and save as a new version, rather than use Track Changes which I find rather cumbersome if more than one person is doing the reviewing.

Some background:

1. Extract from feedback Core Competencies Online UCE programme 2013/2014


·         Good learning space

·         Use it as a discussion facility, to talk to tutor

·         Works in a small group


·         Shame that people haven’t turned up

·         Mandy’s team struggle with finance

·         Online finance ok if you’ve got basic financial knowledge


·         2 computers using same IP address was a problem, we have both been thrown out – no idea why, in one particular session, kept happening

·         Works better at home, not so good in the office, noise levels, interruptions

·         Have to play around with Options/Preferences


·         Circulate OnSync guide in advance

·         Use chat for process

·         Have 5 min tech sessions with each participant (as well as the half hour familiarisation session)

2. ‘An Investigation into the role of the moderator in computer conferencing on a CPD programme’ MA dissertation 1998

It is unbelievably 22 years since I studied for a Masters in ‘Post Compulsory Education and Training’ which clumsy title in effect meant ‘Adult Education and Training’. My dissertation was based on interviews I carried out with CPD students at Greenwich University who were using software called Lotus Notes – a very comprehensive computer conference platform that included email, calendars, contact management, discussion forums, file sharing and instant messaging (no video, in those days it was all text)

Afterwards I was keen to develop a co-operative learning approach based on groups of co-operators learning together – 3 participants in one co-op and 2 in another, for example, working together, communicating and learning from one another. There were many advantages to this approach: significant opportunities for inter-co-op peer learning, and all the benefits of online learning such as flexibility, recordings and innovative opportunities for collaboration.

Over the years I tried in vain to encourage the institutions I was involved with to adopt online learning, but without any success. The technology then was clumsy and not intuitive, and I think now it was just too soon, unless you’d had the exposure to the concepts that I had experienced, it was difficult to imagine what co-operative online learning would be like, so people were reluctant to experiment.

However I did a lot of reading and even if the technology has been superseded by modern platforms, I think the concepts remain the same, so I have added a couple resources from writers and teachers who are still active in online learning and who in my opinion have useful guidance to offer.




Matthew (Rhizome) Mon 13 Apr 2020

Hi Kate,

Sounds like a great plan. Where do you want to start? Is it just
a guide or should we also be delivering some online training of
trainers aimed at coops?



Kate Whittle Tue 14 Apr 2020

Hi Matthew, my idea was to test the water, to see if anyone was interested, and to provide a guide for worker co-ops, either on my own or with contributions from others. But that's a great idea & of course it would be a bit meta since we would be modelling how to do it! I wonder if it would fit with the Barefoot co-op trainers programme? maybe Phase 2?


Kate Whittle Tue 14 Apr 2020

There's a webinar on running conferences online, 3pm-4pm 29th April. It's free but you need to register:


These are academics with years of experience in teaching and researching online learning, so I imagine language might be a bit scholarly, I'll check it out anyway.


freescholar Wed 15 Apr 2020

I am being contacted by some organizations that are seeking an online
learning platform, one is the Boston Public School system. There is a
pool of funding available from all of the summer programs that have been
funded and now will not happen, yet the money must be spent. I am sure
this is happening to schools, foundations and orgs in everyone's area.
Think creatively...

I am working with the Free Software Foundation who are putting together an online platform for teachers to hold classes by combining several free software products that are available, Canvas LMS and BigBlueButton.com and NextCloud etc. I have been testing for a few days and it looks really promising - if anyone wishes to test drive it, email me. micky@agaric.com

I did a demo for the Boston Public School system that is desperate to get off of Google classrooms and they also have an interest in Free Software! They loved it.
This will be a solution that anyone can run on their own server and not have to worry about privacy and security concerns from a Cororation. I will post when there are some trusted web hosts running this LMS.

Poll Created Wed 15 Apr 2020

I care about my freedom and understand the importance of using free software. Closed Mon 20 Apr 2020

by freescholar Tue 21 Apr 2020

Thanks for responding. Agaric is working on a Free Software solution with the Free Software Foundation and MayFirst.org to provide an online learning platform for some Boston Pubilc School classes. If you would like to test drive it, send me an email and I will send an invite - micky@agaric.com

There are many online learning solutions and some are from Corporations that will mine our personal data. Do you feel comfortable with that?


Results Option % of points Voters
Yes 37.5% 3  
No 37.5% 3  
Need more info 12.5% 1  
None of these accurately reflect my position 12.5% 1  
Undecided 0% 0  

8 of 8 people have voted (100%)


Anonymous Thu 16 Apr 2020


I do, but not enough to say yest..... Its a bit like any brand choice, like fairtrade etc, I am willing to make a little sacrifice in price, ease of use etc to go with the more ethical choice, but if the gap is too large I will continue to use the mainstream option. So I use gmail and google hangouts cos they "just work".


Anonymous Sun 19 Apr 2020


At first I answered yes because "I care about my freedom and understand the importance of using free software", in response to the actual question of feeling comfortable about corporate data harvesting the answer is no. But yes like many others I currently am still hooked into their tentacles


Anonymous Mon 20 Apr 2020

Need more info

A bit like others... I'm answering a number of questions, does the top statement trump the bottom question or vice versa? Is free software 'google' until you need it do other things for you and then it's no longer free etc. Is this about free software or my personal data? So 'need more info...' etc.


Matthew (Rhizome) Sat 18 Apr 2020

Hi, we had a brief chat today, and it seems that Rhizome energy for a guide is less than for delivering online training for facilitators/trainers aimed at co-ops. You've already made a flying start on the document by the looks of it. Of course we'll respond to specific questions ( we might be able to offer some ideas for resources, or a case study of a successful online learning intervention etc). Sorry not to have more capacity to be more involved - everyone's stretched at the moment. M


Kate Whittle Sun 19 Apr 2020

Thanks Matthew, not surprised, everybody seems really stretched a the moment. But thanks for engaging. Yes please if you have a moment, ideas for resources would be helpful and a case study would be great, of course I will credit Rhizome. Cheers


Nathan Brown (Co-op Culture) Sun 19 Apr 2020

I'm stuck for capacity but I have run online webinars/training sessions for Olmec and Plunkett Foundation in last few years plus regularly used the full range of online platforms to deliver support over last 2 years. I think best approach is not to be platform/tech specific, but deal with principles and approaches which people can adapt using whatever tools are at their disposal. In that way, it is not dissimilar to designing ordinary training....


Kate Whittle Wed 29 Apr 2020

Final draft is on google docs at: https://bit.ly/3aU5Bk4 comments, feedback very welcome if anyone's interested. Cheers.


freescholar Thu 30 Apr 2020

Thanks for the link - I do not use Google products and do not have
access to the doc. Is there an ethical way to read it?

In Solidarity,

Micky Metts
Agaric ~ FreeScholar
https://agaric.coop - We are your Cooperative Tech Ally.
Join Agaric on IRC any time - irc.freenode.net in the #devs-r-us channel


Kate Whittle Fri 1 May 2020

Sure thing - I agree entirely, I hate Google docs but a lot of my clients use it so i assumed that would be the best place for it. I'll upload it to www.cooperantics.coop this morning. Thanks for your interest.