Can't attend in-library sessions - what to say?

Awhile ago I asked this question of the P2PU community and Nico thought the post should get reposted here. So, this is just a copy/paste of the original post and all of the responses it generated:

Jordan: I’ve recently opened up registration for a new learning circle and everywhere I’ve talked about it, I was clear on the fact that while they will do the bulk of the work at home, they still need to attend the classroom sessions in the library once a week. I’ve already got two people registered who said “I will be accessible and active on Slack, but unfortunately I cannot attend the weekly Learning Circles due to scheduling conflicts. I understand if that disqualifies me for registration.” and “…I do have to say, if the meetings are Thursday mornings I probably can’t attend – I do have a full-time job. But this course sounds excellent!”

How do you respond to those people? Does anyone have any tips and tricks? I might say something in my welcome email that goes out a week before the class starts. Maybe say “A large part of this course is communicating with your classmates in person. If you know you can’t attend the Thursday classes, please email me and I will remove your registration…” Or should I address them individually right away? This might be good so that I can open up those spots to other people, now that I think about it.

I’m one who gets extremely irritated when people don’t read the instructions first. I also know that there isn’t much I can do if someone comes to the first session, gets all linked up, and then we never see them again because they’re taking the course alone at home. But it bugs me. I also don’t understand why you would register if you know you can’t attend. lol.

Anyway, thanks for your thoughts guys.

Jordan: Just an update, I’m emailing both individually today with the following message: Thanks for your interest in the Learn To Write Fiction: World-Building class. Unfortunately, as the class is being facilitated as a Learning Circle, attending the Thursday morning in-class sessions are required for all students. If you truly cannot attend the Thursday sessions we will need to make room for another student. Thank you for understanding.

Rob: Just curious: is there any drawback to letting them participate on your Slack channel? It sounds like you run learning circles a bit differently than us, so maybe there’s a downside I don’t see. But you seem to have 2 enthusiastic participants who might add value to the Slack conversation. And couldn’t you just skip counting them towards your registration cap, so they’re not taking up spots?

Jordan: The first class I facilitated used Slack a moderate amount outside of the classroom. They didn’t share their work, but sometimes asked questions of the homework, or asked for more information on a topic that hadn’t been covered. The second class I facilitated only used it during class to bookmark websites and things that got mentioned. So, I hesitate to allow people to only communicate that way because they might not get much out of it. Also, Those people that come in to the class, have a much stronger connection to their peers, from what I’ve seen. They are still meeting once a week to talk about, and share their work, months later, which is amazing.

Rob: Gotcha, thanks for explaining. It’s pretty great that you have such committed learners coming to your circles.

Nico: Hi there,

A couple thoughts to come mind:

Related to what Rob said about staying involved with Slack. I could imagine a wider “learning community” could be supported through Slack, or some other type of online forum, for people who have common interests and purposes and a connection the library or a local environment. However, I would make sure the way the learning circle group discusses ideas remains internal. Perhaps the slack community ends up being a network that learning circle groups can plug into later. Slack might be perfect for a learning circle to communicate, but the question should always be asked what is right for the group and not to assume that it will work, or make it mandatory to participate.

Similarly, I would emphasize that learning circles are in-person and face to face first. If folks want to take an online course and find an online forum to discuss their course - there are plenty of opportunities to do so and I doubt they need the library to support them to do so.