The learning circle ran in May and June 2019 with a total of 5 biweekly 90 minutes long meetings, covering units 1 and 2 of the EdX course “Introduction to Biology - The Secret of Life - MITx: 7.00x”, which are focused on Biochemistry. It took place at BosLab in Somerville (MA, USA), which is a community lab and educational space whose mission is to democratize biotechnology.
The learning circle was advertised on both P2PU website and BosLab Meetup Group and participants were allowed to join at any time with no prior knowledge in biology. There were 4 to 6 participants depending on the meeting and their level in biology was quite heterogeneous from complete beginners to Ph.D. holders, although a majority had learned biology in a higher education setting.
The format of the learning circle relied on active learning techniques described in MIT OpenCourseWare. This contributed to a positive group dynamic in which more advanced participants could share their expertise with beginners. The layout of each meeting was written on an Etherpad and participants were invited to edit it in real time, for instance, to share links about topics discussed in the meeting. The outline of the meetings as written on the Etherpad is reproduced here. In addition, participants were asked to leave feedback after each meeting by writing positive comments (things that should stay the same) on a green sticky note and constructive criticism (things that were confusing or should be changed) on a yellow sticky note. Feedbacks are reproduced here (“xxx” is for words I couldn’t read).
Overall, comments were extremely positive and participants want to continue learning from the EdX course through a second learning circle, which will cover units 3 and 4 focused on Genetics and will start in July. Everyone particularly enjoyed the first activity of each meeting which consisted of sharing stories about something they had recently learned about biology using the lightning round technique. The main challenge was to finish on time and we often had to shorten some activities or extend the meeting by 30 minutes (2 hours total).
Please, let me know if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions.