Learning circles for those in isolation and without the internet

Learning circles were designed to be hosted in public spaces like libraries, which offer space, technology, and in-person support. Ensuring that learning remains equitable based on learners’ current environment remains exceptionally important during this global pandemic, and that environment may not include access to the internet, computers, smartphones. Even if it does, those who have access may be new to using these types of technology. (By the way, we recommend visiting NDIA if you want to learn more about digital inclusion. )

So what might learning circles look like for those in isolation and without the internet? Here are some examples and ideas we’ve heard since the pandemic started. Please add your own below!


  • @Lucian_Ngeze explained how important it is to not make assumptions about what tools people have access to and which ones they are comfortable with. For example, some may never have used video conferencing software but may use Facebook or Whatsapp every day. Check-in with those who you are interested to support, by any means necessary (phone call, door knocking), and ask them how they communicate.

Use the phone

  • @Barbara_Birenbaum from Los Angeles Public Library had been running an in-person language-based learning circle for a number of weeks. When her library closed, she set up a conference call number with her learners using a program like freeconferencecall.com. As everyone had either a smartphone or had access to a computer, they were all able to review the online course together as a group on the call. Examples “Okay, we’ve all read section two, let’s start section three together, can someone read off the instructions?”.

Guide use of technology

  • @Daniel_Hensley shared this resource that speaks to the broad challenge to supporting anyone, in any capacity, to communicate and use technology. For example, some may have access to some technology but may need some extra support or practice to use it before a live meeting.

Family learning

  • Consider ways that insolate communities can learn together. For example, Family Creative Learning is a workshop series that “engages children and their parents to learn together — as designers and inventors — through the use of creative technologies.”

Other approaches or strategies (so far)

  • Send out newsletter or resource through the mail.
  • Consider working with indirect support staff that like caregivers.
  • Explore SMS and text functions as a way to communicate.

Other thoughts or ideas to add? @ @David_Rosen @Ashley_Vandagriff @Lucky_Duran @Sarah_Trowbridge @Emily_Smith

Hi Nico,

In our last discussion I had the idea of staff putting together a workbook (on a particular chosen topic) to send out to our LC participants and we could all work through it together over the phone. Or maybe something as simple as studying the California DMV Driver’s Manual (the library always gets boxes of these booklets for free) together over the phone and having a discussion about defensive driving with the goal of successfully passing the driver’s test.