Cait Levin

Community Educator at Commsor
February 23, 2022
AMA sticker

Mary - I’d love to know why someone with 10+ years of community experience should invest in a C School course?

Hey Mary, thanks for the question! I have a few reasons so apologies if this response is super long!

First, I'm a big believer in an "always learning" mindset, so in that sense, there's always more to learn!

I think this is especially important in new and developing industries (like community!) where best practices are still being established and codified, new tools are being dreamed up and launched frequently, and new ideas are changing the nature of the work and the industry at large.

I also think it's important to find the right learning for the learner, because not everything is the right fit. That's part of why we made these self-paced courses -- to provide more flexibility for students with different learning styles, availability, and subject matter interest

And finally, we have a leadership track that's specifically tailored to people who have been in the industry for several years and are looking to level up and transition from being an individual contributor to a manager, which is actually a totally different type of work haha So we think it requires a different training and mindset than being an individual contributor

Max - Thanks for taking the time Cait Levin! Being a C School alumni myself, what are some of your favorite/most memorable C School moments?

Oh this is a hard one, there are many! I love when people get a win, so any time someone gets a promotion, a new role, featured by an organization, or just wins in any way, that really fills my cup. I'm very fulfilled when students are winning, I just love to see it so much!

I also love when people kind of "click" in class and have a breakthrough moment. It's the best when a student is like "oooooooooh this is just like x!" and then we can run with that example as a group. I love incorporating the dynamics and backgrounds of different students in each cohort, because y'all do such cool work across different industries, and so the possibilities of what we might talk about are really endless! Yesterday in class we kept coming back to American Airlines and their customer service haha So it's always fun to pick up an example from the world and sort of ask, "How would a community change this? Would a community be an appropriate solution here? Why or why not?"

(as an aside we had a great idea for a community-led airline so if anyone wants to make that I'm here for it)

Katelyn - Thanks for doing this AMA, Cait! What was the original inspiration behind creating self-paced courses? Can you pinpoint a specific moment or experience that ultimately led to the launch of these first initial courses, themes, etc.?

And if you're open to sneak peeks, anything you can hint to for what's to come?

It came from this community! was taking in feedback from students and interviews conducted by community members and so she knew there was a demand for more flexible offerings, and she was looking for someone to build it. She was like, "Do you accept this rose?" and I was like "YES!" I'd built some learning programs like this before and so I think a huge part of our synergy together is that we both saw the need the community was expressing.

I truly believe that anybody can learn, at any time. All they  need is the openness and the desire to learn. When students don't achieve their goals, there's usually a reason why that has to do with external factors, not their desire to grow!

Those blockers can be little things, like live class in time zones that are hard for a global audience, or only video content when someone really needs text because they work with a screen reader, or not having an instructor you can identify with, or not having transcripts and closed captioning available for instruction. I built every part of these courses thinking about all of that, so those factors went into every step, from choosing what platforms and tools we would use, to partnering with different teachers to add a larger set of voices to our instructional team.

As far as sneak peeks, I can tell you that we've got a lot up our sleeve! I'm always paying close attention to what this community is interested in, what resources they're hungry for, and how we can get those resources in front of these learners so everyone can level up. We'll be bringing you even more teachers, as well as some exciting partnerships in industries people have expressed interest in learning more about!

Naya - Thanks for dedicating the time today! Will those enrolled in Self-Paced Courses be able to connect with others who are also enrolled in C School Courses either now or in the future?

Yes! One of the best things about C School in general is that all students have access to this Community Club space, where they can connect not only with other students, but with industry professionals from all backgrounds! We're also cooking up some new opportunities for alumni--and that includes alums of self-paced courses!

Jocelyn - Omg! Yay, Cait! What's your favorite way to learn? How did that impact the design of self-paced courses?

Haha I am actually a pretty flighty learner so that might be part of why I have so much sympathy for different learning styles!

In general I'm a visual learner, so I need to see it, but I'm not picky about how I see – it can be in any format, writing, video, etc., but I need to see it with my eyeballs. If someone just says it to me I'm like, oh I'll forget that in 13 minutes. So I'm a big note taker when visuals aren't involved. That said, sometimes I'll read something and look through a presentation and then be like, I just need someone to say these words into my face haha.

I also learn a lot through asking questions. Doesn't matter for me if it's live of asynchronous, but my brain kind of spits out contingencies whenever I hear information (my husband loves this about me haha) so being able to ask questions is so huge when I'm trying to cement and deepen my understanding of something.

As a teacher, I believe hugely in making all learning engaging and practical. I could nerd out on pedagogy but I'll spare y'all here Basically, we have a ton of research that says students retain information long term when they have a practical application for it. In C School, we incorporate that into the types of assignments we give students. Since we don't really have homework in the self-paced courses, we built actionable templates instead! So several of the courses include a template that you could use to implement a concept the course talks about. Things like choosing a tech vendor, creating a community persona, roadmapping with your team, planning a new platform launch or migration.

As far as how my learning preferences impact the self-paced courses, I was looking for platforms that would allow us to present information in a large variety of formats. There were some LMS platforms that had really nice video features but no activity features, or great text features but no video, etc. Casting a wide net with instructional format was a non-negotiable for me, so that played into the technology we chose, as well as how we structure each chapter in a course.

Jocelyn - Which self-paced course are you most excited for?

All of them! For real, we prioritized what courses to release based on gaps we saw in the learning opportunities available to all of you, so I feel like we needed all of these courses like, yesterday. I wish there were five of me so we could release them faster!

I'm really excited to get new teachers in front of y'all. Tiffany Oda is a literal ops genius, and she's carving a profession into the community space and codifying it in a way that is so incredible. I can't wait for you all to see how much she knows and learn from her!

We're going to continue to pull in folks like Tiffany who are trailblazing and innovating, so that our students can be at the head of the curve as the community field continues to evolve.

Noele - I've got two questions for ya Cait:

  1. What is the best type of cheese, definitively?
  2. I see a lot of community builders creating community experiences around educational self-paced content. What do you think are some of the biggest opportunities at the intersection of community & education right now?
1. wowowoow this is hard and will definitely be controversial, but I appreciate this question. As a disclaimer, everyone has a different palate so, you know, your tastes are your tastes.

But the best cheese is alouette spreadable garlic and herb and I'll die on that hill.

2. I think there is EXPLOSIVE potential between community and education, we're only just starting to tap into it. I think COVID-19 did a lot to propel this synergy, because schools had to go virtual and so an industry that tends to drag its feet about technology (education) had to suddenly embrace it if they were going to keep functioning. I was working in a school when everything shut down and I was like, this is my Super Bowl, I was born for this haha

For community builders, I would really encourage you to start by reflecting deeply on your own experiences with learning -- we've all had them, because we all did school, at the very least. Think deeply about what worked for you, what didn't. What worked for your friends, siblings, partner? What didn't?

If you're hiring a community educator to your team, I beg of you, consider hiring a former classroom teacher. These people are geniuses and we don't often recognize their ability outside of teaching in a formal classroom setting.

I also think a lot about how self-paced or asynchronous is not the same as "alone." We're just in a place with the technology where it doesn't have to be that way. We see examples of huge course libraries of self-paced options at a huge variety of quality and prices, but those options are totally isolating for students in a way that really bums me out! We need to connect these students to each other, because so much learning happens in conversation with others, and so if you're building a self-paced educational offering for your community, make sure you think about how to make it engaging, of course, but also how to draw people out of themselves and into conversation with other people passionate about the same topics. That's where magic happens for a lot of students!