Shared Learning Spaces

Some members have expressed an interest in a shared learning space, something that complements the online meeting rooms we have, to organise courses or a “school” around it. While BigBlueButton was originally developed for online learning at schools and universities, it’s focus is on the synchronous part, of meeting, learning and working together in a classroom. The whiteboard, break-outs, collaborative pad, chat and user management are very practical features for that.

But online courses may need more, like a group or cohort of learners, that join a given course, discuss topics, find materials that are posted previously, check a calendar of activities and replay videos of classroom sessions - just to name a few. Depending on your initiative’s educational model you may have more needs.

BigBlueButton has been integrated with such more asynchronous learning oriented platforms, in particular with Moodle and CanvasLMS (official demo) but also with WordPress and other CMS’s (and I’m not mentioning the non-free systems out there).

Inside the community we have member organisations with needs for an online learning space and others with experience in setting this up. This thread is to share thoughts about this, share knowledge and experiences and possibly to set up an online learning space complimentary to what we already have. All limited to the level of interest that we may have in this together.

  • @freescholar mentioned they have set up CanvasLMS at Agaric and integrated that with BigBlueButton. It would be wonderful to learn from you!
  • @petter from also had an interest in that combination, correct?
  • possibly may have some services in this area for your members, @jamie? Movement education is a central commitment in MayFirst.
  • the Free Knowledge Institute has been running Moodle for the Free Technology Academy for years with @dvdjaco, Marco Fioretti, @wouter. They’d be interested to see this happen at and would like to use it for courses.

A rather concrete need is from the European Municipalist Network and, who are preparing an online school programme for the movement. They’re members of and are studying the options for their programme to go live in a few months from now. In the EMN School working group there are members from and from the ULEX Project, dedicated to high-quality trainings building social movement capacity for social justice and ecological integrity. A much aligned and interesting team.

The evolving Community programe in is itself a learning project: not ‘a school’ or a delivery platform for content, more like an ongoing research & development community and an organised framework and protocol for collaboration in evolving ‘good practice’. It has the potential (and the intention) of becoming a kind of ‘college’ for the community of members of, out there, actively developing the coop-commons world that is so urgently needed. See the draft of goals for the programme.

There will be more (member) orgs that could be interested in this. Please give a shout out here! (This is a wiki post - you can edit.) Let’s see who’d like to share experiences, discuss needs, and maybe test and imagine a shared service that could work for many of us.

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I have an interest here. At two levels . .

I’ll be glad to make what contributions I can, in developing the European Municipalist Network/CommonsPolis focus. A presentation and discussion around the challenges here can constitute, in effect, a pilot session in the Community programme (the Toolstack thread, I think).

More broadly, the Community programe is itself a learning project of another kind: not ‘a course’, more like an ongoing research collaboration. The programme has the potential (and the intention) of becoming a kind of ‘college’ for the community of activist members of, out there, developing the coop-commons world. See the draft of goals for the programme, link below. Other drafts on principles, protocols and strategy of the programme are alongside that one, here.

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This very much overlaps with the work I am doing at present around knowledge commons, and how interpretations differ across people writing on the topic. I see a knowledge commons as potentially covering all the knowledge aspect of a community of practice, and that can easily include the learning aspects. Just wrote about the wider topic in my personal journal, here. And relatedly, I’m very interested in investigating how wiki systems (open source ones naturally) can be developed to meet some of the needs for this kind of learning-oriented knowledge commons.

So I’d be delighted to contribute to the systems design and development here.


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@asimong, great to see your message! starting from the knowledge commons is indeed a very wide, and interesting view. I think it’d be interesting to design several sessions and also take this wider view as you suggest.

This first session is rather more concrete, like “what can we share in needs and offers in terms of LMS that complements the current BBB service that we have with”, i.e. what async toolset would be beneficial for the EMN and other members that we could (potentially) set up in the coming few months.

But that more concrete session should fit into a larger vision as you are suggesting, or Mike who envisions a kind of “college” of commons and cooperative activities for and by members and their constituencies. That could be a layer of courses that gets made more accessible and can get curated between anyone of us, potentially leading to better access and capacity building in the wider network.

Hi @wouter ! What would you think about modularising your ‘curriculum’? If the dependencies are clear, people could join when they feel it is appropriate, without getting out of their depth and needing others to slow down and recap (which can use time!) If the LMS extension conversation can be harvested into a summary doc, that would be really great. It would be really nice if we can do some long-term knowledge store thinking, in terms of which wiki or wiki-like system we could use?

right now, it would be already a great leap if we get to share a learn space that complements the BBB service. Different groups may want to use that, some only for their own constituencies while others would be happy to work in the open. Once we get there, and in parallel have the community programme up and running, I’d imagine that overarching vision of a community of communities that decides to contribute to long term creation and storage of knowledge.

So to say: there’s no curriculum as such, but there might be a potpourri of courses that might later be curated into something like that? Does that make sense?

Agaric has been hosting some Boston Public School courses and some independent teachers on an instance of Canvas LMS and BBB is a component, available in each course as a way for teachers to have a conference room to invite students. It has been working pretty flawlessly since last August. Happy to give a tour - book a time here:

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Session on Shared Learning Spaces
Date: Monday 15th of March
Time: 16:30 CET
Place: Community Programme home room

The session programme is getting shape as several parties have shown interest to participate, below is the current agenda.

  1. Welcome, under the umbrella of the community programme

    Wouter (3")

    1.a. colonial apology

    MikeH (2")

  2. Check-in round (15")

  3. High level vision for shared learning space. Wouter 5"

  4. The ‘Trinity’ of organisers’ digital tools. Actually, five!

    MikeH (5")

  5. Synergia - share experience with its MOOC, now in 4th iteration

    Mike G (5")?

  6. Ulex - share experience

    Gee 5"

  7. Demo CanvasLMS

    Micky/Keegan from Agaric (10")

  8. Round of feedback, points of view, perspectives (20”)

  9. Explore needs & offers (10”)

  10. Questions: Infrastructure - is there a specification for to think around, for expanded digital infrastructure provision? Is this something we collectively want to work on?

  11. check-out (10”)

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Just above this message you see the date as it comes from the date polling. The 15th seemed most feasible for almost all. Let’s stick to this one for this first session. Also with several participants we have defined the concrete session agenda, hopefully you like it, but feel free to comment and adjust where necessary.

Just checking: 16:30 CET means 15:30 in UK ?
It sounds good, I’m hoping to be able to attend. Thanks.

Hi @JC-Sheffield yes indeed, please confirm that you are going in the announcement here. Hopefully you can make it!

We had a great session today. With reflections about learning spaces, as spaces of resistance with an >200 years historic perspective, straight back to our current times of movement capacity building, activist training and had a quick tour into the possibilities of Canvas LMS in combination with BBB. An LMS is certainly not something that every org wants and maybe useful for schools or more structured course formats. The orgs using it seemed to be rather satisfied with what this system can offer. Other forms of hosting asynchronous activities could be wiki or forum or other and different course settings and organisation might be interested in different combinations…

Given the dozens of members - without them knowing it of each other - they are convening regularly in online meeting rooms in the same building (cq. server) and they have many shared values and even purposes. From cooperatives in food, housing, digital services to privacy activists, free culture artists, reclaim the city municipalist platforms: a large part is situated in the social and solidarity economy, working for the commons, human rights and sustainable development. If we only could find a way to connect more easily and share resources and practices between each other…

There were probably too many good interventions to make it all in the timeframe, so we didn’t get yet to the Offers & Wants part of the session, that we decided to move to the forum. Next time we should limit the agenda so we can have a better conversation.

The shared notes unfortunately got lost in this session. As we were all moderators in this room, someone must have hit the “End meeting” button. Maybe we should avoid the All moderator configuration, especially when carefully writing shared notes in the room…

Below follows a collective intent to reconstruct at least part of the meeting notes. This is also an invitation to take the conversation from the session and continue here in the forum.

Meeting notes

These notes can be downloaded here Nextcloud

Note: The shared meeting notes unfortunately were lost - the room was closed before notes had been saved :woozy_face: This version is reconstructed from the recorded playback by meeting co-hosts. Please feel free to improve the notes. And indeed, to add-in further notes (indicated as ‘post-meeting’) which may take our discussion and collaboration further.

:film_strip: The session has been recorded and can be viewed and downloaded here. Note: The download gives audio and slides but lacks shared whiteboard actions and chat. Streaming is more usefully interactive - eg links in the chat are clickable.

1. Welcome, under the umbrella of the community programme - Wouter
1a. Colonial language apology. MikeH:

2. Check-in x13 participants.

  • Gary Alexander, 37 years @ Open University (open learning methods, environment issues), 4 years Board of Transition Towns Network, co-founder @ Norfolk.
  • Gee, Ulex Project, an activist training collective, an intentional community, two residential centres. Focus: social movements in Europe. @ Catalonia 20+ years, originally Scotland. Feeling good today :slight_smile:
  • Marco Fioretti, Free Knowledge Institute, digital social innovation, part-time primary school teaching, digital emancipation. @Rome.
  • Jonathan Cook, ex Webarchitects/coTech. Member of organisations promoting coops. @ Sheffield.
  • Jason Nardi, coordinator RIPESS Europe, president Italian Solidarity Network - economic-change organisations, rights organisations. Promoting free software tool use. Also coop governance. @ Florence.
  • Micky Metts, Agaric web development coop. Offers BBB thro Community Bridge, and seeking a path to join the family of servers. Last summer, ran a Boston public school project using CanvasLMS. It’s a good platform, with some simplifying, for many orgs to use, to develop common learning and viewpoint - for example, a ‘Coop 101’ howto course. @ Boston.
  • Simon Grant, founder-member of CETIS, worker coop in learning technologies. Lived in a co-housing coop, Lancaster. Art of Hosting. Moving P2PF towards ‘a really good commons’, including wiki usage. @ Belgium, originally NW England.
  • Robert Best, new to coops, member of Digital Life Collective. Commons-based peer production, self-directed learning, Open Learning Commons. A techie: technical end of Dweb and the P2P space, was Holochain for a time. @ near Toronto.
  • Keegan, Agaric (auxiliary, not worker-owner). Studied environmental science in college, disappointed the available tech isn’t fully deployed, was in environmental research. Moved into community development, ‘We have social problems’ not technological problems.’ Enjoying the journey :slight_smile: @ Boston.
  • Mike Hales - community team/operational member, Robin Murray network co-convener (Making the Living Economy), contributor. Thinking about toolstack for a year since Open2020. Met at that time, and felt it was an important digital infrastructure project, especially if ‘community’ and multistakeholder governance could be developed well. @ Sussex.
  • Frederic Sultan, co-coordinator, Remix the Commons: tools for-and-with commoners, across Francophone countries. Day-to-day using BBB/ It’s time to re-think ‘How to meet’? The multilingual aspect is important. @ Paris.
  • Mike Gismondi, Synergia MOOC, ex-Athabasca University. A lifetime adult educator, first on radio, then a distance-learning university. Developing asynchronous teaching in print, then online since mid-90s; synchronous approach in 2000s. 10yrs research collaboration with Mike Lewis/Pat Conaty/John Restakis from coop/economic development movement, decided to do a MOOC using Canvas toolset. Some others here helped design the first curriculum. After doing it on elbow-grease, got funded now for 4 years - so: excited to meet this group here! It’s a great time to be developing something collective :grinning: @ Athabasca, northern Alberta.
  • Wouter Tebbens, co-founder Free Knowledge Institute, co-founder, core team/co-founder. Dutch origin, @ Catalonia (Barcelona).

3. High level vision for shared learning space. Wouter

  • Apart from online rooms we should be aware of how much we do outside of real-time connections - the asynchronous parts. The right mix of tools and practices - real-time and asynchronous - could put us in a much better position to help each other, collaborate and learn.

**4.Digital collaboration tools - A ‘toolstack’. MikeH
Link to Mike’s longer presentation video on this. Here is the slide deck.

  • The basic proposition: Diving into a specialised bundle of tools for delivering content to an audience might not be the move to make. There might be a bundle of more generic tools, for collaborating, that will do a large part of the work involved in researching/communicating understandings/making discoveries. Four slides . .
  • Slide 1 - highlighting differing modes of ‘learning’, with varying degrees of individual and collective, exploratory and authoritative, pedagogy and ‘peergogy’ dynamics. Differing modes call for ‘learning spaces’ furnished in different ways?
  • Slide 2 - capability in transformative practice rather than ‘learning’, highlighting historical discoveries across 250 years, of social relations in movement capability. These give us today a repertoire of relationships to build into radical forms of cultural process: free association, organic intellectual practice, facilitation, participatory design of infrastructure, commoning. We should design and evaluate our forms of communication and interaction thro these, as regards building capability?
  • Slide 3 - asking questions about the nature of ‘the space’ through which learning might be enacted - a machine-space of digital objects? an ecosystem of humans/devices/media/documents/data? a dance, an improvised performance? Could be all of these - but each calls for a different kind of infrastructure, and enables a different kind of participation. Weaving them all together in use is also an area of skills, ranging from facilitation to pedagogy to media design.
  • Slide 4 - outlining a ‘toolstack’ model in three parts, derived from experiments over a decade or so: Rich Bartlett & Nati Lombardo (a generic and basic ‘trinity’ of tools for communicating, informing and deliberating), Guerrilla Translations (a ‘stack’ of tools that incorporates the trinity, needed for purposeful, effective, systematic co-working). Plus a further field of tools - ‘specials’ - that might vary across differing domains of activity.
  • The basic proposition is that there may be parts of ‘the stack’ that now have become basic enough, that they should be in ‘the trinity’ - thus, no longer ‘trinity’! Video rooms is one of these, Cloud storage is another. Also, there may be ‘specials’ that also are needed in more widespread and easily useable forms: for mapping, analytics, news.
  • Thus, no longer ‘a trinity’, but perhaps a 3x3 ‘expanded trinity’ of fundamental tools? The challenge is, to have all collaborators using the same tools, across this range? And to choose good versions of each type of tool. And maybe, some question of integration - although what ‘integration’ means needs some attention.
  • Rather than specialised ‘learning tools’, perhaps everything in the 3x3 expanded trinity is a tool for using in learning, collaborating and communicating understanding?

5. Synergia - share experience with its MOOC, now in 4th iteration - Mike G

  • From earlier in the meeting: relearning ‘the meeting’ (Frederick), different kinds of learning spaces (MikeH).
  • Synergia original aim (6 years ago) was to enable practitioners around the world to share what they were doing - codesigners of the course, 50 leading practitioners started on the course. Asynchronous.
  • Second iteration, coupled with best practice from distance-education: collective learning, small-group work. In Canvas: Transition to cooperative commonwealth. 450 participants, individual sign-ups. Hoping to promote peer-to-peer learning, across movements and geography. Small-group work wasn’t all that effective.
  • Canvas is a simple environment, you can turn on and off the elements you want: We delivered material for individual study; discussion occurred in online asynchronous text-based forums.
  • Third iteration: in addition to individual sign-ups as before, also invited ‘action circles’ to participate - meeting face to face or in video rooms (self-organised in Zoom, Hangouts, WhatsApp, etc). Basic material was YouTube: TED talks, podcasts, etc., curated by Synergia. Eight co-curators, eight week-long modules (basic needs, food, land, energy etc; plus some cross-cutting themes eg finance). Tutor module intros recorded in Zoom, embedded in Canvas for independent async viewing by participants.
  • Stats: 1,100 participants in this cohort; plenty of pushback, on how busy a large cohort can be, in an open forum. 140 participants were in ‘action circles’, from 12 countries. These had local facilitator; this ‘worked a bit’. 300 sign-ups never materialised. Another segment were ‘harvesters’, just accessing selected material; ‘this is cool’. 400 stayed to the mid-course break (2 weeks), 350 returned for Part 2. 100+ finished.
  • ‘We came to a crossroads’, we want to blend sync and async modes. Revised design - 4th iteration, upcoming - alternates an async week, with a week where participants can work independently or join a small group using video rooms, shared whiteboards, etc.
  • Also adding a database, to enable participants to hook up according to profile of stated interests, level of commitment, degree of experience, etc. Hoping to be able to assemble ‘affinity group’ of maybe 10 members. Geography and language are dimensions too.
  • Looking forward to working out issues of this latest ‘mixed mode’ approach, with others here.

6. Ulex - share experience - Gee

  • Met Wouter thro European Municipalist Network, currently co-designing a course.
  • Doing activist education for many years; 4 years ago set up Ulex project, doing capacity building. Five broad areas:
  • Narrative capacity - How we talk about who are we, where we’re going, how we get there.
  • Disruptive capacity - How we signal power, create cracks in the system to be exploited.
  • Institutional capacity - How we translate narrative and disruption into lasting effect.
  • Prefigurative capacity - How we walk the talk of a transformed world.
  • Capacity of resilience - How we weather the struggle, cope with repression, handle psychosocial dimensions, re-group. How we combat depletion or contraction in ourselves and our movements.
  • The process is based on learning from each other’s struggles, a highly participatory approach. Not predetermined ‘answers’, a Freire approach: Making a path by walking. But learning is also organising: bringing people together, creating partnerships, foundations for trust, capacity for organising.
  • Over the years, work typically in-person, in residential centres. One or two weeks long, quite demanding in commitment. Working now with blended approach, with digital dimensions. Realising how exciting just-digital can be. For example, the reach - in person we work with maybe 500 activists in a year. Also, accessibility: digital can offer flexibility for people unable to be away from home (care responsibilities, mobility challenges, work commitments, etc).
  • Thinking about how it works economically. Our programmes are ‘open-source’, we want the insights to be accessed and used. How does this work with digital trainings, sustainably? Residential trainings are solidarity economy, we don’t sell a service, but people do make contributions; and we do an awful lot of fundraising work. Curious to know how this works in digital.

7. Demo CanvasLMS - Micky/Keegan from Agaric

  • Micky: Anybody who wants a deeper look, we’re be happy to give an account on our Canvas server.
  • In Canvas, an instructor can see a user view, can assign a participant to different courses and classrooms.
  • Once into a course ‘space’ there is a conference space to participate in.
  • Pretty intuitive. In Boston public schools, most teachers hadn’t used Canvas but became capable with it.
  • When Canvas is bridged with BigBlueButton, a BBB conference can be opened from inside Canvas, with limited configuration options. Whole group-lists or selected individuals can be invited in. On meeting-close, the participant returns to Canvas.
  • Keegan: Each user account - instructors, participants or other roles (eg ‘observer’) - has a dashboard of courses they are involved with. Dashboard also displays any alert messages, status messages, etc. An account has a mailbox. Courses display events, deadlines etc in a calendar.
  • A course has a home page, which can be configured various ways; and a syllabus page showing events and modules. Documents can be uploaded to a files folder for the course. Discussions can be opened.
  • A single instance of Canvas can have numbers of accounts, where each account (eg an organisation) can have sub-accounts (eg courses).

8. Round of feedback, points of view, perspectives

  • Gee: Pleased to meet you all, appreciate being here, hope to stay in communication. Leaving now.
  • Gary: At Agaric what has your experience been in Canvas with small groups? Micky: No direct experience.
  • Jason: We’ve been setting up Moodle, works similarly to Canvas. It too integrates with BBB. We work with an organisation in Argentina, ¿Dunia?, which hosts BBB. How people work together in groups, when following online courses, does seem to be one of the difficult issues (eg Synergia comments). We have expected small groups within a larger body to organise their own collaboration (again, as Synergia did in the 3rd iteration). In recent months we’ve used Loomio, which is a good compromise between geekier tools and Telegram/WhatsApp popular tools, which lack forum/thread capability.
  • Simon: Very interested in wiki, and in knowledge commons - as an alternative to a course. Would like to hear from people who want to approach the challenge of specifying this and evolving approaches.
  • Marco - Teaches literacy and digital tech in an experimental primary school. With renewed lockdown in Italy, would be interested to know more about CanvasLMS in this situation.
  • Robert: Would like to know what experience and views people have, about ‘pedagogy vs peer-gogy’, and platforms that support fluid flipping between roles, rather than embedding them in the structure. Micky: In Boston schools, maths students raised their grades, because (it seems) it was easy for them to open BBB conferences and mentor each other. Micky described Moodle as ‘a big monster’ and ‘a college class beyond’ Canvas. Whereas Canvas was useable by 13-14 year olds to set up their own options.
  • Wouter: To combine an LMS (Canvas seems simpler), containing a forum/conference and mail, with small-group BBB video conference, and a wiki could be ‘the holy grail’?
  • Mike G: Happy to give anybody access to our Canvas, to see the course. Seems we in this meeting are converging on common issues, from slightly different points of view and stages of development? In designing activist education, we do need to learn to combine different kinds of elements to meet various needs. I liked the way Gee talked about Ulex and capacity building and would like to explore more. We should keep talking. This is great.
  • MikeH: This meeting’s organisers need to figure out, post-meeting, what threads ought to be created in the forum, so the richness of this discussion can stay on the move and alive. [Done: see Shared learning space - Emerging threads]
  • Wouter: And of course, if anyone here already has a notion of what they would like to take forward . . please post in the forum asap. And/or mention to me, MikeH, Gary.
  • MikeG: Is there a capacity limit of 100 people in a BBB session, for stable behaviour of the room? Wouter: 100 people in a room is rather a large gathering in the real world! For a larger audience, the room can be connected to live streaming? And for actual conversation, people would group in smaller numbers?

9. Explore needs & offers
To take up in the forum Offers & wants

10. Questions
Not discussed here, to be progressed in the forum, via Shared learning space - Emerging threads :

  • Infrastructure - is there a specification for to think around, for expanded digital infrastructure provision?
  • Is this something we collectively want to work on?

Thank you Wouter for arranging and hosting!

Just to relay my combined offer/request from today, I’m asking and offering to bring together those interested in developing wiki systems so that they can serve as living knowledge commons for learning.

As a long-experienced educator at various levels, believing in the potential of self-directed learning for all, but especially adults, my interest is less with a traditional learning platform / LMS / VLE and more with a structured set of learning resources. The OER community is relevant; WIkipedia; so many videos, many on YouTube; many MOOCs and similar.

The problem I find is that no current wiki systems are both distributed and suitable for collective assembly of high-quality graded learning resources. Also as there are already so many resources on so many different wiki and other platforms, it is quite unrealistic to expect people all to migrate to one system, no matter how well chosen and capable. People’s preferences will always differ legitimately.

What I envisage is the collective crafting, with great care and consultation, of a set of interoperability requirements for such commons-oriented wikis. If such a set of requirement, corresponding to desired features, could be widely agreed, they would serve as a guide both for new entrants to the wiki field, and for established systems to develop into.

Probably the best way of doing this would be to choose one existing wiki system to develop as a reference implementation for a developing set of standards. This is not easy or quick work, but would be a huge advance, effectively breaking down the silos of knowledge that currently exist.

Threads emerging from the above meeting, for potential ongoing collaboration, are proposed here: Shared learning space - Emerging threads

Simon’s invitation to explore wiki, and interoperability of existing resources (wikis?), forks to here, as an element of Expanded 'trinity'

Hey @freescholar I’d be interested to know what reasons led you to Canvas LMS over Moodle? Thanks! :slight_smile:

In our meeting, Micky spoke of this in terms of a college degree (Moodle) compared with a high school diploma (Canvas) - more learning curve. But Canvas does the job. Did i hear you right @freescholar ?

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