In this article, you’ll learn:
- What makes virtual learning communities so powerful, and how they can replace or supplement traditional education
- Why there are so many benefits to both founding learning communities and being a part of them
- About four types of learning communities in different industries and sectors that are creating life-changing experiences
The future of learning is lucrative for founders and life-changing for learners. Every year, thousands of learning communities are emerging and making names for themselves in the space.
As more and more learning communities are built, the blueprint for success becomes more defined. We’ve had the chance to interview a number of founders who have all created prosperous environments for themselves and their members, so we look to those and other professional learning communities to understand what makes them so powerful and beneficial to all involved.
Online learning creates so many positive outcomes for both the group of students within these communities and those who found online learning communities. Let's start by understanding what makes most learning communities and the collaborative environment they foster so special.
Why are learning communities so powerful?
Shared learning has quickly become one of the most effective strategies for improving education. Galvanizing fellow students to share ideas, provide feedback, and enjoy the social interaction that typical education lacks.
Online learning community versus traditional schools
We’ve known for years that the traditional higher education system is broken. It’s become too transactional and less focused on creating a deeper, holistic understanding of the curriculum at hand.
Learning communities are turning these outdated learning practices on their heads and share a common vision of replacing them with hands-on application and training to help people actually develop the skills they want to learn through methods that actually stick. These groups are revolutionizing learning by making it more practical and more relevant to our actual lives and careers and less reliant on archaic academic practices and baseless research.
From large live lectures to more intimate cohorts, learning communities have total control over how, when, where, and why people learn. Founders aren’t bound to set rules or standards; they determine what success looks like and can create detailed plans to help students achieve that success.
Learning community outcomes
Even more important than the learning component, the community component of these organizations is what sets them apart from the typical classroom/teacher scenario. Simply learning alongside peers doesn’t create a communal learning environment; where learning communities thrive is by fostering interaction, collaboration, and cultivation.
These groups are highly curated with individuals who are all striving for the same key goals. They’re sharing their different ideas, beliefs, values, and backgrounds along the way, creating a more well-rounded and tolerant community of people. Countless studies prove that community-based learning is far more impactful for students and drives far better results.
Really effective learning communities do more than create lifelong friendships; they help members expand their professional network. Leaning on other community members for future career opportunities is one of the best outcomes of joining a professional learning community.
We’ll dive more into the benefits of community-based learning for students, but what’s in it for founders?
The benefits of building a learning community
Above all else, founders have the opportunity to be a part in shaping learning’s future. They have a chance to change member’s lives by providing access to education they wouldn’t have otherwise had. Underrepresented, marginalized communities are often left out of additional educational opportunities, and those who create learning communities have a chance to give them purpose through skill-building and relationship development and build a culture that lets students thrive.
But the financial incentives don’t hurt either. Thousands of learning communities aren’t popping up around the globe without reason. The learning industry is on track to hit a trillion dollars this decade, and investors are putting their money into learning communities and the solutions that support them.
The revenue founders make can supplement their current income or create an entire new income stream altogether. Founders also have total control over how much they price entry to their community and supplemental learning experiences, pocketing as much as they want or using that revenue to build out a team and broader business in addition to the community.
For students, community-based learning is equally beneficial for both personal and professional development.
Pro tip: Disco is the platform founders look to to help design transformative learning experiences and thriving communities. Learn more about what makes Disco different.
The benefits of joining a learning community
Learning communities create an entire new experience for members. For one, it creates structure. The greater network relies on each member’s presence and participation to shape a better environment, so there’s a built-in accountability. Students in online communities share common goals but bring their own unique perspective to the learning process, deepening everyone’s understanding of the learning material and, more importantly, of people.
Members of learning communities work alongside one another so closely, they become closer colleagues in the process. Creating a larger, richer network is a massive benefit to students in these programs because they can lean on those connections down the line for professional or personal needs.
Finally, as mentioned earlier, learning communities tend to be more practical and more tangible than the theory-based learning of traditional higher ed. When you learn skills rooted in real-world application, you’re more likely — and capable — to actually apply them in whatever scenario you need these skills in.
An added benefit? The types of learning communities founders can build and that members can join are so vast. Any affinity, interest, or career path is suited for a community. These four corners of the learning industry are growing especially fast — and there’s a lot to learn from those who have founded communities within these vibrant spaces.
4 examples of learning communities to inspire you
The ability to capture what a user needs and bring it to life on mobile apps, web apps, webpages, and other devices is becoming a priority hire at major tech companies. Design is one of the most sought-after skills in today’s market, yet the talent pool is far too small to keep up with demand.
These five virtual design academies are picking up the slack and upskilling new design professionals who can go on to lead long, successful careers:
- d.MBA: Founder Alen Faljic bridges the gap between business and design in his cohort-based course. By fostering a tight-knit community, he’s been able to raise the price of entry exponentially over the last five years.
- Dribbble: One of the largest communities for designers on the web naturally found a fit with offering learning experiences in product design. They “design intimacy at scale” by breaking cohorts into sub-groups and encouraging deeper connection.
- The Fountain Institute: Making design inclusive is one of the most important aspects of bringing more people into the role. Their curriculum is so in-depth, they boast a 98% graduation rate, and nearly 40% of participants get a promotion within three months in their roles.
- DesignLab: Harish Venkatesan founded this community after realizing the gaps in his higher education learning experience. Now, they’re on track to help nearly 2,000 students learn the fundamental skills to find design jobs.
- Mento Design Academy: Mento allows their team of mentors to lead instruction, giving cohorts a more diverse teaching body to learn from. It works — Google, Adobe, and FitBit have hired grads from the Design Academy.
“The most successful companies in this place will build a model where you're teaching and learning from each other in the community, so it's not just on one person. The best way to learn is to teach.” - Alen Faljic, Founder at d.MBA
Sales is one of the oldest professions in the world, and there are more businesses in the world today than ever before. Solution? More salespeople to sell more goods and services.
But the sales role has evolved significantly; a successful salesperson can build and maintain relationships, understand human psychology, and drive solutions and results. Traditional schooling may not be able to teach these important skills, but community-based learning is designed to do just that.
These five sales academies are shaping the learning industry forward and training the next generation of prosperous sales professionals:
- Bluebird: This Canadian sales accelerator allows income share agreements, an installment plan where students don’t have to pay for the course until they find a job from it. With this option, Bluebird is expanding access to career training and carving space out for underrepresented communities.
- Hyrise: Hyrise followed the successful coding bootcamp model, immersing members in intensive curriculum with hands-on training they’ll need to know to become successful sales professionals. Now, they’re on track to upskill 10,000 new members by 2030.
- Uvaro Tech Sales: Uvaro Tech Sales uses community and collaboration as a major tool in their curriculum, citing it as something hiring managers look for in new talent, and organizations who hire Uvaro students cite really high overall satisfaction with the talent that comes out of the online community
- PreSales Academy: Combining asynchronous and synchronous coursework and stringing learning together through community is the way PreSales Academy has built one of the most successful sales accelerators in the world.
- SV Academy: SV Academy is a great example of a learning community that has created multiple revenue streams for building business. By monetizing entry to their learning community and monetizing recruitment services for companies looking to hire talent, they’re on track to upskill thousands of sales professionals over the coming years.
“Live cohort-based learning is focused on collaboration. Not only do you get study buddies, but many hiring managers recognize cohort-based learning programs as the superior learning format as it’s proven to help you retain information better, and build an internal resource network.” – Uvaro Tech Sales
Entrepreneurship has long since been a practice that was (seemingly) reserved for the elite and wealthy. Not anymore.
With entrepreneurship learning communities like these, founding a business and becoming wildly successful is attainable to everyone. There are a lot of accelerators and incubators worth looking towards, but these are a few we really admire:
- YSpace: On their mission to democratize entrepreneurship at a global scale, the YSpace is helping over 500 startups find their niche, target audiences, and create MVPs in the company of a tight-knit, supportive community. They’re using Disco to do so, and you can read our interview with Entrepreneurship Manager Nafis Ahmed.
- Unsolved: This learning community is entirely free to join, built on the goodwill of helping folks make connections, find mentors, and interact with people and founders from different backgrounds.
- FutureFounders: Who says kids can’t be founders? FutureFounders immerses younger students in curricula that will help them become successful business creators down the line.
Women are driving the learning industry forward in remarkable ways, especially as founders of some of the best and brightest learning communities across industries – especially tech, a sector where women tend to go widely underrepresented.
We recommend checking out these six women-founded learning communities to learn more about how they’re using their platforms to mobilize professional women, but we’ll give you a snapshot of a few:
- allWomen: Creating global access to tech careers for women is the main mission at allWomen. They’ve created courses for anyone, anywhere to take in order to shift careers or accelerate in the one they’re in.
- Women in Tech SEO: Unknown to many, SEO is a highly technical role that involves a specific skill set. The talent pool of women in this role is very small, which is why this community is on a mission to connect not only virtually but at meetups and conferences, as well.
Recreating success: Looking to other learning communities for inspiration and examples
The best way to build a learning community you can be proud of is looking to others as an example of what to do, what not to do, and how to stand out against the competition.
Check out more case studies of exceptional learning communities to learn how others are rallying new members, curating their communities, and helping people reach personal and professional goals.