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Circle Editorial Team

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How to set up and launch a successful course community
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If you’re a course creator new to community building on Circle, or you already have a course community and want to understand how to design your community right to support your students, this is the guide for you!

Building a course community can be tricky. You want to ensure it gives course members the support they need to navigate your course and get the most out of it.

But how do you know what kind of spaces to create? Where do you start when it comes to setting up and launching a course community?

Carrie Melissa Jones, Community Consultant, Course Creator, and Author of Building Branded Communities, talked about how to set up and launch a course community on Circle in an exciting show and tell workshop with Circle members.

So, we thought it would be helpful to put together an accompanying guide that explores this topic further and gives you the foundation you need to set your community course up for long-term success.

If you’d like to learn how to set up and launch your very own course community, just keep reading!

Your framework for designing the best course community

Before you start gathering your people into a course community on Circle, you must develop a solid strategy to base your community design around.

Without a well-thought-out strategy, you might find it difficult to know how to structure your course community on Circle and the types of content you should post – leading to “shots in the dark” and “guesswork.” These are not things you want to base your course community on; trust us.

The foundation of any strong course community strategy comes down to 5 key pillars: Purpose, values, voice, constraints, and people.

Understanding these grounding principles of community building will influence its design and help you make informed decisions in the future.

Let’s explore each of these pillars a little further:

1. Purpose

Knowing your community’s purpose is one of the most critical aspects of setting up and running a thriving course community.

Without purpose, why do anything?

You need to know the “why” behind every decision you make so you know that every element of your course community means something and delivers real value for your members.

So, how do you figure out your purpose?

Think about these three key factors: Who you bring together, how you help them, and why.

Here’s an example of a community purpose statement:

“We gather social media managers who want to manage their time effectively, understand the intricacies of every social media platform, and craft winning strategies to give them their time back and delight their clients.”

When creating your course community, bring everything back to your community purpose statement. Will designing a particular space help fulfill it? Does posting a specific type of content make sense?

Let your purpose guide your course community to keep you from going astray and wasting precious time on things that won’t improve your course community.

2. Values

Without first understanding your core community values, it’s harder to attract the right people to your course community, maintain your community “culture,” and make strategic decisions to keep your members engaged.

Maybe your core values are “honesty, empathy, and determination,” or perhaps they’re to “be humble, respect others, and commit to knowledge sharing.”

Whatever you choose, remember that your values should be unique to you and can be anything you want them to be – just make sure they’re simple and easy to remember.

During the design phase of your course community, keep these values in mind as you create spaces, events, content, etc., and continuously ask yourself if what you’re doing aligns with your values.

Stuck for ideas? Here are some core values for inspiration:

  • Celebrate differences
  • Value everyone’s voice
  • Accountability
  • Integrity
  • Respect
  • Be bold
  • Stay curious
  • Love learning
  • Help others do better
  • Perfection doesn’t exist
  • Show up for yourself

3. Voice

When setting up your course community, it’s a great idea to get to grips with your “tone of voice.”

Since you’ll be creating a heap of content, courses, and member discussions, maintaining your brand tone of voice will help build trust and a sense of belonging within your community.

Knowing your tone of voice also makes crafting content a whole lot easier and keeps it coherent when passing off content creation tasks to others. No matter who is writing your guides, posts, or course content, you’ll know that members are getting the same consistent experience across the board.

How to develop your tone of voice

Think of your community as if it was a person. What personality traits would best describe it? Is it joyful, positive, and funny? Professional, serious, and straightforward?

Every community has a character, and your tone of voice is how your express it. What does yours sound like?

4. Constraints

Every community builder and member will face particular constraints that impact how you form your course community.

It’s essential to be aware of these restrictions to avoid overextending yourself and expecting too much from your members.

Take a moment to think about your own personal constraints as a community builder. Maybe you don’t have much time to do live calls, have young kids who might take attention away from your community, or struggle with the admin side, so this eats up much of your time.

And then think about the constraints your members are likely facing. If you don’t already know, ask! Getting feedback from potential, current, and future course community members on how you can best support them is crucial.

Perhaps they’re going through similar constraints, and don’t have much time to dedicate to your course or the community itself, perhaps some have health struggles that impact how they learn, or maybe they’re limited financially.

Listing all the constraints on both sides will inform how you set up and launch your community and help you design a structure that makes sense for everyone’s limitations.

5. People

The final pillar you should pay attention to is the people you’re building the course community for. What challenges are they facing? What are their interests, learning styles, lifestyles, and goals?

How does your course community solve their problems, meet their needs, and enhance their lives? If you’re ever unsure about a particular decision, always think about the people it affects. Then, you’ll know the answer.

Returning to these pillars and applying the framework will help keep you grounded, relevant, and purposeful throughout the course community setup and launch process and beyond!

How to set up your course community

Now that you understand the foundational framework behind setting up and building your course community let’s take a look at the steps you need to take to create a thriving course community on Circle.

Create an onboarding area

Creating a welcome/onboarding area in your course community is essential to make onboarding new members as smooth as possible and take the pressure off yourself to welcome and onboard new people individually.

In this area you might include things like:

  • Onboarding checklists
  • Community guidelines
  • Commonly asked questions
  • Tutorials to use Circle
  • How to get started guides
  • New member space

Optimize your member directory

Take advantage of Circle’s excellent member directory feature by asking members to write how they’d like to help others in the community on their member profiles.

This will encourage co-creation, engagement, and connection among members and make newcomers feel less intimidated about reaching out to others.

Organize course module spaces

By creating spaces specifically for each module of your course, you can connect members at the same spot in the learning journey and keep all questions and feedback related to each module in neat, organized spaces.

You can outline how users should use each module space, whether to share wins, ask for advice, ask questions, request quick feedback, or all of the above!

The important thing is that you’re getting people talking, practicing, and supporting one another while keeping a watchful eye for any issues with each module.

Create general spaces

When setting up and launching a course community on Circle, the critical thing to remember is to keep it simple.

You can always add new spaces later, but removing them is more difficult once members start using them. Try not to segment the spaces too much, or you may confuse members or separate discussions and content to the point where there’s not much activity in each space, or they “go dead.”

The more general your spaces are, the more sustainable and active they will be. You could start by adding general spaces for things like:

  • Ask questions
  • Share your progress
  • Introduce yourself
  • Upcoming/past events

Empower members to become mentees

All community builders need support. One of the best ways to relieve the pressure is by sharing your workload with others and encouraging members to take a more active role in the community.

You could pin a post in the welcome space telling members if they apply to become a mentee and help coach others in the community or help facilitate admin tasks, they can get a special discount, mentorship, or learning opportunity.

By delegating responsibility to other members, you’re freeing yourself up to focus on the bigger picture tasks and helping build engagement as these mentees become even more invested in your community.

Remember, do not exploit your member’s time. Make helping out an equal exchange, whether that’s through a discount or personal mentorship from you.

At the bottom of your course community sidebar, you may want to add quick links to important information or websites to make it easier for your community members to access support for the platforms they’re using, find information, or log in to the course platform.

Create feedback processes

No thriving course community got that way without getting continuous feedback from its members and making the necessary changes to keep improving.

Even before you set up your first course community on Circle, it’s a good idea to interview potential members about the type of course community they’d like to be a part of.

Once your community is up and running, create a space specifically for feedback about the community, send out surveys to your member’s email, or interview them to see what you can improve, change, or get rid of to deliver a better experience.

Ready to set up and launch your course community?

We hope this guide has helped you feel a little more prepared to set up and launch your own Circle course community.

From understanding the five key pillars to robust course community design to developing a simple structure, we hope you can find clarity throughout the community building process after reading this.

We want to thank Carrie Melissa for the expert advice she explored in her training workshop, and we can’t wait for the next one! To learn more, check out her book Building Branded Communities, or visit her website.

Check out Circle’s other training videos for more inspiration, motivation, and top tips.

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