Customer Stories

How Breakthrough Facilitation pivoted from in-person to virtual training—and scaled—on Circle

Cohort-based course
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“I decided to pivot all of my work from in-person to online, using Circle. It's an amazing tool, and very user-friendly. Wherever you are in your technical abilities, you'll find Circle very accessible.”

Gwyn Wansbrough

Founder, Breakthrough Facilitation

Image for Gwyn Wansbrough
Image for Gwyn Wansbrough



    Gwyn Wansbrough spent 15+ years teaching in-person facilitation and was fully convinced that she wouldn’t be able to replicate the meaningful work she typically did in-person in an online setting. 


    When the pandemic hit and people started complaining about Zoom fatigue, Gwyn saw a gap she was uniquely qualified to fill: She could teach the individuals new to hosting virtual sessions how to improve their facilitation skills and create more engaging experiences. Enter: Circle, the tool that enabled Gwyn to do this work at scale.

    Meet Gwyn Wansbrough

    Gwyn Wansbrough is an expert facilitator, trainer, and learning experience designer. She teaches a facilitation course called Breakthrough Facilitation and writes about virtual facilitation and learning in her newsletter, The Quest.


    The challenge: pivoting from in-person to virtual training overnight

    In March 2020, Gwyn Wansbrough had just stepped down from her role as director at a facilitation training organization. She’d spent over a decade working in in-person facilitation, and was just beginning to plan out the next phase of her career as an entrepreneur when the pandemic hit. Suddenly, the “in-person” component of in-person facilitation training was no longer a viable option. Gwyn would have to pivot. 

    Delivering her facilitation trainings online seemed like the best option, but Gwyn was skeptical. She believed the only way to create meaningful group experiences was to do it face-to-face. 

    ​​I was convinced for a very long time that you could not do the kind of meaningful work that you did in-person online. And then the pandemic hit and everything changed. And I remember leading my first online experiences completely skeptical, thinking that this was not going to work.
    Headshot of Gwyn Wansbrough
    Gwyn Wansbrough
    Founder, Breakthrough Facilitation

    Gwyn wasn’t the only one who was skeptical. This was at the height of Zoom fatigue becoming an all-too-real problem, when the words tedious, draining, and uninspiring were more accurate descriptions of the virtual sessions most of us were attending. But as Gwyn began to tepidly test the waters—adapting her in-person facilitation skills to the online realm—she was surprised to find that feedback from her virtual sessions was overwhelmingly positive.  Attendees told Gwyn that they left her sessions feeling energized, connected, and inspired. And so she was faced with her next challenge: How could she deliver these virtual experiences at scale and enable real transformation for her people?

    The solution: an all-in-one community platform designed to host cohort experiences

    Gwyn saw a gap that she was uniquely qualified to fill: If she could teach the individuals hosting these online sessions how to level up their facilitation skills, perhaps attendees wouldn’t feel so fatigued. Maybe they’d even feel—as attendees of Gwyn’s sessions did—energized, connected, and inspired.

    To address this gap, Gwyn started to create her first online course: Breakthrough Facilitation. Breakthrough Facilitation wasn't just a series of pre-recorded video lessons. It was designed around the idea that if Gwyn was going to help students improve their facilitation skills, simply sending them pre-recorded course videos wouldn’t be enough. She would need to bring students through the course in a live cohort, so that she could model virtual facilitation skills in real time and give her students opportunities to put their own facilitation skills to the test.

    Needing somewhere to host this experience and community, she turned to Circle, which allows her to center everything in one place. Gwyn uses the Breakthrough Facilitation community to onboard new cohorts, host her course content, share recordings of the live sessions and other resources, and give students a place to connect, ask questions, and share feedback with one another. She also finds the product to be highly intuitive, and says that, “Circle is an amazing tool. It’s very user-friendly. Wherever you are in your technical abilities, I find Circle [to be] very accessible.”

    Students consistently rave about the cohort experience and the connections they’ve been able to build with fellow students. One Breakthrough Facilitation member shared that her favorite part of the course was when each student was tasked with designing and hosting a demo session for the rest of the group: “I loved getting inspired by everyone else's sessions and getting feedback.”

    Today, Gwyn has helped over 1,350+ students on and outside Circle level up their facilitation skills through the Breakthrough Facilitation community—from corporate trainers to university professors, teachers, community leaders, course creators, and more.

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