Cally Booker is a handweaver hailing from Dundee, a city nestled on the east coast of Scotland. Known for her colorful weaving style and dedication to the craft, Cally has been teaching the art of weaving for over a decade.
Nowadays, she mainly does it online in her cohort-based course community Weaving Space, where she runs focused courses for five to six weeks at a time.
Back in 2013, Cally started teaching weaving classes out of her studio in Dundee. She built up a repertoire of classes, as well as visiting different venues and groups to run workshops. For a long time, that worked perfectly—until 2020 rolled around and everything shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
From one day to the next, Cally’s thriving business ground to a halt, and like many people whose work depended on meeting in groups, she was left wondering what to do next.
However, Cally had a parallel life that would prove incredibly useful in this moment. For many years alongside her weaving work, Cally had also been teaching mathematical modeling and statistics as a faculty tutor for the Open University in the UK.
And she’d been doing it online.
Armed with that knowledge and experience, she started figuring out how to transition her weaving classes to an online format. What topics could she cover that would be valuable and relevant to the space? And what tools would she need to do that?
Here’s the thing: for her online classes at the university, there was a whole IT department. Although she was reasonably comfortable with technology, she didn’t have any experience in this area.
And most importantly, the majority of her students aren’t tech-savvy. They tend to be older, so she needed to find a platform that would be easy for her to manage, and even easier for them to use.
Although many weaving programs and groups run on Facebook Groups, Cally knew right away that that wouldn’t be the right solution for her.
Starting a weaving project requires a lot of planning, and Cally’s courses are booked out months in advance. Unlike knitting, where you can just pick up another set of needles in case you want to start over or try something else, looms are expensive and people generally only have one. So you need to set it up the right way, with the right materials, before you even think about getting started.
That’s why Cally puts a huge level of care and detail into making sure people know exactly where to go and what to do to get the most out of their course: so they can hit the ground running once it kicks off.
Here’s how she uses Circle to do it:
1. She executes very intentional onboarding well before the course starts
Cally gets in touch with students weeks in advance of the course start date to explain exactly what’s going to happen, what kind of communications to expect, and when to expect them.
In her words, “I try to signpost really clearly every step people need to do.” Then, she sends out the community invites two to three days before the course starts, to give everyone time to sort out any technical issues before the first day.
2. She displays a welcome tour video front and center
As soon as a new member lands in Weaving Space’s welcome space, the first thing they’ll see is Cally’s 15-minute video tour, as well as other useful resources that she’s pinned to the space. The tour walks new members through everything they need to know, including what different areas of the community are for.
3. She uses a variety of space types to organize the learning experience
Different space types help members understand where they’re meant to go and what they’re meant to do next. Here are some of the different spaces in Cally’s community:
4. She shows up consistently to encourage engagement and provide support
Cally does this in a number of different ways.
Having hosted many courses now since launching in 2021, Cally has ironed out the course process and it runs like clockwork. Alumni get lifetime access to all of the course materials so they can come back and access lessons whenever they want, and some even take the course twice just for the fun of going through it again with a new cohort.
Cally briefly thought about transforming this learning experience into a digital product, but she loves running it as a cohort-based course. The engagement is unparalleled and the experience is rewarding for both her students and her because it’s not just lessons: it’s the calls, the discussions, the community, and everything that comes with it.
For now, she continues on her mission to share her love of weaving with students all over the world and encourage innovation in the space.
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