What’s coming up in Q1+ for CSCCE’s professional development courses?

CSCCE is the leading training organization for community managers in STEM and this year we’re looking to build upon our successful existing courses by adding some new options – and new technology – to the mix. Plus, we’ll be experimenting with an Accessibility Fund to support broader participation. Read on for the details! 

Scientific Community Engagement Fundamentals (CEF)

Scientific Community Engagement Fundamentals (CEF) is our flagship training offering – initially piloted in 2020 and hosted four times in 2021. It gives a solid and impactful foundation in CSCCE frameworks such as the skills wheel and Community Participation Model, while providing opportunities to connect and work with other community managers and apply the course concepts to your own work. It’s our hope that all community managers in STEM will take this course, and so we’re looking at hosting it on a quarterly basis in 2022. 

With the Q1 cohort already sold out and starting later this month, we encourage you to pre-register for the Q2 cohort, likely starting in April. CEF courses do tend to sell out to pre-registrants, so taking two minutes to add your name to the list will ensure you don’t miss out.

We know that it helps to have advance notice of when courses will be, and so as we grow our training team (see our current openings if you’d like to join us!), we will begin adding future course dates to the website so you can plan ahead for what works best for your schedule.  

Some updates to our pricing

In addition to planning out a schedule for CEF in 2022, we’ve also been reviewing our pricing – and how we start to offer discounts to those who can’t pay the full price for the course. For the first CEF cohort of 2022, we introduced a new “supporting rate” for participants who have the budget to pay a little more. This is intended for for-profit organizations as well as anyone else able to contribute, and it’s currently a $300 markup on the standard course price. This is the first, experimental step in building out an accessibility fund in 2022. We’re testing if there’s interest in contributing in this way and welcome your feedback. If you’d prefer instead to make a one-off or recurring donation, you can do so via our new donations page on the website.

As we build out the accessibility fund, we’ll release more information about how to apply to use it and what CSCCE events or services it can be used for.

Nurturing Online Communities (NOC)

The second of our online courses is Nurturing Online Communities (NOC), which we piloted in the first half of 2021, and which will be back in 2022 in a reworked format. In its pilot form, this course worked through a primary text, with discussion sections and interactive activities guiding learners through nuanced concepts from the social sciences about how and why online community members behave the way they do.

We are currently adapting some of the course content so that we can administer it through a learning management system (LMS). Our goal is to “flip the classroom” somewhat, allowing time for learners to work asynchronously on some of the denser content leaving more time to interact with it during class through structured activities and group-based design labs. We expect to pilot this new format in late Q1/early Q2, and tickets will go on sale in the next couple of weeks, once we know the start dates of our new training team members. 

Some updates to the technology we use

To date, all of our courses have taken place in Zoom, supplemented with virtual notes docs, plus additional tools such as Padlet, Mural, Wonder, and Gather to retain interest and support interactive learning. We’ve learned a lot about how to push these tools to their limits in 2021 and plan to continue using them in our trainings.

However, one of the things that our NOC course in particular made us consider was whether we could also support more asynchronous learning in addition to virtual classroom activities. And so we’ve been experimenting with using an LMS to create short form training videos that recap core concepts, with quizzes to support assessment. For a theory-dense course such as NOC, we think this will support even more interactive time when we’re together in class, and so we’ve also swopped around our classroom timings for this course to host a 60-minute lesson and a 90-minute co-lab each week. More on all this when we announce the course dates!

What else is coming?

When we first launched our online courses, we anticipated making more course options available sooner. However, 2021 involved a lot more client work that we anticipated (a good thing!), which took staff time away from curriculum development. With that said, we plan on expanding our team a bit more rapidly than originally planned and launching three new courses in 2022. These will likely be: 

Communities of practice (COP) – This course will dive into the literature underpinning best practices in running communities of practice and apply it to designing and improving their own social learning communities. Similar to NOC, participants will spend time in both independent study as well as interactive virtual classroom time. 

Content design and engagement tactics (CODE) – In this feedback-focused course, we’ll offer actionable techniques for creating different types of content to engage your community members – from scaffolding to synthesis pieces, and we’ll help you to think through the purpose, timing and optimization of staff-generated content in your community. This course will include weekly “crits” (aka critiques) of learner-generated content. 

Community playbooks and collaboration guides (PBK) – Learners will leave this workshop-based course with a community playbook that describes how their community operates. We’ll also review different types of playbooks and why they matter, in a variety of STEM contexts. 

If you are interested in any of these courses, please let us know by pre-registering here. This will ensure you’re first to hear about the pilot courses – and the pilot rates! 

Lessons learned from experimenting with different training formats

In July and August of 2021 we experimented with delivering 90-minute mini-workshops, focusing on frameworks we developed to guide virtual event planning and delivery. There were a few reasons for this, including wanting to test out a lower cost option for learners that could be repeated at greater frequency. We also made some design decisions that included not requiring attendance at all of the workshops in the five-part series so that learners could pick and mix according to their schedules and interests.

What we found was that unlike our longer online courses, which learners unanimously find highly valuable, there were more mixed responses to exit surveys for the 90-minute mini-workshops. While some learners wanted to network and meet others, other learners wanted to apply concepts to their own contexts, and others preferred to be given pre-work on specific case studies. The challenges of meeting all of these demands in such a short format training at a competitive price point – plus lower than expected attendance – meant that we’ve decided to pause the 90-minute webinar format for now. We will focus instead on building out a catalog of longer courses that prioritize group-based learning, practical application of materials and meeting others over a longer period of engagement. We already know we can do this from CEF and NOC and so we’re going to build on what we know  works for our learners! 

Building a training path for scientific CMs

The last piece of news we wanted to share is that this year we will be rolling out a pilot program to guide you through our professional development trainings. This is intended to create a deeper learning journey for community managers – bridging across our courses and providing ongoing support and even deeper peer connections. More on that later this quarter!

Whatever your training goals or interests as a community manager, we hope that there is something here for you. As always, if you have any questions or feedback, please get in touch by emailing training@cscce.org.

Editors note: Course codes updated on 23 June 2022 to reflect updated nomenclature.