Hive Chicago Professional Learning Community

A multi-modal, openly networked, and participatory professional learning community focused on developing ditributed community leadership.

Duration of Project: October 2013 – Present
Organization: Mozilla, Hive Chicago
Audience: Several hundred Chicago youth service and education professionals from over 80 youth-serving organizations.


Project Description

The Hive Chicago Professional Learning Community design strategy assumes that the best way to influence how educators design learning experiences for young people is to design a professional learning experience for educators that models best practices. The Hive Networks learning strategy is shaped by connected learning, Mozilla’s web literacy framework, and Mimi Ito’s HOMAGO research at University of California Humanities Research Institute.

Collectively, those frameworks describe a learning environment that is openly networked to allow anyone to access, learn and make a contribution; where educators and learners work in the open by documenting and sharing both their process and artifacts online, and one where the learner becomes engaged socially by hanging out, is given interest-driven opportunities to learn more by messing around, and finally to go deep into the content by geeking out.

This design criteria demands a collection of engagement opportunities and differentiated experiences that simultaneously engage professionals at multiple levels of expertise and with a variety of interests, while meticulously documenting and sharing those experiences, and still providing space for those professionals who want to run ahead of the network. All the while, preserving one community culture.


User-Centered Methodology

The experience of exploring, creating and sharing collaboratively in the Hive Chicago Network – either through meetups, online forums, blogs, funding opportunities, youth learning events, or other gatherings and venues for engagement – is shaped to meet the needs of the network via a variety of continuous feedback channels. Hive Chicago collects data on member activity, solicits experience feedback, and engages research partners to assess the effectiveness and to inform the design of our engagement platform and professional learning community.

The Hive Learning Networks partner with New York University, Connecting Youth: Digital Learning Research Project to conduct member-professional-educator and youth-participant experience research in Hive-funded, and un-funded activities. For three years, the NYU team has been conducting interviews, surveys, and observations to produce yearly reports that help paint an unbiased picture of the Hive experience.

In addition to the NYU Report, Hive Chicago continuously collects network feedback directly through surveys at network engagements and indirectly through tracking participation activity, event attendance, and organizational profiles. Samples of this data are presented below.

From the meetup feedback data, for example, we have learned that meetup attendees found their experience to be improving over 2014; meetups currently and consistently do a better job at connecting our attendees to each other than they do at connecting attendees to Hive staff, though both have improved over time; a sense that “Hive is on the right track” is significantly variable from meetup to meetup. Information of this kind is regularly used by Hive staff to gauge how attendees have received new direction or messaging offered by network leadership at meetups. It helps indicate when leadership plans are connecting to member expectations.

In addition to feedback, Hive Chicago also collects attendance data. Some interesting things that have been gleaned from this data is that despite the fact that very few people attend every single meetup, there is a pervasive sense of connectedness in our community that is driven by many other interaction opportunities outside of meetups: online in our member-forum, through project collaborations, and at other Hive events and programs. The key takeaway is that:

A thriving network can operate through distributed and loosely connected relationships while remaining tightly in synch.

This data also helps Hive Chicago to think strategically about how to design the meetup experience to accomodate for attendance patters; to make that single interaction a meaningful one. Finally, the data also provides Hive Chicago with an interesting opportunity to sample folks in different attendance groups to find out why they do or do not return and where else they may be connecting with the Hive in a way that suits them better.


Related Evidence & Artifacts

This recent blog post details the data-driven approach to designing the Hive user experience, including the 2015 engagement calendar:

All Hive meeetups are live-streamed and documented on the Hive Chicago blog, providing a window for the community to experience the face-to-face events even when they cannot be there – see these examples for February and March of 2015.

Community members are introduced to the Hive Chicago Platform through a variety of different engagement and communication channels.