In February, we ran a pilot ResearchEquals Cohort. Seven sessions spread over four weeks, and five cohort graduates. Regardless of whether we continue, this is a delightful memory already. We met fantastic folk, learned from one another, and had fun. We’ve had some space and time to reflect on this, and with that it’s high time to evaluate and announce when the next Cohort will take place.
We intended the ResearchEquals Cohort to be a peer learning programme, to make learning something fun and less intimidating. We wanted to create a supportive space for cohort members to practice modular publishing, such that we can start growing this practice. We didn’t succeed on every front, but it’s been a tremendous first try.
What went well
We are happy to see that our intentional design decisions worked out. Overall, cohort members rated the cohort calls 4.5 out of 5 stars. 71% of the cohort members graduated (5/7).
To run the cohort calls, we used Discord and Miro. We specifically chose to use Discord instead of Zoom, because that is where our community of practice meets to begin with. This would allow us to onboard cohort members into our community more directly. They would not have to migrate to yet another platform after completing the cohort. We also used Miro to run interactive activities (e.g., brainstorming), which ended up amplifying the cohort experience. Specifically, Miro was called “the star of the show” by some cohort members ⭐ Cohort members rated both services as highly positive too (4.5 out of 5).
We decided to run 60 minute sessions - in an attempt to balance time needed and opportunity to provide value. I can speak from my own experience that 90 minutes is hard to plan, and we wanted to keep the cohort easily accessible. 100% of the graduates felt 60 minutes was exactly right.
Subjectively, we had a lot of fun during our onboarding and graduation calls. Simply having space to banter and build trust together is incredibly valuable to be able to create a supportive experience. Discord’s built-in option of being able to play a game together (like Pictionary) or watch a YouTube video was a great way to amplify that fun.
What could go better
The entire cohort happened synchronously. As a result, everything was loaded into the 60 minute calls. Some cohort members indicated they would have liked recordings to review at their own pace (e.g., of the guest speakers and informative materials). This does not mean all materials need to be recorded, but async options are important. We could improve on this.
We also ran into the technical limitation that Discord doesn’t allow for video recordings. Originally, we did want to provide async options; we tried to hack around Discord’s limitations by creating a screen-recording (using OBS). Despite our efforts, there was frequently something that went wrong while screen-recording. Either it was an internet connection, the screen recording creating a computer crash, or simply not getting everything in the picture properly.
Cohort members also would’ve liked more time to learn about each other and build connections, with hands-on sessions within ResearchEquals. In order to build a community beyond one of skills, but one of belonging, we’ll have to create more space for that as well.
Finally, each call on its own seemed to work but cohort members let us know that they missed a flow between the different calls. How does one call build on the next, really? This was implicit in our programming, but we can do better in bringing people along. Also, we can reevaluate whether the structure made the logical sense we thought it did.
Things to look out for
At the outset of the pilot we set several goals for ourselves as organizers, and for the cohort members as participants. Many of those goals revolved around actual publishing of research modules. After all, we cannot create a community of practice without practicing!
As it stands, the pilot cohort has not (yet) published research modules. This is not their fault — we need to be vigilant of putting too many expectations on our cohort members. What it does indicate is that we need to build appropriate onramps and scaffolding for them to start publishing modules. What barriers to modular publishing did we miss in designing our cohort program? We’ll explore this more explicitly in our next cohorts.
Moreover, we ran this cohort in February - the goal of cohorts was to run them regularly. How do we create reliable scheduling and sufficient people for each cohort? Successful cohorts is more than simply offering the program regularly. When we run another cohort, we may also need to start thinking about recruiting sufficient people, or how we might start to connect the various cohorts - how do we make them known to each other as well? Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, but things to think about.
We are very pleased with the initial evaluation of the cohort programme. We did not hit the ceiling - there’s still ample room for improvement. We also did not hit the floor. It is a first try and it shows - but it is going to be the first try of many.
So yes, we will be running a next ResearchEquals Cohort. We will be adjusting bits and pieces to further refine the cohort. Specifically, we will run another cohort in July and another in October this year.
Sign up now or forward them to someone! 😊