Eight Essential Principles in the Design of an Online Book Club

In fall of 2018 and with the help of post-secondary educators from across B.C. and Ontario, BCcampus embarked on a new initiative: the offering of an online book club focussed on teaching and learning professional development.

Post by Leva Lee, Manager, Learning + Teaching

The BCcampus Online Book Club took place over an eight-week period, from September 12 to November 9, 2018. The key goal of the online book club was community building while learning together. Secondary goals were testing what is required to plan and offer an online book club, and how one might work. We learned a lot from the project and received very good feedback from participants. The online book club’s success is attributed to eight essential principles that emerged from conversations with community members and were key to guiding the design of this first offering. The guiding principles for the online book club included the following:

  • Open: Anyone interested in the topic would be welcome to attend; Where possible, we’d use openly available tools and resources.
  • Flexible: We’d use technology to help time-shift and support our participants’ busy schedules; There’d be several ways to participate: synchronous web chats, or asynchronous blog comments.
  • Turn-key technology: As organizers, the book club would be centralized around technology we could implement readily: a WordPress blog site and a BlueJeans web conference room sponsored by BCcampus.
  • Practical: We wanted there to be practical takeaways and opportunities to apply learnings or share experiences with colleagues.
  • Social: We wanted the book club to be social and fun as well as provide opportunities for discussion in a safe, supportive environment and network.
  • Easy for participants: We needed low barriers to participating. As a micro-learning event, the time required to participate would be less than an hour or two per week with optional challenges or other activities. We also scheduled two reading breaks to provide time for people to catch up.
  • Centred on a seminal work, easily available to participants: Our selected book was intentional: “How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching” was a book most post-secondary institutions would have in their teaching and learning centres or libraries, so copies would be readily available. Also, the book’s seven-chapter structure would lend well to how we could organize book club blog posts and discussions.

Learn more:

For more information on the BCcampus Online Book Club and tips on what you need to create an online book club of your own, see the paper we presented at the Educational Developers Caucus Online Showcase on February 19, 2019.