Learning Circle Files: Lessons in Web Design

October 10, 2019 | Angjelin

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Last week was the wrap-up of the Creating Wordpress Websites for Entrepreneurs learning circle. A learning circle is an approach to learning that has evolved to bridge some of the shortcomings of the ever-evolving and growing presence of distance education. I'd like to share some of the lessons and stories that made it a worthwhile experience for the participants and me.

Toronto Public Library supports distance education with subscriptions to eLearning platforms like Gale Courses and Lynda.com. These platforms are also known as "massive open online courses" or MOOCs. They allow learners to expand on and meet their education needs whether they are students, entrepreneurs, hobbyists or professionals. While this trend has expanded opportunities and democratized knowledge in a way not seen before, it also has some drawbacks. Despite interest remaining high with learners eager to enroll, completion rates have been drastically low. This trend started pretty much since the MOOCs movement began in 2011 and has, unfortunately, seen little improvement since then

One obvious reason is that sustained motivation cannot always be achieved without social contact and the mutually reinforcing experience provided by a classroom setting. To help address this problem, we're offering learning circles on a diverse range of topics in different branches. These learning circles provide learners with a welcome space and the educational resources they need to make it across the finish line. They offer an environment of mutual cooperation and positive social interaction. 

MOOCs retention rates from Wikimedia Commons
Percentage of students active in a free online course by weeks of study. Image from of Wikimedia Commons.

Similar to online learning, web entrepreneurship and eCommerce have faced skepticism and drawbacks, exemplified by the dotcom crash of the early 2000s, which saw many internet-based companies fail. Yet today, eCommerce is a booming industry, with large players and many small ones seeking to carve a share in the market. At the same time, web design, which used to require technical knowledge and had to be outsourced to web designers, has evolved through open-source culture and markets. Now, the tools of eCommerce and web development are at the fingertips of users. Wordpress is the largest such platform, comprising a content management system that enables users to build webpages quickly, and augment them through free (and premium) plugins, such as online shops, SEO managers and analytics tools. 

E-commerce growth in Canada
The growth of e-commerce share of the retail market in Canada in recent years. Data courtesy of Statistics Canada. 

Our aim in the learning circle, through the eponymous Gale course, was to empower our diverse group of participants to kick off their ideas by taking advantage of Wordpress tools. If you're a hobbyist, professional or entrepreneur who would like to establish an online presence or take it to the next step, we would highly recommend taking a Wordpress course that best suits your needs on Gale courses

One takeaway from the learning circle, for me at least, was that the course should serve as a springboard for your project, but that it's only the beginning of the journey. Moreover, connecting with like-minded people creates an opportunity to establish an active network of peers from whom you can draw inspiration and get much-needed feedback. Another one was that the web is a constantly-evolving space of a multitude of actors and possibilities, and your labour will be most meaningful if you find a niche that fits your personality. Finally, staying current requires active engagement, constant learning and willingness to let go of some of your biases and preferences. 

During the course I had the pleasure of engaging with highly creative and ambitious participants whose projects I would like to share. Below are some of their on-going projects, some nearly complete and others still in their early stages, which you should check out. 

Lorna's Jewelry Design Shop

Lorna's handcrafted jewelry design shop
Image from llcdesigns.ca, used with permission.


Lorna is a Toronto artist who handcrafts unique and eco-friendly dolls, jewelry and scarves. She uses textiles like cotton, battik and suede among others. You can purchase her handcrafted art at llcdesigns.ca.


Shalini's Lifestyle Blog

  Shalini's lifestyle blog
Image from Horn Ok Please, used with permission.

Shalini is a business-to-business/business-to-customer marketing professional with consulting experience in global organizations across Asia, and blogger who loves to share her personal and professional stories from the perspective of a new-comer to North America, taking on things both strange and charming. Visit her website.


Ebru's Art & Freelance Design Page

Ebru's art and design page
Image from ebruozbakir.com, used with permission.

Ebru is an artist, designer and filmmaker who has exhibited her films and installations in Turkey and across Europe. She is currently trying her hand at freelance design. Visit her website.


Suneil's Geek Dable

Suneil's geek dabble blog
Image from geekdabble.com, used with permission.

Suneil is a tech geek who loves to share his knowledge and opinions from the latest tech to the next investment opportunity, which he plans to share in his upcoming blog, Geek Dabble


Abrar's Used Car Dealership

Abrar's used car shop
Image from amberbasauto.com, used with permission.

Abrar's upcoming family-owned used car dealership will offer a wide range of affordable quality cars, with the goal of providing a comfortable experience (such as female-to-female interaction), and educate people on the automotive industry through their blog. Stay tuned for amberbasauto.com.