A New Ride: Resource Management

The last installment of the A New Ride series discussed ways that we can act within regular homeschool co-op member responsibilities to help shape a larger sustainable learning community for all. Discussion from here on will be looking at activities that could complement standard cooperative involvement toward those goals.

This set of initiatives could be proposed voluntarily, and would probably be regarded as functions of the organization. Over time you might be able to work them into regular co-op responsibilities, or if you happen to be in leadership, could initiate the policy and find a way to manage them. Whatever the case, committing to such a project would probably require extra work over and above regular involvement (at least in the beginning). Given the right situation, a co-op may be willing to let you work on something like this as part of your contribution from the start.

1) Typically, co-ops organize chances for members to share suggested learning resources once or twice a semester. This is a nice thought, but could be implemented in a much more effective way. Since most co-ops have a website and some type of email communications, take it online and make the information available to members 24/7 so they can get it when it has the most practical application. In the case that your co-op does not have a site yet and you are ambitious, you could work to start a site. Either way, this project would be added onto a co-op website.

Content management systems like Wordpress or Drupal are often used for these sites, and they usually have blog and/or wiki modules in them. Co-ops might tend to publish their information as standard site pages, so those blog/wiki modules may remain unused. They could be commandeered with reasonable ease and set with permissions allowing regular co-op members permissions to create, edit and comment them. So you would create a collaborative learning resource review system available to all members. In the situation that space is unavailable as part of a co-op site, a separate system could certainly be built and linked to the existing page.

Part of the system designer's role would be to help design the template of information used to structure resource review entries (the structure used on alternativeto.net could be a good model to consider as a starting point), identify keywords for tags, and moderate entries to ensure they fit requirements and appropriateness standards.

An online learning resource review system could help build discussion and community within a co-op. If access permissions were opened up, it could offer an opportunity to promote the co-op to non-members outside of the community as well.

2) One activity co-ops often undertake is a curriculum sale/swap. Again, if your co-op does not have one, you could help to start one. But the point here also is to take more concerted advantage of the opportunity.

With some added attention to planning, a sale/swap event could have more intentionality or take on an element of outreach. The co-op could invite other co-ops to participate, have members present ideas for homeschooling and/or host speakers/publishers from outside for spotlight learning sessions.

Additionally, this could be extended online like a resource review system described above. Outside of the time approaching a sale, a wiki or blog could be set up to display curriculum items that are up for sale,. That way, co-op members can have a ongoing record of available materials.

Once more, both of these sale/swap efforts could help tighten a co-op community and promote it to outsiders. The sale/swap event could even possibly be a source of income for the co-op if table fees were charged to advertisers and/or non-members. The co-op would need to have reasonably close proximity to a larger outside community for this to be lucrative.

3) Finally, in following with all of the wiki and blog ideas, an online library could be setup for preparation materials relating to classes taught in the co-op. This would basically be like a repository where entries would be made for individual classes. Any co-op members teaching classes would make a page for their class and place resource links and documents they created for it there.

Part of class leading responsibilities could require participation, and for a small amount of effort, you would have have something where there was previously no record. With this kind of library, members who might want to teach a certain class in the future, families interested in working with or expanding on class subjects at home, and people simply interested in a starting point for the subject have a reference list available. This idea could be especially helpful for co-ops in areas with high family turnover rates by making a documented history accessible and easing class preparation efforts. These again, could be commented for extra detail and qualitative suggestions. Though it could be shared with non-members, this type of library would probably be kept internal to the co-op.

There are numerous ways that infrastructure most homeschool co-ops already have could be leveraged by utilizing member effort without expending budget. Not only could these benefit members, but the external community as well. As a bonus, creative thinking could use the efforts to promote a co-op and possibly even create a revenue stream.

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A New Ride: Resource Management original article at learningwilds.net

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