Learning Community Tool

Getting started with the (continued) development of a powerful learning community

How can collaboration between companies and educational institutions be shaped in a learning community?

The Strengthening Digital Human Capital zone has researched this and developed a tool to help you develop or further develop a learning community.

This tool provides practical pointers for the development of a learning community:
1. that combines learning, working and innovating;
2. that is coupled to a concrete innovation question from the business community;
3. where employees, experts, students and lecturers work together;
4. where companies and knowledge institutions mutually benefit from working together in a public-private partnership.

The next step
This tool is a logical follow-up to the Learning community action scan. The action scan gives the community partners insight into the most important aspects of their collaboration, while this tool helps partners to take the next step: to form a learning community around an innovation question from one or more companies. The tool provides practical pointers based on the experiences of multidisciplinary lecturer-researcher teams and research groups in learning community projects.

Target group and aims

The tool has been designed for facilitators, innovators and supervisors who would like to form a learning community:

– in which participants truly learn, work and innovate – together and to solve concrete problems;
– in which employees, students, lecturers and/or experts work together;
– that aims to achieve concrete outcomes, such as a technological or social innovation.

Click on the link below to download the file

> Recommendations and explanations Learning communities

start again



How does it work?

Click on the different tabs and select the recommendations that apply to your learning community. When you have selected all the recommendations, click [View all selected results] to see an explanation and a possible practical example. You can also add your own comments here, related to your specific situation. You can then save the list as a PDF by clicking […]. The recommendations are based on practical experiences from Learning community projects.

The tool has three components:

1. Start: identify the theme of the learning community and the structure of the partnership
2. Design: determine how the learning community will be structured and organised and how the community members will collaborate
3. Implement: organise supervision, working methods and activities in the learning community

Translate major societal issues into a challenge that is directly relevant to the participating companies and knowledge institutions.
Consult the Knowledge and Innovation Agendas (Energy transition and sustainability; Agriculture, Water and Food; Health and Care; Security; Key enabling technologies and Public earning capacity) to define innovation challenges that are directly relevant to companies and that can be worked on in a learning community. You can also consult the Knowledge and Innovation Agendas to define the scope of the theme.
Define the elements of the learning community in a design session with regional stakeholders.
Determine the readiness of the learning community to take action.
Use lifelong learning funding opportunities to obtain a start-up grant for learning communities.
Invest time in regular consortium meetings during the start-up phase.
Identify the type of learning community based on four design decisions.
Use the social innovation business model to determine the value of the learning community together with the stakeholders.
Organise in-depth interviews and observations with employees, students, lecturers and experts in the learning community.
Appoint a facilitator who is able to coach and connect the learning community members and make them enthusiastic about embarking on a collaborative learning process
Form a hybrid learning community of members who enhance each other’s strengths.
Appoint a steering committee with representatives from companies, knowledge institutions and employers’ associations/societal partners.
Use the micro learning communities worksheet to define the learning community in detail, together with the knowledge institutions and participating companies.
Train and guide the learning community facilitators
Decide on the theme to be addressed by the learning community, making sure that the outcomes can be directly implemented in the community members’ work.
Form a learning community of members who enhance each other’s strengths.
Create a safe learning community in which people are motivated to learn from each other.
Structure the learning community in three phases: orientation, action and evaluate and sustain.
Organise weekly meetings
Encourage learning on the work floor.
Make a blended version of the learning community.
Use the example micro learning community schedule to organise the learning community.
Encourage a dialogue in the learning community using practical tools.

Find out more about learning communities

In recent years, the Human capital zone has been investigating the cooperation between educational institutions and companies in learning communities. In this environment, students, teachers and the professional field work together on innovation issues. This led to a practical tool for better cooperation between education and business, the Learning Community tool. Want to know more? Go to the page on hybrid learning communities (Dutch).

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