PILL: Co-learning protocol: An open-source facilitation framework of collective learning

Learning is ubiquitous in ongoing activity, though often unrecognized as such.
——Jean Lave

Our aim is to establish a comprehensive “Co-learning Protocol”, which integrates theoretical research from the field of social pedagogy with practical organizational experiences from the past two years. This open-source protocol will primarily encompass three aspects: principles and ideals, design processes, and toolkits. Our endeavor is to consolidate a practicable framework that provides guidance for individuals to effectively apply these principles and tools in co-learning activities. This protocol is designed to facilitate the development of educational practices and provide sustainable support and guidance for co-learning endeavors.

What’s co-learning?

Co-learning is the abbreviation of collective learning, also referred to as learning together, group learning, or collaborative learning. It is a practice where participants collectively select topics, engage in learning and communication, take action, and reflect on the entire process.

Co-learning advocates for the non-individual nature of learning, implying the necessity for participants to engage in exchanges and discussions based on acquired information, and to learn from each other’s life experiences during dialogues. Learning is not merely the intake of knowledge but also entails a positive interactive relationship with personal growth and societal change.

We aim to expand the experiences and processes of organizing co-learning over the past two years into an open-source co-learning protocol. This protocol will primarily cover three aspects, including principles and ideals, design processes, and toolkits. This comprehensive protocol can serve as a vital guiding framework for communities at large and even individuals engaging in co-learning practices, providing a paradigm of collaboration and interaction for education and lifelong learning.

There is an abundance of knowledge and resources on the internet, and in the atomized era, learning appears to be increasingly perceived as an activity that can be carried out independently. However, learning inherently possesses contextual and social characteristics. From an extreme standpoint, learning cannot occur in isolation; self-learning does not exist, only co-learning. In the realm of “practice theory,” design and emergence interact reciprocally, jointly shaping the learning process. “design” plays a pivotal role in providing continuity and guidance for learning activities, while “emergence” prompts unexpected cooperation and innovation among learners.

The fundamental characteristic of co-learning lies not only in motivation but also in teamwork. It is a process of sociological learning, where the significance of co-learning lies in the interchangeable roles between designers and participants. Knowledge transmission is not unidirectional; rather, it is an iterative process following a spiral growth trajectory: planning → action → reflection → adjustment → planning.
Our work has actually had a certain impact on the Web3 and other technology learning fields, and many people have begun to adopt the collaborative learning approach. This highlights the replicability of the collaborative learning method. However, some collaborative learning projects have lost the original decentralized spirit and evolved into something more like a standardized curriculum. Therefore, we need to establish a collaborative learning protocol to preserve the spirit of collaborative learning. This protocol not only emphasizes the importance of toolkits but also includes principles and philosophies, ensuring that collaborative learning can maintain its unique values and methodologies.

1. Social Constructivism of Co-learning

Co-learning follows the social constructivist learning model, which posits that knowledge formation is a result of social interaction rather than passive reception. This implies that knowledge is constructed collaboratively through social interaction rather than developed independently by individuals. In co-learning, learners construct knowledge structures and meanings through collaboration with others.

2. Situated and Participatory Learning

The situatedness of learning suggests that learning activities are embedded not only in specific environments but also in social and cultural contexts. Learning involves not only the acquisition of knowledge and skills but also the construction of social practices and cultural identities. Co-learning, through activities such as setting output goals and organizing hackathons, encourages project-oriented learning and goal-setting, with the contextualization evident throughout the entire co-learning process. Meanwhile, the concept of “legitimate peripheral participation” proposed by Lave and Wenger suggests that learners gradually become core members of the community through participation in community practice activities, highlighting the gradual process of community involvement as crucial to learning.

3. Scaffolding and the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)

No one enjoys a game that is challenging, chaotic, and lacks any social elements. While we can experiment with trial and error within the cold feedback of programs, we can leverage scaffolding designed in co-learning (Lev Vygotsky), which offers advantages both intellectually and emotionally. It helps individuals move from the zone of proximal development to the comfort zone, thus avoiding falling into the panic zone.

4. Designing and Emergence in CoP

Co-learning emphasizes the duality of design and emergence, fostering unexpected collaboration and innovation among learners. Its open-source nature allows co-learning principles to be shared and applied more widely in other communities and among individuals, driving the continuous evolution and improvement of co-learning protocols, and bringing more innovation and change to community building and social development through education.

5. Autonomous World of Co-learning

The co-learning system demonstrates a powerful ability for self-adjustment and self-renewal, with participants and designers having highly flexible roles. In this system, a participant’s involvement in a co-learning theme may stimulate their intrinsic potential, leading them to voluntarily take on the responsibility of designing another theme. Through the introduction of co-learning protocols, we anticipate that co-learning can exhibit characteristics of self-organization, enabling individuals to autonomously organize and create. Co-learning is an ecosystem where individuals gain not only knowledge or a learning environment but also a platform for spontaneous development and the creation of new modes of thought in an infinite game.

How we present co-learning protocol?

This protocol, comprising ideals and principles, process design, and toolkits, will primarily be presented in document form. It will be thoroughly explained through workshops, manuals, websites, and videos to establish clear communication channels, enabling users of the prototype protocol to understand and provide timely feedback.

  • Ideals and Principles
    • Collective: Co-learning action groups are committed to “collective learning,” emphasizing dialogue as a means to collectively construct new, practical, and liberating knowledge. Co-learning is not merely about participants learning together but also involves reprocessing and organizing knowledge together, generating knowledge throughout the entire co-learning process.
    • Liberative: Co-learning action groups employ “action” in the sense of praxis, actively transforming and exploring the social activity of all objective material in the real world, particularly in critical and liberative practices. Co-learning focuses not on increasing knowledge but on liberation and practice, directly addressing the reflection on action and its meaning through various materials.
    • Processual: Co-learning action groups emphasize the “group” process, highlighting that group processes are not only essential for group progression but are also objects of practice and reflection. Through reflection, processes such as agreements, decisions, and conflict resolution in co-learning become rehearsals for practice in broader contexts.
  • Process Design
    • Establishing Goals: Clarify the “needs” and precise action-oriented goals for initiating a co-learning group. Distinguishing between “rational goals” and “affective goals” helps clarify expected outcomes and experiences, fostering comprehensive thinking.
    • Designing: Co-learning groups can be designed in two main types based on specific circumstances: either the initiator designs all processes during recruitment, or processes are co-created after recruitment. In either case, designing the group process is indispensable. The “Focused Conversation” (ORID) method, developed by the Institute of Cultural Affairs, aids in this design, comprising objective, reflective, interpretive, and decisional questions for self-reflection or discussion with co-creators.
    • Recruitment: Recruitment can begin either before the design process, after the initiator completes initial design, or after completing all pre-work. Adequate time and effort should be dedicated to recruitment, as it is both a process of finding fellows and a time for aligning expectations.
  • Toolkits

How we publish and evangelize co-learning protocol?

  1. Open Source Toolkit: Develop a comprehensive protocol document or manual, known as open-source toolkits. This document should include the objectives and principles of the protocol, roles and responsibilities of participants, activity schedules and rules, communication methods and platforms, resource management, and other relevant content. It aims to provide participants with a clear understanding of the requirements and norms of co-learning activities.
  2. Webpage: We currently have an experimental brand website at creators-community.super.site. We can create a dedicated webpage or section on this online platform to showcase the content and related information of the co-learning protocol. This platform may include online documents, video introductions, FAQs, and other resources, facilitating participants’ access to and understanding of the protocol content at any time.
  3. Code Repository: Utilize the repository at CreatorsDAO · GitHub.
  4. Youtube Videos: Visit https://www.youtube.com/@706Creators for video content.
  5. Online Webinars: Organize specialized meetings or webinars to introduce the content and significance of the co-learning protocol to the target audience. This format provides opportunities for interaction and exchange, allowing participants to communicate directly with organizers or mentors, enhancing their understanding of the protocol’s connotations and requirements.

What is the success vision of co-learning protocol?

The vision of co-learning is to create an open, inclusive, and collaborative learning ecosystem, where learners can achieve personal and collective growth and development through cooperation, interaction, and co-creation. Through co-learning protocols, we aim to assist more communities and individuals in adopting community-based learning approaches, transforming them from mere knowledge recipients into active participants in exploration and creation.

Looking ahead, we envision an open learning network where learners can freely engage, contribute to, and share knowledge, regardless of their geographical location or social status. This decentralized learning ecosystem democratizes and makes knowledge more accessible, granting everyone the right and opportunity to participate in the learning process. Together, we can co-create and share the value of knowledge, while also open-sourcing these knowledge and methodologies for wider dissemination and adoption.


Co-learning has been immensely helpful for me, and I’d like to share my personal experience: I used to study very hard, but eventually ended up in a very ordinary college (referred to as “second-tier” in China), feeling envious as I watched the neighboring prestigious universities bustling with various activities. After learning C language in college, I had no idea about my future direction. I didn’t know the utility of the knowledge acquired and felt a huge gap between myself and my goals, which seemed insurmountable. Therefore, I kept groping, learning various skills, attempting to learn Photoshop, 3DMax, Flash, and even more than you can imagine. After graduation, I entered a startup company relying on self-study of C#. At that time, there were only a few people. Despite having a nominal CTO guiding me, his understanding of technology was superficial, and I still felt a gap between myself and my goals.

Later on, I came to know about resources like online courses and Geek Time, which felt somewhat enlightening, but I still felt a long way from my goals. It wasn’t until I encountered co-learning that I finally found a platform where I could discuss issues and explore beginner methods at any time. Now, I believe co-learning is a team that can do anything because it can connect to excellent talents in various fields. You can communicate with them, learn from them, or even become one of them, contributing together.

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Would be so glad to see such thing happen

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It’s great to be able to get into areas that were once uncharted through the Creators co-learning community. During this year of study, I have learned a lot through creators and met a lot of partners in different fields. The atmosphere of efficient cooperation and communication makes me feel the warmth of the community, and the partners I met are all very self-disciplined and excellent, they are enthusiastic and have ideas, and they shine in their own fields. During this period, I have also received a lot of feedback that the Learning Together community has brought them new opportunities and experiences. I hope we can continue to work together.