A learning circle is a highly interactive, participatory structure for organizing group work. The goal is to build, share, and express knowledge through a process of open dialogue and deep reflection around issues or problems with a focus on a shared outcome. Online learning circles take advantage of social networking tools to manage collaborative work over distances following a timeline from the opening to the closing of the circle. Circles have a final project which collects the shared knowledge generated during the interactions. Learning circles are a powerful way to organize learning in global projects, online university courses, and massively open online courses.

Have you ever put people in groups hoping, somewhat magically, that they would find a way to work together to build new knowledge and insights? Learning Circles are not magic but they are a way to foster deep thinking and develop knowledge around themes or projects.

Productive group interaction doesn't happen without some planning. People might be inherently social but biology doesn't prepare people to work effectively in groups. Productive group work requires some form of structured interaction. Learning circles is a structured form of collaboration that balances the value of individual ownership with collective responsibility for accomplishing shared learning goals. Learning circles have been used effectively in educational settings with students of all ages as well as in professional development and learning contexts with adults. This site is devoted to helping others understand what online learning circles share in common across all of these settings.


The goal of this site is to provide a shared platform for the people who are using learning circles in their work or classrooms. The learning circle model is described in a general way that encompasses a wide range of applications in many different contexts with different circles of learners. This general framework is described with the goal of making it easier for those who want to support learning in groups to understand and implement this model. The strengths of the model are individual engagement through distributed leadership and group investment in the design of a collaborative effort.


The learning circle model describes this process of shared leadership around project work in terms of critical features and norms for circle interaction. Working in learning circles takes place over a set of phases and these are described in more detail with examples of schedules from different types of learning circles.

For a video introduction of the Learning Circle model, see the presentation by Margaret Riel to Pepperdine Faculty. The focus is using the learning in university teaching with a focus on action research.

This online learning circle model has been used across almost three decades for different circles of learners for different purposes. These links will share some of the different ways in which Learning Circles have been implemented.

Finally, we detail the process of creating or designing your own learning circles using examples and ideas from others as you move through the phases of learning circle interaction.


We invited other groups who are working in learning circles to also add these models to this site. To contribute to the site, you will need to join. Send a request to join to Margaret Riel.