Connected Learning Professional Learning

Leading a Make Cycle in CLMOOC


A resource created to support the coaching of “Make Cycles” that were part of a professional learning offered by NWP called Connected Learning Massive Open Online Collaboration.

Originally published on May 3, 2015

The Making Learning Connected Massive Open Online Collaboration (CLMOOC) summer professional learning is comprised not of units or weekly topics. Instead, the collaborative professional learning is organized into “make cycles” which invite participants to make artifacts or content in an effort to explore Connected Learning principles by embodying them. Make cycles are lead by intrepid teams from National Writing Project sites or Educator Innovator partners.

This resource supports make cycle leaders in preparing to lead these cycles, detailing the explicit tasks they’ll need to complete, and describing the help they’ll receive. The graphic below lists the tasks which correspond with the content of this resource.

  1. You will want a team of two or three people to lead a make cycle.
  2. Before the week of your make cycle, a thinking partner or two will come in handy to support your planning. As you begin to prepare some of the communications you’ll send to participants, you will want an extra sets of eyes on them before you push “send.”
  3. During your make cycle, your small team will divide up the facilitation tasks, share the work of responding to participants, and support each other during your synchronous “Make With Me” hangout, a webinar you’ll lead to model the type of making you hope to inspire. Also, you will curate participant contributions to highlight the range of creations participants share during your make cycle.
  4. After your make cycle is complete, participants will come to your topic late or simply opt to spend more time than just a week. Your team may choose to follow and respond to that traffic and content.

When you first sit down to plan your make cycle, you want to be in search of a big, rough idea. The support you’ll receive in a coaching meeting will help you sharpen this idea and plan strategically to engage a large community online.

  • To begin, you might think through the following prompts:
  • What if everyone (made) ______?
  • Or, “What might we make if we were all thinking about _____?

In past years, make cycles grew out of this type of questioning.

  • What if everyone made maps?
  • What if everyone made toys (out of toys)?
  • What might we make if  we were all thinking about Connected Learning credos? What might we make if we were all thinking about introducing ourselves?
  • Etc…

You’re ready when your idea is broad enough that participants have both easy, quick ways to creatively interact, as well as deeper, in-depth opportunities to make and learn. If you begin with a specific idea, it might be helpful to think about a more thematic make.

For example, one make cycle team wanted to lead a make to spotlight the use of paper circuitry. In order to create a make cycle accessible to all participants, the team framed this more broadly as “Hack your writing.” They presented a range of ways folks could think and tinker through hacking their writing, the most supported and structured of which might be paper circuitry.

In another example, the “Make a map” make cycle in the first year of CLMOOC offered participants the options of mapping their neighborhood, mapping their learning, or even taking a learning walk with a camera in hand.

When you’ve got an idea that has entry points for a new arrival to the MOOC and for the most hard-core maker-learner, you will be ready to share your idea with a supportive coaching team.

Your make cycle team (2-3 people) will participate in one coaching session, during which facilitators and participants from last year’s MOOC will serve as thinking partners and “users,” lending a hand in an instructional design activity during a Google Hangout. To help your make cycle team feel prepared going into their week, the coaching session will take place 1.5 weeks prior to the week we’re prepping for.

After the coaching session, your team will have supportive feedback and also will have a number of ideas that build on the idea you generated.

Below is a list of the specific duties that come along with facilitating a make cycle. This should support you in dividing the work and knowing what to expect during your week.



  • Actively facilitate in the G+ Community
  • Bookmark or otherwise curate posts that show inventive or inspiring approaches to the make cycle
  • Promote and host your  “Make With Me” hangout (here are some tips)
  • Promote and host your Twitter chat
  • Draft a second newsletter communication prompting reflection on the week in the MOOC (here’s a helpful guide to content and formatting). This will name strong or exciting work and will also prompt participants to reflect on CL principles.


  • Resume your normally scheduled MOOC participation
  • Watch for posts that address your make cycle even after your week is over. Respond if you like or leave it to the community.
  • Consider blogging your reflections.

Photo credits:

  1. Gears Transformers Generation 1 Encore Minibot Team 023 by Rodimuspower Master of Transformers’s
  2. Big Ideas by Thomas Hawk
  3. Open by YayAdrian
  4. Miguen Angel Castelan coach de primera base by Guerreros de Oaxaca
  5. getting busy by Bruce Aldridge

All via Flickr