TESA's New Online Cooperative Courses

Within the past month, my worker cooperative, The Toolbox for Education and Social Action (TESA), launched a series of online courses on cooperative subjects, including “Intro to Co-ops,” “Worker Co-ops 101,” and “Creating a Cooperative Food Economy.” Already, we've led courses with people from all different backgrounds, experiences, and geographic locations: a labor lawyer in Washington DC, a student in Chicago, a retired surgeon in Virginia, a worker co-op start-up in Madison, a professor in California, a community organizer in North Carolina, and so many more. It has been inspiring to see these people from such rich backgrounds, and who are on opposite sides of the country, come together to learn about cooperatives.

Now, I know what you're probably thinking. Online courses. Great, a bunch of videos, message boards, and tests. That sounds incredibly boring. And you're right to think that – online courses have a tendency to be steeped in hierarchical forms of education that are non-interactive. However, TESA's online courses break the mold. We organize small group sessions – usually ranging from six to fifteen students – that are based around discussions and activities. All of our class time is spent together over video chat, so that the learners are having conversations with one another and the facilitators. We also invite members of co-ops who are knowledgeable on the subject at hand to each class, so that participants are connecting with experienced cooperators around the country. These are not massive online courses that are a one-size fit all approach, that, as a result, fail to address your specific needs. Because our classes are discussion and small group based, they directly address the interests of the learners. They are designed to be democratic, just like cooperatives.

We definitely would love to see members of NASCO cooperatives sign up for these courses. This is a great opportunity to dip your feet into the co-op world, further explore co-op subjects, and fine-tune your cooperative skills. Shortly, we will be launching courses on other co-op topics, such as decision making, starting a co-op, meeting facilitation, and more. We encourage you to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date as we announce new additions.

Brian Van Slyke is a writer, educator, and game designer based in Chicago. He is a worker-owner at The Toolbox for Education and Social Action (TESA) and a member of the NASCO board of directors.