Online Co-Learning

We have to stop our physical co-learning and I’d lie to check if it makes sense to run a virtual one…

According the “last” participants there is an interest in trying it and i can imagine that people who are forced to stay home might suddenly have more time for learning (new) things.

Does anybody have experience how to setup an online co-learning? If possible mostly (or only) with free software.

I’m already looking at:

  • for video conference
  • Matrix / Riot for chatting

They will probably part of the solution.

On top of it:

  • I’ve found a few online code editors but no
    • free managed instance as
    • free software and
    • collaborative
  • I’d like to have some sort of virtual class room to improve the community feeling

Do you have any hint for (free software) tools and other tips how to run the co-learning as an online class?

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Hi @ale!

We have a sponsored Slack instance that we’re trying out right now for remote Co-Learnings. Come along on

(this goes for anybody interested)

Right now we’re running the Server Side Co-Learning in the #bln-serverside-colearning channel.

I know it’s not free and only half-collaborative, but we wanted to have a solution that makes it easy for people to be onboarded…


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Hi @mamhoff ,

thanks for your reply.

In Zurich we already have a Matrix Chat… It’s free… but also with some limits in the degree of collaboration.

Personally, if I can, I will try as hard as possible to stick to Free Software solutions. But if you have experience with it, I would be interested to know what are the practical advantages of Slack over (on top of the people will probably having the Slack app already installed…).
(I have a Slack account but I only used for one single event so I don’t have much / any experience with it).

How do you provide a “class room” feeling with Slack?
We have only used Matrix/Riot for “further questions” outside of the co-learning time… and even that only with mild success.

For the Co-learning itself, I’m having a look at the public instance of Zulip…

And I will also try to have a look at Mattermost.

Both promise a threaded view, which is missing in / matrix.

If somebody wants to join the research for open source tools for running a co-learning / an OTS chapter, you’re welcome to join me in the #opentechschool-zh channel on matrix (!

Btw, after two empty events last week, for tonight 10 people registered!
A bit much for a first round…
Wish me good luck : - )


At the end only two people showed up.

Our bottom line:

  • worked well enough
  • was ok for the people who participated
  • we tried codeshare .io for doing an exercise together and it just failed (the tool is too slow)

I will get in touch with the people who did not join to see if they had issues with getting into matrix…


I think it makes a lot of sense that every chapter runs the software they need. Our meetups with Slack are also a mixed experience at the moment; it seems like it’s a bit of hurdle for newcomers.

I’d love you to come on the OTS Slack though to just participate in the #all-organizers channel. That seems to consolidate into where we’re discussing stuff; also we’ll still use Discourse to make content publicly available.

i came to opentechschool from the open source world.

and i have to admit, that i have a hard time accepting, how little opentechschool tries to use the available open source tools.
and how “naturally” it is using closed tools for the core activities.
i count them: slack, twitter, facebook, meetup, google mail, github…

to me, open is not a synonym of unicorns and rainbows. there is more in it.
in my understanding, it’s not enough to welcome everybody to be called open. we have also to bring them openness. or at least try (hard) to do so.
of course, in our case we have to bring them “tech” openness.

i’m here to spread open tech in an open way.

in this context, where the only open tool is called discourse, but is exclusively used to “make content public available”, i fear that it is not really useful for me to come into a closed and proprietary channel to discuss how to run an online co-learning with (mostly) free tools.

i’m here, in the last island of freedom in the OTS world and wave at you…
i don’t need your help, you don’t need my participation… but it would be nice if we could find a common ground…

Hi Ale, I think I understand your concerns, values and frustration. I actively pushed against Slack in the past for the same reasons.

As you pointed out, OpenTechSchool never had a strong and strict rule for using open-source tools. We debated this a few times, also if we were open to teaching non-open-source tools. As a community, we never came to the conclusion to really discourage closed-source.

My interpretation of this is, that we focus on friendly and inclusive meetups, using the tools we see fit. Also we’re going rather where the people are instead of trying to bring the people to where we think it’s better. There’s no right or wrong, it all has pros and cons. And individual people have their values.

Personally, I’m currently focussing on keeping this community running based on the core values we all agree on. I’m not happy to compromise on data ownership and free and open software and services, but I’m willing to, in order to have more resources for the goals that are even more important to me.

We will never all agree on the best tools to use together. At this point in time my impression is that Slack is preferred by most active members and it works well. I’d really like to encourage you to join us there as a critical but constructive part of our core community. No need to promote Slack to your learners. We’re happy to hear from you what works best for your local chapter.

And sorry for not following your valuable input here. As Martin said, we want to keep sharing our thoughts and experiences in the open for which Discourse is a great platform.

Here’s a few of the take-aways from the first few virtual Web Frontend Co-Learnings in Berlin:

  • We also have much fewer people joining than in the real meetups, like, below 10.
  • introduction round with any kind of video conference is fine and works as usual (except for asking show of hands if not everyone has their video on)
  • On the first meetup we had the call running the whole time to create a social group feeling with everybody on mute. we think this is generally good
  • call with talking for a bigger group doesn’t seem feasible.
  • In the last two meetups we do an optional call every 30 minutes or so and have everybody who wants to give a status update. the meeting being virtual might make this less disturbing - people can just ignore the check-in. also along with chat this works quite well, at least for the small goups. this also helps being in touch but also not, like we have in a real room listening in to what people say a bit while working on something. and the standup-like round thing works well