Learning Lab provides collaborative online spaces for international development professionals to build networks, share lessons learned, identify good practices, and find solutions to problems. This page provides guidance for group members and facilitators on starting, growing, and sustaining Learning Lab’s online groups both from a technical and a content perspective. The resources below will help you determine whether an online space is the right tool for your group and help you make the most of your online space.

Related Resources

Below please find resources to help you with your working groups.

Library Resource
This resource provides an overview of the roles and responsibilities of a facilitator who is working within a group on Learning Lab. It also provides practical tips and links to additional resources.Learning Lab provides collaborative online spaces for international development professionals to...
Library Resource
Once your group is created, a fundamental step in the start-up process is effective outreach. This means reaching out to your core members and seed participants to invite them to use the site by providing them with context about the purpose of the group, communicating who the facilitators are, and...
Library Resource
This guidance document explains the minimum requirements that USAID’s Bureau for Policy, Planning, and Learning considers necessary for a sustainable online collaborative space to be created on Learning Lab. Please refer to the guidance documents available on the Learning Lab site for additional...
Library Resource
Before you launch an online working group, it’s important to spend some time considering whether an online space is the right tool for your members and how it will help your group achieve its goals. This document walks group facilitators through a series of questions to help assess whether an...

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a group?

Learning Lab provides collaborative online spaces for international development professionals to build networks, identify good practices, and find solutions to problems. Browse through the existing working groups to find other practitioners and professionals interested in a particular subject or field. Group membership varies from group to group. Some groups are open to all Learning Lab members; others are invite-only. Group members can post new discussions, comment, and share resources with a small community of goal-oriented professionals.

How can I join a group?

Learning Lab contains both open and closed groups. In an open group, anyone with a site account can join the discussion. Closed groups, marked as “moderated,” exist for internal groups and communities of practice that wish to engage with each other virtually in a private setting. These closed groups require you to send a request to join. You can find the list of groups on the Groups landing page here.The first step to joining a group is to create an account (see this FAQ for more information) and/or log in.The next step is to click the “Request Membership” button in the top right corner, after which a page will appear asking you to confirm your request. In the text box, please enter your name, organization, and position or job title before clicking the Join button.

  • An email will be sent you letting you know that your membership is pending.
  • Please note that membership approval is not an automated process, so a response from the group administrator may not be immediate. Requests are usually reviewed within 1 to 2 business days.
  • If your request has been approved, you will receive an email titled “Your membership request was approved.” If you don’t see this email within 2 business days, please check your spam folder before contacting us. Follow the link in the email to go to the group home page.
How do I create a new group?
  • First, browse through the existing groups to see if there is one that suits your needs.
  • If you'd like to create a new group, review the requirements for group creation.
  • Complete the online group request form. Be sure you're logged into your Learning Lab account, then click on the "Submit" button.
  • The Learning Lab team will review your request and contact you to let you know whether your request has been approved, denied, or if further information is needed. If your request for a group is denied, or more information is needed, the Learning Lab team will provide you with recommendations to launch a sustainable group in the near future. 
  • Once your request is approved, it takes three to four business days to create your group space.
  • Email us any questions regarding the format or conversations required prior to group creation.
How do I post a discussion question or participate in an ongoing discussion?

To begin a conversation with other group members, make sure you are first logged into Learning Lab and are a member of the group where you wish to post or join a discussion.

Once in the group, choose the Discussion tab from the navigation bar and click the “Start New Discussion” button. On this page, enter a title for your post and add your comment in the body section. If you want to, you can use the horizontal toolbar to apply some basic formatting options. You can also upload PDF files to your discussion post directly underneath this box. Finally, designate the "Discussion Type" from the drop-down menu and then click “Save” to post your discussion comment. You’ll be taken to a page with your comment posted at the top and space for replies underneath. Whenever a new discussion is started or someone responds to an existing discussion, all group members will receive an email (depending on their digest subscription preferences).

New group discussions must be initiated from within working group site pages on Learning Lab. However, you can choose to respond to an existing discussion thread either through the website or via email by replying to the email notification you receive from the site. If you submit a response by email, please be patient. It may take a while for your post to appear on the site.

If you respond from within the group on the website, you have the option to reply to an individual comment or to the entire discussion thread. To reply to the entire thread, click on the title of the discussion from the Discussion tab main page. Then, enter your comment in the Group Comments text box. 

To reply to an individual comment, scroll down on the same page to where individual responses are listed. Underneath the individual comment you want to reply to, click “Reply.” When you reply to an individual, your comment will be indented under the specific comment you are responding to.

How can I upload resources to the group space?

Group members also have the ability to share resources with one another. These documents and tools will not be included in the Learning Lab library, but in the case of an open group, non-group members will still be able to view them and they will appear in site-wide search results. As you would expect, moderated group resources are only visible to group members.

Click on the Resources tab to see your group’s current resource library and to share your own documents, tools, and external links.

If you have content that you want to share with the group, click “Add Resource.” A new form will open with three separate tabs along the top: Resource Description, Author/Publication Info, and Resources.

Resource Description

On the Resource Description tab, which opens first, add the title of the resource and a short description in the box marked “Body”.

Under the Body, you’ll see several drop-down menus that allow you to tag your resource, making them easier for people to find based on their interests. Using these drop-downs, you can indicate the type of resource you’re uploading, if it focuses on any specific region or countries, which component of the USAID Program Cycle it relates to, if it reflects a specific learning approach, and what general sectors it covers. These are all optional fields, but members can use them to filter group resources.

Author/Publication Info

In the second tab, enter the author and publication information. In each field, a name that has previously been entered may appear as you type. If the name hasn’t been entered in the site before, it will be added to the database. You can add multiple authors if you separate their names with a comma.

Resources

In the third tab, attach your resource. This page has multiple options. First, choose the correct Resource Format from the drop-down menu. The two available format options will be PDF and External Links.

To upload a PDF, skip the screencast field and go to the File Upload section. Find the “Add a new file” box and click “Choose File” to select your file. Once you’ve selected it, click on the upload button and enter a short title for the PDF. If you need to convert your file into a PDF, please read the help text provided in the “File Upload” box.

For links to websites and online documents outside of Learning Lab, please proceed to the External Link section and add a short title and the web address in the fields provided.

Feel free to skip the audio, video, related content, and location fields.

Finally, click "Save" to submit the resource.

Note: For additional tips on uploading resources to your group, please check out the Groups orientation video in the Working Group Resource Center.

Can I share sensitive information or resources within the group space?

Learning Lab is a public website and is not located within USAID’s firewall. Therefore, no Sensitive But Unclassified information (SBU) or Personally Identifiable Information (Social Security numbers, etc.) should be posted on the site.

We recommend members use discretion when sharing draft documents, and consider your group’s membership before sharing sensitive information. Keep in mind that information and resources shared in open groups are visible to anyone with a Learning Lab account.

My resource, discussion, or date did not appear in the group space after I hit save. What happened?

The most common reason for this is that a required box was not filled out. Carefully check each section to make sure all the required information is completed. Often, you will see the relevant box outlined in red, indicating that it needs to be filled in. If the problem persists, please contact us for more information.

How can I edit or delete a discussion, comment, or resource that I posted?

All working group members are able to edit and delete resources and comments they have posted themselves. First make sure that you're logged into Learning Lab and then find the page you wish to edit. When viewing a resource or discussion comment that you posted, you should see two tabs at the top – ‘View’ and ‘Edit’. Clicking on the ‘Edit’ tab will allow you to make changes to the resource. Make the necessary changes and then click 'Save' again. You can also delete the resource from the bottom of the edit screen if you wish.

Your group’s facilitator is also able to delete resources, discussions, and comments if needed.

How do I update the frequency with which I receive group notifications?

From your group’s homepage, click on ‘Configure Your Digest Subscription’ in the right sidebar to update your notification settings.

By setting your digest preferences, you are indicating how often you want to receive emails from the group. By default, you will receive an email notification every time a group member posts an update, discussion comment, event, or resource. You can change the frequency to daily, weekly, or monthly and you will instead get a digest email of all the updates that were posted to the group over that timeframe. You can also choose not to receive any email notifications. Click “Submit” once you’ve indicated your choice in the dropdown menu.

To return to the group homepage, click the back button in your browser navigation bar.

I was accepted into the group, but when I visit the group page, it says Access Denied. What should I do?

Contact your group facilitator or the Learning Lab team to ensure that you are a member of the group. Your membership request may still be pending facilitator approval.

Group Facilitator FAQs

How do we know if a Learning Lab Group is the right tool for our members?
As a group facilitator, what should I do to get the group space ready for our members?
  • The first step is to populate your online space with resources, announcements, and other important information. Get it into “launch mode” so to speak. 
  • Make sure you feel comfortable using the site so you can guide members through functionality and content questions.
  • Add a welcome message on the main page by posting an Update.
  • Create a discussion thread asking members to introduce themselves to the group.
Tips on initial outreach to members
  • Consider creating a group invite letter based on this template.
  • Ask core members to create accounts and complete profiles to the best of their ability and direct them to the group page to request membership. 
  • If any of your members already have Learning Lab accounts, you can add them directly by going to the gray Group tab on your group’s homepage and selecting “Add People”. Type the usernames of the people you want to add and then click “Add Users” at the bottom of the page.
What is the difference between the group manager and other facilitators?

The group manager is the only person who receives emails about membership requests. However, all group facilitators can manage memberships by going directly to the site.

How can I manage membership requests and add members?

To manage membership requests:

  1. Log in to the Learning Lab site.
  2. On the homepage of the Group, click on the "Group" tab (next to the "View," "Edit," and "Track" tabs).
  3. Click on "People."
  4. Check the box next to the member’s name.
  5. Near the top of the page there is a box that says "Update Options" - select either approve or deny membership and click update.
  6. It is always good practice to explain any denied requests so that people understand the criteria for participating in the group.

To add new members manually:

  1. Log in to the Learning Lab site.
  2. On the homepage of the Group, click on the "Group" tab (next to the "View," "Edit," and "Track" tabs).
  3. Click on "Add People."
  4. Type their username.
  5. Click on add users.
My existing group is interested in creating subgroups. How can we do this?

 Send an email to groups@usaidlearninglab.org. Be sure to include the following information:

  • Subgroup names.
  • Subgroup facilitator names and email.
  • Purpose of the subgroup(s).
  • Desired users.
  • Types of resources developed for the subgroups.
  • Whether the subgroups will be open or moderated/closed.
What kinds of usage reports can be created from the site?

There are several standard working group usage reports that can be generated by our web team, as listed below. 

  • Number of working group members.
  • Number of resources posted.
  • Number of comments posted.
  • A list of most frequent commenters.
  • Page view frequency.

Please send requests for reports to groups@usaidlearninglab.org, and allow the web team at least two business days from receipt of your request in order to generate a report.

How can I remove comments from a discussion thread?

To delete a comment, simply hit the ‘Delete’ button underneath the comment.

How can I delete a resource or discussion thread added by another group member?

As facilitators, there may be times that you need to delete a resource or discussion from the working group space if its content is inappropriate, sensitive, or otherwise should not be shared on Learning Lab. Learning Lab is a public website and is not located within USAID’s firewall. Therefore, no Sensitive But Unclassified information (SBU) or Personally Identifiable Information (Social Security numbers, etc.) should be posted on the site.

First make sure that you're logged into Learning Lab and then find the page you wish to edit. When viewing a resource or discussion comment that you posted, you should see two tabs at the top – "View" and "Edit". Clicking on the "Edit" tab will allow you to make changes to the resource or discussion thread. Make the necessary changes and then click "Save" again. You can also delete the resource or discussion from the bottom of the edit screen if you wish.

Group members aren’t receiving notifications when new resources, discussions, dates or updates are posted. How can I update this for the group?

Individual members, not the group facilitator, manage how frequently they receive group notifications. Members can update the frequency of notifications by clicking on "Configure Your Digest Subscription" on the right sidebar under the Welcome to the Group message on your group’s homepage.

Who do I contact if I experience technical issues with our online space?

Contact us at groups@usaidlearninglab.org and be sure to include a screenshot of your issue so that we can look into it.