Guide for Study Group Facilitators

This Guide for Study Group Facilitators supports my post on Tech Exam Study Groups. Please read that first if you haven’t already.

If you have decided to take the plunge and start your own Study Group, I hope this guide will help you on your journey. Good luck and have fun!

Who can Facilitate a Study Group

While anyone can run a study group, the best person to do so is someone who is studying for the exam themselves. Attending each of the Study Group meetings is a big time commitment and being a facilitator takes a bit of extra effort in co-ordinating the group and delegating Discussion Leads. The pay-off is well worth it if it means you create a supportive community that helps you stay committed to your studies and pass the exam.

You don’t need to have passed the exam yourself to facilitate a study group. Just be clear to set expectations with your group up front – you are not there to teach, rather to lead and give everyone including yourself an opportunity to learn.

Your Role as a Facilitator

​1. Sit the related official course yourself and commit to passing the exam. E.g. for vSphere Exams, you can find the list of available courses on the VCP-DCV 6.5 page.

​2. Recruit study group members who want to complete the exam within the same timeline as you.

  • Recruit internally within your organization.
  • Recruit from your local user group. E.g. you can find your local VMware user Group here.
  • For VMware exams, contact your local VMware point of contact: VMware Systems Engineer or Technical Account manager and ask for their help reaching out to their network.

Resource: Email template to recruit study group members

​3. Find a venue where you can host your study group – a room with a whiteboard works best.

Resource: Email template to ask for a venue/ sponsorship

​4. Hold a kick-off meeting, use the kick-off deck to set the tone and set clear expectations.

Resource: Kick-off deck

​5. Help the group decide on the the format that works (weekly/ fortnightly), lock in the schedule and assign group members to lead specific sessions.

Resource: Timetable

​6. Back up your Discussion Leads and help them to regain control if they lose it.

Delegating and Setting Boundaries

​To ensure everyone gets maximum value from the study group, including you!

​DO:

  • Set expectations with the group upfront and ask members to commit to getting the most out of the group – see “Your Time is Valuable” in Tech Exam Study Groups.
  • Assign someone else as the first discussion lead and help them prepare. This helps to set the expectation that the group members will take ownership for the discussion (it’s not all on you).
  • Share the full study agenda and materials up front so that each member takes ownership.
  • Assign each member of the study group to lead at least one discussion so that everyone gets a chance maximise their learning. Do one yourself (just not the first one).
  • Identify someone within the group during the kick-off who can fill in for you as facilitator if you are away for a session.
  • Provide feedback on this program – what worked or didn’t work for you?

Other Tips / Lessons Learned

After being involved with around 10 study groups over the last 4 years (I have lost count!) here are some general tips that will help things go smoothly:

  • ​A group size of 8-12 works best for a full and engaging discussion.
  • ​Getting everyone to book their exam at the start of the study group maximises commitment.
  • ​Tailor the timing to your culture: E.g. Running the study groups over lunch time (as a “brownbag” session) in Australia or NZ may help people keep the time commitment, evening sessions work better in Singapore.
  • ​Holding the study groups over a few beers is not recommended. It may be more fun but you will find you need more sessions to be ready for the exam, and people are generally eager to move on to other things after 6-8 weeks of study.
  • ​This entire blog post including schedules, email templates and suggested content are a framework. It is not an official course and can be customised to suit your group.

Share participant content with your group:

Getting Help

There will be times where tough questions come up in the study group or you can’t quite settle a dispute on a definition. For VMware exam study groups, make the most of the VMTN communities here: https://communities.vmware.com/welcome.

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