The Wilmette Institute has been registering local study groups since 1998, when it began to offer online courses. This document provides basic policies and guidelines for their establishment, purpose, and functioning. If you have any additional questions, please contact the Wilmette Institute at email@example.com or 877-WILMETTE (877-945-6388).
Initiation. Any person or Bahá’í institution (such as a spiritual assembly) can initiate the formation of a Local Study Group (LSG). One begins by contacting potential members of the study group and asking them whether they wish to participate. As soon as the group has two members (which is the point where the group tuition begins to become cheaper that individual tuition fees), go to the course’s website and click on “register.” Click on the button indicating you are forming a group and that will take you to the group registration pages. First, register yourself, then add group members. You will need each person’s name, email address, and postal address. The registration confirmation that will come to your email address will provide instructions how to add members if you need to add more people later. You can also email the confirmation to the other members of the group and they can use it to register themselves.
NOTE: The registration software now allows us to change an individual registration to a group registration, but it does not allow us to merge separate individual registrations into the same group.
Cost. Generally, the cost of creating the group and registering the first member is the same as an individual membership (this is a new policy as of December 2015). Each additional member costs sixty percent as much as a regular individual membership. Thus the two persons in a two-person group average a twenty percent discount each; the larger the group, the larger the per-person discount. Our software is set to accept groups as large as 21 members (this is a new policy as of December 2015). The fee may be paid by credit card (the Institute website is secure) or check (in US dollars, drawn on a US bank; email us for the details). If a study group cannot afford the registration, it should ask its spiritual assembly for financial assistance. If that is unsuccessful or inadequate, the group can approach the Wilmette Institute for a tuition reduction.
Members. A registration requires, at minimum, the name, email address, and postal address of each group member. If you cannot figure out how to add new members, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can add them for you. The group’s confirmation number will work to open the registration system to add new group members, BUT IT DOES NOT OPEN THE COURSE WEB PAGE OR FORUMS. Each learner receives his/her own username and password to open the course’s pages.
Correspondent. All study groups should have a Correspondent. The group should choose one; otherwise, the Wilmette Institute will assume that the first person who registered is the correspondent. The duties of the Correspondent are to carry out or delegate the following tasks:
- Handling any local arrangements necessary to pay the registration fee to the Wilmette Institute. Normally, the entire fee is paid by credit card when the first member registers. A spiritual assembly may decide to pay the entire fee, or the correspondent may collect a portion of the fee from each member of the group.
- Handling any local costs (such as photocopying, phone calls, refreshments) and passing them on to the members of the group or to the local institutional sponsor.
- Coordinating a consultation on group learning goals (such as joint projects, public discourse, or social action). When groups develop common goals, they will be more committed to completing the course.
- Planning a schedule of study group meetings. This should include who will coordinate each meeting and whether any members will make presentations at them. The Wilmette Institute does not require learners to make a presentation, but it is a good way to learn.
- Contacting the study group’s mentor and arranging a time the mentor can interact with the group (preferably, at least once a month). This is best done by speakerphone or cell phone or via a web-based audio or audio/video service. If the mentor is nearby, s/he may be able to meet the group in person. If the mentor’s schedule is incompatible with the group’s, the group can talk to the lead faculty member of the course or any other faculty member.
- Making sure the study group meets regularly (usually once per unit, typically six to eight times). Study units usually last one week. If a weekly meeting is impossible, perhaps the group can meet every other week. Wilmette Institute courses have a “grace period” of about four weeks after they officially end so that people can finish up their course work. If necessary, a study group can schedule “catch up” meetings during the grace period.
- Making a brief report (by email) to the mentor after each meeting. Every course has a forum where such reports can be posted. They could also be emailed to the mentor.
Study Group Meetings. Normally, study groups should meet at least once per unit (once per week). Sometimes a meeting every two weeks is adequate to review two units. The study group meetings should involve the following:
- An opening prayer.
- Discussion of the material covered by the unit. The group could try any of the following:
- Reviewing the unit’s discussion questions.
- Listening to brief presentations on the topic by one or more of the members of the study group.
- Discussing the unit with the mentor or other faculty member by telephone or other means, if the person is available.
Attendance at Local Study Group Meetings. Members of the LSG should make a commitment to attend all meetings, barring unusual and unforeseen circumstances. Each group can set its own policy about whether it will allow or encourage visitors to attend occasionally.
Attendance at Study Group Meetings.Members of the study group should make a commitment to attend all meetings, barring unusual and unforeseen circumstances. Each group can set its own policy about whether it will allow or encourage visitors to attend occasionally.
Mentoring Local Study Groups. The Wilmette Institute will assign a mentor to the study group in the first week of the course. The mentor will do the following:
- Interact with the entire study group by telephone or other means at a mutually convenient time, preferably at least once per month.
- Will help answer questions about the topic of the meeting, pose questions for further consideration, and encourage activities of the group.
- Interact with individual members of the study group by email, read their projects, and read reports about their presentations.
- Receive reports from the group Correspondent about any meetings the mentor was unable to “attend” by phone or other means.
- Communicate with the Correspondent about strengthening the group, especially if the group is having problems (unable to meet, low levels of enthusiasm, etc.).
- Offer suggestions to the Wilmette Institute about improving study groups.