Balancing intimacy and scale; Dunbar numbers for learning groups


  • What are the relative “dunbar’s number(s)” for study groups and learning communities?
  • How many levels do we need from small meaningful discussion > collective note groups > whole “imagined communities”
  • How do we design systems that benefit from both scale and intimacy?


  • Stian’s PhD thesis: MOOC; what can we do w/ 2k teachers? Crowdsourcing; diversity
  • Different levels of engagement…from shallow interest to deep working groups…cater to both; make them interdependent
  • Egghead: set the number at ~4 (thinking at 5, takes on a different tone)
  • Depending a lot on context…ongoing vs. one-off, offline vs. offline…some things, want breakouts (one-on-one)
  • At Minerva, classes from ~18 to hundreds…but also breakout groups! Lots of data, interest in experimenting w/ group size (task-based!)
  • Could create structures optimized for either extreme…what specific shapes / design goals?
  • With Hyperlink: courses vs. cohorts; experiments…

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