Education Entrepreneur E-Course Expands on Social-Emotional Learning

How Joy Circles Enriches Pre-Teen Education with a Unique Online Facilitators Program Using LifterLMS

Image of Barbara Thomason

 Barbara Thomason, Joy Circles

Success Story Highlights

Course easily accessible from anywhere

Combines SEL with reading skills

LifterLMS makes course editing easy

Ever since the COVID pandemic educators and parents have been concerned about the effect of isolation on children who normally would have been in school with their peers. The result has been not only a loss of education but also the classroom interaction that teaches children critical social skills. 

However, concern over teaching children interpersonal social skills predates the pandemic, as issues such as bullying, abuse and neglect, and school shootings result in absenteeism and learning deficiencies.

Image of Barbara Thomason

I chose LifterLMS because of its comprehensive features and user-friendly interface. It allows me to effortlessly create and manage online courses, providing my students with a seamless learning experience. LifterLMS aligns perfectly with my goals of delivering high-quality education in an accessible format.”

  Barbara Thomason, Joy Circles

Barbara Thomason of Joy is well acquainted with these issues and has developed a training program expanding on SEL, or Social-Emotional Learning, to mitigate the effects of these pressures impacting young students. SEL is a concept that originated in the 1960s but gained new interest in the 1990s. It aims to help foster a “whole child” approach to encourage and promote in children a positive self-image, emotional awareness in oneself and in others, communication skills, problem-solving, and accountability. These personal skills are critical for preparing youngsters for the world outside the classroom, and for learning how to communicate and socialize with others, and can have a positive impact on academic learning.  

Joy Circles implements some unique concepts and tools not available in other SEL programs, as well as a strong reading skills component. Barbara built her course to train Joy Circle “facilitators” using LifterLMS, as it was important to her to have the training online for maximum accessibility from anywhere, to encourage the use of Joy Circles, and to ensure future program growth.


Image of Joy Circle Home page

It was important to me that the facilitator training be available around the world—certainly across the nation—so that the program could be delivered widely as quickly as possible.”

The Joy Circles Course and Concept

Rather than serve the child directly, the Joy Circles course trains qualified instructors who Barbara refers to as “facilitators,” and provides a two-year certification toward implementing Joy Circles. The facilitators can be independent contractors who set up their own business structure to guide Joy Circles groups, or employees certified by a private or public institution.  

The course, which currently focuses on fourth-to-sixth graders, covers ten to sixteen hours of self-study, with a pre-requisite reading of “foundation books.” An additional two or three one-hour Zoom classes allow trainees to delve into summarizing chapters and discuss questions they may have. A practice facilitation session at an existing live Joy Circles location may be included if one is available.

The science behind Joy Circles that the facilitators learn rests on the use of the circles, where everyone sits at the same level and has an equal say. Trainees learn about engagement tools that encourage focus among young students, such as movement to bespoke music. “Models” are another tool unique to Joy Circles—specific visual graphics or words that help children more easily grasp and retain concepts. 

The facilitator guides the circle in reading activities and discussion time based on a recommended book list. Emotional topics may also be discussed using “Heart Talk” strategies where a wooden heart is passed around to give the child holding it the privilege to speak and share thoughts and feelings.

Why LifterLMS Was the Choice for Joy Circles

While Barbara employs the services of a professional webmaster to build her overall site, she herself manages the course components, sharing that LifterLMS gives her the tools to painlessly add or fine-tune content. LifterLMS’ tools also help her make the program suited for self-paced learning, but with the added flexibility to present live interactive sessions which contribute to the impactful training she wants to deliver.  

Course Page of Joy Circle Website by Barbara Thomason

I had never created a course and put it online. You guys make it easy. The drag-and-drop simplicity, the training courses that you provide…  just made it painless.

Barbara looked at a few e-course options before choosing LifterLMS. Ultimately, her choice was based on several factors:

  • The readily available instructional support LifterLMS offers
  • The look and feel of existing LifterLMS sites she saw
  • The ability to easily edit, expand, and add courses when needed
  • Being able to present different kinds of sessions
  • Positive testimonials about LifterLMS
  • Promotional Black Friday offer

[I had] a list of 3 LMS companies and you [LifterLMS] were one of them. I ended up with you. I’m glad I did.

Current Outreach and the Future of Joy Circles

While the program currently serves grades four through six, mainly in the state of Texas, Barbara hopes to expand it to other grades and many other locales. One of her challenges is that many school administrators view Social-Emotional Learning as something that takes time and attention away from academic instruction, rather than a methodology that has been demonstrated to improve academic achievement. 

For now, she conducts a multi-directional outreach by connecting with professionals at conferences, presenting her informative webinar, or directly contacting school districts one by one to see where they are in their SEL programming. Her quarterly e-newsletter reaches an impressive number of Texas schools. 

Sharing her thoughts about creating “impactful training,” Barbara advises others creating online courses to:

  • have good content
  • offer good resources
  • cite your sources
  • make training interactive where possible

It was important to me that the facilitator training be available around the world—certainly across the nation—so that the program could be delivered widely as quickly as possible.

Barbara Thomason’s websites:

We have published a podcast episode with Barbara Thomason on LMScast. You can learn more in detail about “How to Create a Niche Education Facilitator Program” on this podcast.