Tech Learning Collective

Technology education for radical organizers and revolutionary communities.

FAQ

Have questions about Tech Learning Collective? This page lists some frequently asked questions and provides fast answers. Choose the category that best addresses your question:

Courses and enrollment

Which course should I take first?

Generally, you should apply for the course on our course catalog that most immediately interests you. Each course also lists related workshops; much of the material in the course is also offered a la carte through workshops. Both courses and workshops are designed as self-contained units, so you can be confident that you’ll gain something valuable regardless of which one you take first. Moreover, our pre-enrollment application process will help guide you towards the most fitting class for your level of experience.

That being said, if you don’t have much (or any) existing experience in this area and are not drawn to a particular subject on your own, we suggest that you consider the following learning path through our course material:

  1. SYS101: Learn the fundamentals of what a computing device is and how to interact with one. (View related workshops.)
  2. NET101: Learn how devices are networked together. (View related workshops.)
  3. WEB101: Learn fundamental concepts of Web publishing, which is among the most common uses for computer networks today. (View related workshops.)
  4. SEC101: Learn why the complex interactions between devices, networks, and applications create security and privacy vulnerabilities and how to deal with them. (View related workshops.)
  5. WEB201: Learn how to safely utilitize the Web as a platform for advocacy and coordination beyond traditional Web sites. (View related workshops.)

To be clear, you could start at any 101-level course or you can get started even quicker by participating in any of its related workshops. Nevertheless, completing the courses in the order they are listed above offers the fastest, most thorough, and logical route through the material. This is because networks (NET101) will make more sense if you first have some understanding of the networked devices in isolation (SYS101), and so on.

Can I enroll in more than one class at a time?

Yes. Our enrollment process tracks each of your applications individually. You can simultaneously apply for pre-enrollment in as many of our courses as you like at any time.

In addition to enrolling in full courses, you can also participate in any of our paid or donation-based events independent of your enrollment status. In fact, coming to a workshop that is related to your course subject can be a great way to supplement your course experience because it will give you a chance to solidify your skills in a different context and meet people who are not your immediate peers. Subscribe to our events calendar so you can stay abreast of when and where our one-off workshops and events will take place.

How should I prepare for my enrollment interview?

First of all, remember that the interview is not a technical exam. If you have made it through to the interview phase, it means we already believe you have the requisite skill to get something valuable out of the course material. There are no trick questions and we are not going to grill you about how much (or how little) you already know about the course subject.

During your interview, we are simply trying to get a sense of who you are as a person and in what ways you wish to grow in the near future. Our goal is to fill each class with self-motivated people who are eager to use technology to improve the lives of their immediate community; lofty ambitions are great, but what matters more is that you demonstrate empathy, thoughtfulness, and care for those with less power than you have. Your interviewer will be a teacher, teaching assistant, or alumni who has these same traits and who has gone through a similar process as you have, so share your frustrations or lament obstacles you have faced same as you might share optimistic hopes and successes you’ve had.

If you have not yet done so, we also suggest that you take a minute to familiarize yourself with our partner and sister organizations, as well as with our lightweight social rules. We are serious about creating an environment where work that materially improves our lives and the lives of our loved ones gets done, not merely discussed, and we make choices based on how likely we think that is to happen. This doesn’t mean we are purists, but it does mean we prioritize the applications of people who are both willing and able to contribute to these efforts.

What do I need to bring to class?

You should bring:

As every Tech Learning Collective course focuses on hands-on, experience-based training, you will need a portable personal computer running any modern version of Apple’s macOS, Microsoft Windows, or any flavor of the GNU/Linux operating systems to take full advantage of class time. If you have the means to do so, we recommend getting devices made by Purism, although almost any computer made within the last decade or so will probably be sufficient, with some important exceptions listed below. If in doubt, please either contact us or bring up your concerns during your enrollment process.

While vendor-restricted devices such as Google Chromebooks and certain handheld or tablet computers such as Apple iOS devices (iPhones and iPads) may suffice, they are generally not recommended as they severely constrain what software you are able to run and how you are able to interact with the underlying components of the device in ways that are difficult to overcome. As a rule of thumb, if you cannot access the command line (“terminal”) of your device’s underlying operating system, you should consider acquiring an alternative device before enrolling in one of our courses. To learn more and to test whether your device has a command line you can access, visit our Foundations learning modules.

Learning a lot in a short period of time can also make one very hungry, so we also advise that you arrive to class well-fed or that you bring a meal with you. Also consider arriving to class well-rested by taking whatever measures you need so that you get a good night’s sleep the evening before your class.

What if I don’t have a laptop?

If you cannot afford or acquire a computer sufficient for the course you are enrolling in, we may be able to provide a temporary device for you to use during your course. In this case, we will ask for an additional deposit from you and will return your deposit to you after you return the computer to us at the end of your final class. Alternatively, for some courses, you can also purchase a single-board computer (SBC) such as a Raspberry Pi from us at cost and we will provide the necessary peripherals (keyboard, pointing device, video display, and power supply) for use during your class. A Raspberry Pi generally retails for ~$35 USD, is sufficient for almost all TLC courses, and will be yours to keep.

Where are classes held?

Tech Learning Collective holds classes both in-person and online. For in-person courses, workshops, or events, Tech Learning Collective partners with several organizations that provide classroom spaces around New York City, including artist studios, hackerspaces and hacklabs, community centers, and more. For remote classes, our virtual classrooms are accessible via the Internet with your favorite Web browser. Location details are provided for each class to which you purchase a ticket or course in which you enroll.

We typically determine the classroom location for an in-person event one to two months before it is scheduled to begin. Physical locations are determined based on a combination of classroom and teacher availability.

Note that in-person course locations are only available to pre-enrolled students; after you enroll, you will receive access to our course scheduler and will be able to choose the available course timeline and location that fits you best. The scheduler provides all the details regarding course logistics, including information about gender-neutral restrooms and wheelchair access. While we strive to ensure that all our classroom locations provide these facilities, we cannot always guarantee this.

For more information about our remote/online courses, workshops, or events, refer to our Workshop and Webinar FAQ.

When is the next class going to start?

Tech Learning Collective hosts several different types of classes, including public workshops, intensive courses, and private group trainings, which are each scheduled in a different way:

If you’re excited about a particular workshop but don’t see an upcoming event for it on our calendar, contact us to start a conversation about how you can help make the event happen. We are always thrilled to find new venues and audiences who are eager to improve their lives and their communities with the aid of digital tools!

Can I pay my course tuition in installments?

Generally, no. Our flexible pricing model and sliding-scale tuition helps ensure that all Tech Learning Collective courses are affordable. If you need financial assistance, please voice your concerns during your enrollment process. More often than not, your tuition can be reduced based on your needs, but we still ask that you pay tuition in full before the start of your course’s first class.

If you still cannot afford to enroll in one of our courses, you may find our free online and self-paced learning labs useful, and you may also be able to attend our occasional donation-based or satellite workshops. Subscribe to our events calendar to make sure you don’t miss the opportunity!

How can I stay in touch with my classmates and meet more alumns after my course?

As will become evident during your course experience, the Tech Learning Collective is designed to facilitate longer-lasting relationships among peers, teachers, and between students and teachers in order to nurture new projects and support existing communities.

This means that the best way to stay in touch is to make positive relationships with your peers and teacher during your course. Your teacher especially will be engaged in numerous “extra-curriculuar” community projects, and if you don’t already have a project of your own that consumes you, you should offer to help out with one of theirs. Alternatively, if you do already have a project that you’re working on—many TLC students enroll specifically to gain skills in an area relevant to their existing projects—feel free to ask for help from your peers or teacher(s).

Put another way, the Tech Learning Collective alumni community is held together through work. By collaborating on projects with your peers and teachers, you will find that the alumni community can mentor you, or you will find someone who you can mentor. This method provides a much fuller continuing education experience even after your course is officially ended that is more akin to the apprenticeships of yesteryear than it is to the internships of today.

For this reason, the Tech Learning Collective itself does not maintain a formal group membership or alumni listserve; instead, you are expected to choose (or create!) a material project to get involved in. We encourage you to peruse our list of benefiting organizations to help guide you towards such a project, as well as to voice interest in your teacher’s projects during your course.

That being said, Tech Learning Collective moderates several peripheral (“unofficial”) communications channels for our alumni and community networks. Current and former students can log in to access their private course chat channels. Log in details are sent to students privately during their course experience; if you need these details resent, please email our general contact address.

Workshops and webinars

What do I need to participate in a workshop?

Tech Learning Collective workshops are derived from our longer course material, so you can prepare for them in the same way you might prepare for a full course:

In either case, we suggest that you arrive five to ten minutes early in order to get settled.

How do I know where to go for an online webinar?

A few moments after you purchase a ticket to one of our remote workshops (online training webinars), our system sends you an email with log-in details that includes a Web link (URL) and a webinar passphrase that will grant you access to the video conference. The email will be sent to the address associated with your payment processor account (e.g., your PayPal email address), so be doubly-sure to check that email account (and its spam folder!) to make sure you don’t miss our message.

Simply click the link you received from our email to load the webinar page in your Web browser. When the page loads, you’ll be prompted to type in a short password, which will have been delivered to you in the same email. Entering the correct password will grant you access to the webinar interface.

Again, if you don’t receive our confirmation email containing your log-in credentials within a few minutes, please make sure to check your email account’s “spam” folder. If you still don’t see your login information in your spam folder, contact us and our admissions team will sort it out with you.

For online courses, your virtual classroom access details will be available to you in the course scheduler, which is accessible via the personalized link sent to your email address as part of your acceptance packet, and in the description of each event displayed in your course calendar.

How do I control the Webinar interface?

When you first join one of our webinar workshops, you’ll see a set of controls with which you can change things like the volume of the other speakers, the size of the video stream, and possibly also the ability to share your own screen and activate your own microphone so that others can see and hear what you’re doing.

Depending on the specific Webinar, you’ll either be using our Jitsi Meet integration or our GoBrunch Webinar rooms. When you sign up for the Webinar, the Webinar address will tell you which video conferencing software we’ll be using. Refer to the relevant system’s documentation (Jitsi Meet User Guide, GoBrunch documentation for help using the webinar interface.

What if I arrive late to the webinar?

You can arrive at the webinar classroom at any time. You will be able to enter and fully participate regardless of when you arrive. Of course, you may miss important parts of the class if you do not show up on time, and we do not offer any way for you to make up this time later, nor do we provide refunds for late or absent attendance.

If you arrive very late (around 10 minutes late or so) and do not see anyone else in the room, it is possible that all other attendees were also very late. In this situation, the instructor may have decided to cancel the class due to lack of attendance. This is the instructor’s prerogative, as we feel it is disrespectful to make our teachers wait on students who do not show up.

The bottom line is that you should arrive for class on time, regardless of whether the class is in person or online. Again, we do not offer refunds for any reason. Lateness or no-shows are no exception.

I missed a workshop. Where can I get a refund/discount/workshop materials?

We’re sorry you missed a workshop. If you missed the workshop because of scheduling confusion, please remember that we publish a calendar feed that will automatically resolve timezone differences and the like for you. The most common reason, by far, students miss workshops is because they are not using a calendaring application. We strongly encourage you to make use of one if you aren’t already so that you never have to manually copy or write down event times. Refer to Export Event Calendar for details about how to access and use our calendar feed in your favorite calendaring software.

Unfortunately, we do not offer refunds for any reason. We also do not offer any discounts beyond the usual sliding scale under which all of our public workshops and events are offered. If you missed a workshop and would like to attend another one, please feel free to register for a future workshop at any ticket scale you feel is appropriate for your situation.

Finally, when a student misses a workshop, they often ask to be sent any reading material, slides, or other texts that they may have missed. This is understandable but comes from experience in a very different world than the one we inhabit.

We remind you that Tech Learning Collective does not make any workshop-specific materials, nor do any of our workshops (or even courses) have any slides. The only relevant pre-written materials are the same materials you can find on the Internet for basic operations like installing the relevant software, or scripts for experimenting with a given technology in various virtual environments.

Our workshops are all bespoke, Socratic sessions with an experienced instructor. This means there is no project-based work or specific lab exercise. Instead, in Tech Learning Collective workshops, you ask questions of an instructor and/or are challenged by them to answer questions they pose to you. Every workshop is different because in each workshop different students ask different questions or have different answers to the instructor’s challenges. Instructors are not going over a script; if they were, we would not need them to be human and could instead simply sell you a book we wrote. Put another way, our instructors are responding to your presence. This is why we cannot give you specific workshop materials after you miss a workshop. There is nothing to give you because you were not present.

We describe this pedagogical approach in more detail on our Web site’s About page. We recognize that this can be especially frustrating when you miss a workshop by accident, but it’s one of the things that makes Tech Learning Collective workshops so different from typical webinars and other bootcamp-style courses. In our workshops, your presence actually changes the workshop itself; we know of no comparable technical training school where this is true.

Nevertheless, to make the most out of this situation for yourself, we encourage you to explore any relevant materials already published on the Internet for the topic of your workshop, especially the Web sites or other published works by any of our upstream curriculum partners. You can find links to our upstream curriculum partners on the About page of our Web site and elsewhere throughout this FAQ. It’s not the same as being able to interact in real-time, and the materials you find there are not necessarily intended for Tech Learning Collective students directly, but it’s the best we can do.

Naturally, we hope you’ll consider attending the next round of the workshop that you missed. Again, the best way to make sure you do not miss your chance is to subscribe to our public calendar feed.

Volunteering and getting involved

I am a tech professional. How do I become a TLC teacher?

While we greatly appreciate offers from skilled individuals to teach workshops, our pedagogy demands far more than solely technical skill. Tech Learning Collective teachers are expert teachers, not merely experts. In order to be considered as teachers, Tech Learning Collective rigorously vets instructors across numerous areas, including technical expertise, political commitment, and teaching ability. Put another way, teaching is its own skill, and teaching digital technology for political ends requires an even rarer combination of critical skills.

Moreover, as an apprenticeship-based technology school, all Tech Learning Collective instructors were former Tech Learning Collective students. This means that in order to become a Tech Learning Collective teacher, you must first apprentice under an existing Tech Learning Collective teacher. You can do this in a number of different ways, including enrolling in Tech Learning Collective courses or stand-alone workshop events, or by contributing to any of the open source or Free Software community projects that Tech Learning Collective teachers are involved in alongside them.

Ultimately, while we appreciate your interest in becoming a Tech Learning Collective teacher, we do not offer teaching positions to anyone, no matter how experienced, without first mentoring them in our specific pedagogy.

I’d like to volunteer for TLC. How do I get involved?

While we greatly appreciate volunteer work from anyone who wishes to contribute to Tech Learning Collective materials, what we need most of all is financial support (or, better, student sign-ups). This is because all of our systems are automated and our procedures do not rely on manual labor to accomplish tasks such as student enrollments and interview scheduling, event organizing, booking, marketing and promotions, invoicing, reporting, or any other administrative functions. Put another way, we don’t have any volunteer work for you to do.

So, if you can afford it, we encourage you to donate directly so that we can put more time into producing, maintaining, and continually improving the educational materials that we offer at low cost or for free, such as the free self-paced courses we host online.

If supporting us financially is not something you can do, and you also do not want or cannot participate in our training events, the simplest way to get involved is to peruse the Web site(s) of our curriculum partners and/or sister projects looking for work you can do with them that would help us out. In particular, check out the following resources:

Another way to help out is to spread the word about Tech Learning Collective events, inviting your friends and comrades to participate in workshops or training sessions that we’re producing. Remember that you can subscribe to our event calendar to be notified whenever we publish a new event. Likewise, if you’re organizing your own event, or know someone who is, consider inviting Tech Learning Collective to host a digital security training session there.

Again, while we greatly appreciate your desire to volunteer, the best thing you can do to support us and to get involved in our community is to attend our events.

I heard TLC has a Capture the Flag (CTF) team. Can I join?

We do indeed have several CTF teams. These primarily function as cybersecurity study groups for current and former Tech Learning Collective students. However, you may still be able to join as an external collaborator, subject to several restrictions. For more information, refer to our CTF FAQ.