Announcing Online LGBTQ+ Courses at The Safe Zone Project

Sam Killermann

How was your weekend? You staying cool? Are you ready for the next bit of our Birthday Extravaganza? Maybe the biggest bit? Definitely the penultimate bit?

Well here it is: we now have online courses (well, “online course” for now, no S), and we hope we’re ready.

The Story Behind Our Online Course Decision

There is literally nothing we’ve been asked for more than for a way to “become safe zone trained” online.

For us, the hesitation was always the same: no online experience will ever beat — or even match — the power of an in-person Safe Zone training. Things like tone, vulnerability, are emotional connection are all crucial to what makes Safe Zone trainings work, and all of those are tough to recreate online.

For a little while, we experimented with online trainings where we’d facilitate a training for a small group (about 10 people) through a Google Hangout. Those sometimes came close to an in-person training, but there were usually a ton of technical glitches, difficulties in participation, and they were a scheduling fiasco. So we stopped doing them.

Instead, we have referred people to local organizations and encouraged them to find a training they can attend in their area, in-person.

But we still felt the pressure. Because while online trainings will never be perfect, for a lot of you they are the only option.

Whether it’s because you’re in an area where no “Safe Zone”-type trainings are being offered, or because you have a demanding schedule that prevents you from spending 3 hours in an elective workshop, there are a ton of reasons we’ve heard that make our general recommendation of “find a local trainer” a non-starter.

And you kept telling us that.

We promise we weren’t playing hard to get, but we understand why, for many of you who have followed/used our work for several years, it might feel this way.

We’re just a thoughtful, intentional, and social-justice-committed tiny team, and sometimes that means you move slowly and say no to things until you’re sure.

So we started thinking about online courses in a different way:

If there’s no local training, or no ability to attend a training, should someone not be allowed to learn about gender, sexuality, and LGBTQ+ concepts?

Asked that way, our hesitation transformed into a clear resolve: we’ll do our best.

How We’re Doing Online Courses

A few days ago, we sneakily enabled a part of our site that some of you had already found as part of our Birthday Scavenger Hunt: https://thesafezoneproject.com/resources/courses.

As part of this release, we’re starting with one course offering: a self-guided online course version of our Foundational Safe Zone Curriculum. This is our most sought-after and used resource, and because the in-person curriculum has been vetted and tested for years, we see it as a sturdy starting place for this new endeavor. 

(And some of you already enrolled and started in the courses this weekend. We were surprised, impressed, and nervously excited. Nice work!)

Our goal in creating a self-guided online course version was to be as true to the learning outcomes, experiences, and goals of our in-person curriculum. We kept asking, “How can we reproduce that experience with the highest fidelity?”

So every lesson, topic, quiz, and worksheet was created in pursuit of that goal. 

You’ll have to let us know how you think we did. We’re all ears.

The Courses will be Powered by this Site

More than just a superficial makeover, the rebuild of this site included a bunch of functionality behind the scenes.

Our courses will be hosted directly on our site, so learners will be able to:

  • Create an account
  • Use this account to enroll in an online course, complete it, and access in the future (helpful for revisiting lessons, or printing certificates of completion)
  • Access other courses using this same account (as we add more offerings to our catalog)

Pricing? Tuition? Will these be free?

Like the rest of the activities, curricula, and resources we’ve created for you here, the online courses will be offered in the spirit of the gift economy. For us, this is an expression of a core principle of doing social justice work.

What this means, in short, is we are letting you (the learner) decide what to pay for this course, based on your gratitude, ability to pay, or sense of what is fair.

How this looks for our first course is we have three enrollment options: standard tuition ($79 right now), full scholarship ($0), and standard tuition plus gifting a scholarship to someone else ($158).

We aren’t going to “police” this in any way, or be gatekeepers: we’re going to trust you to decide what’s right for you. We’re only here to support you in your decision, and to try to make these courses as accessible as possible to everyone!

The plan is to also release shorter courses that are entirely pay-what-you-want/can/choose, and we’ll be adjusting all of our tuition fees in response to feedback from you.

A few final thoughts about our online courses

Before you get started, we just want to make a few things as clear as can be.

While our online courses won’t match the experience of being in a room with a group of strangers, and should never supplant an in-person training if someone has access to one, we’re putting a lot of effort into making sure they’re still effective, engaging, and fun.

We’ll be releasing our courses slowly, starting with our Self-Guided Foundational Safe Zone Training, and expanding from there, to fine tune and improve the experience with each group of students.

Finally, just to make sure this is as clear as can be: we’re doing everything in our power to make our online courses accessible — financially, as well as pragmatically.

So if you notice a barrier of any kind, and it seems like we constructed it, please let us know. We’ll figure out a way to dismantle it together.