Friday, December 19, 2008

Looking back on FOC08

Facilitating Online Communities has come to an end for the year.

When the course started in July, we had a flattering 84 expressions of interest for participation from a wide range of countries:

  1. Solomon Islands
  2. Philippines
  3. Spain
  4. Switzerland
  5. Argentina
  6. Poland
  7. Israel
  8. Portugal
  9. Norway
  10. Nigeria
  11. Brazil
  12. Australia
  13. United States of America
  14. India
  15. Pakistan
  16. Canada
  17. United Kingdom
  18. New Zealand
  19. Mauritius

As expected, a little over 15% of those initial expressions of interest saw the course through to the end. In some ways I found the open course was a little like busking. A crowd attracted a crowd, most people were passers by who were willing to show support for the effort. Very few stayed around for the full show, and understandably fewer were interested in paying a fee for formal services such as personal support, assessment and certified recognition. I’m now rethinking the financial model for the course, and am interested to see if I can work out a way to make it entirely free.

In the end we had around 6 formally enrolled people complete the course and receive certified recognition for their efforts, and we had at least 9 informal participants complete the course and who could receive certified recognition in the future should they ever be in a position to pay a fee for the assessment, and should they ever consider it to be beneficial to them. A certificate of participation is on offer to those people, and so far one person from Pakistan has nominated themselves to receive that. The certificate of participation will be helpful to them should they opt for formal certification in the future as it will show the assessors in the future that they completed the course. If I can work out a way to offer the course for free, non of this administration and assessment process need be such a concern.

Since the 2008 course has finished, we have had 2 expressions of interest from the USA for formal participation in the 2009 course. As the 2009 course will not start until July, these 2 people will start the course self directed, and take advantage of the socially constructed learning interactions come July. It may well turn out that they will complete before July, that being the case they will simply require assessment and certified recognition for their completed efforts.

In the future, I hope to negotiate partnership with other institutions where if people from countries other than New Zealand participate in the course, they will be able to obtain formal certification from the partnering Institution in their own country. It could be that a new financial model exists in partnering institutions being able to offer our course in their advertised services…

As the facilitator of the course, I spent 110 hours over the 17 week course and the 5 weeks preparation - total being 110 hours over 22 weeks, averaging out to be 5 hours a week. This is an estimate and the exact number of hours will be known in mid January. At least one participant felt that my time with the course was too little. I feel that 17 weeks is too long for the course, and too many topics were put into that length of time. I also think that it could be possible for my facilitation time to be made less time each week, without adversely affecting the progress and support levels for participants. At least I think I should test it.

The combination of length of time, pace of the course and intensity of communication at various points, were key factors contributing to drop off in participation and increase in facilitation workload. I think it will be possible to reduce the number of topics without compromising the quality of the course, and minimise inefficiencies through smarter design of activities and combination of topics.

For example, the start of the course was a hellish workload for everyone as the first couple of weeks relied on the use of an email forum to coordinate and communicate. The initial number of interested people overwhelmed the email forum with technical preparations and introductions, as well as repetitive questions and some off topic or inappropriate suggestions (innappropriate considering the wide range of experience levels among the participants). Next time I will design a buffer period at the start of the course so as to absorb most of this initial flurry and spread it in a way that creates less noise and stress to people entirely new to the technology. Rather than centralising communications in an email forum at the start, my thoughts are to decentralise and make it appear as though its a very quiet and individual start, but slowly bring it together through activities over the following weeks (and eventually to an email forum if required). This could more successfully demonstrate the idea of networked communications. This approach should allow people to focus on tasks as they attempt to master fundamental tools like their blogs. This buffer period would need to involve unique and interesting activities so that technically experienced people are presented with an engaging enough start that will occupy their enthusiasm in a more helpful and constructive way for the people with less experience. I’m considering the use of Youtube for initial introductions from everyone in video forum mode… as suggested by Craig Hansen. Using Youtube in this way is commonly perceived as a technically difficult task, but is in fact a simple process - probably resulting in a confidence boost for many participants.

A successful activity in the course was the course miniconference. The measure of success is not in terms of numbers of participants, but in the clarity of learning outcomes evident in the blog posts of those who took part in it, such as Elaine. This activity seemed to greatly benefit a number of people’s understanding of key theoretical points discussed in the course. Without this activity, we are sure that such understanding would not have developed. Kay Lewis suggested that a dummy run of the online conference earlier in the course would have helped develop understanding sooner and thus given her the opportunity for deeper learning once the proper mini conference took place. I’m still thinking about how to work two conference activities into the course without loosing other important topics, but and tending to think that given the overview nature of the course, I’m not sure if anything beyond an ah-ha moment is needed… hopefully that moment would be enough to motivate the participants to go out and seek their own opportunities and test new ideas for themselves once the course is over.

Over all the course was a success both in terms of learning outcomes for participants, feedback obtained so far, and my own learning while developing and testing this new models and the techniques needed to facilitate it. There is still some work needed to be done with the administrators of the course to make sure they understand how it is run (very differently to the Blackboard they are used to), what they need to do to support the course, and discussion on how we can accomodate the internationalisation better. Thankfully they have been quite open to the developments so far.

Thanks to all those people who took part and helped carry FOC08 through to the end.

Friday, December 12, 2008

FOC08 Feedback?

Now that the course has officially finished, I am hoping that some of you will take the time to post feedback to the following questions on your blog:

  1. What were the most enjoyable aspects of this course?
  2. What were the most challenging aspects of this course?
  3. Did the course meet your expectations? How or how not?
  4. What improvements would you suggest?
  5. Any other comments?

I am now starting the assessment of formal participants in the course.

Thanks everyone for participating, even to those great many who did not see it through to the end. It has really helped me to further develop this model of free and open learning, and I have gained a lot from the FOC08 experience. I can only hope as many of you as possible were able to gain something from the experience also, and I hope many of you will remain on the email forum for when the next course starts (probably July 2009). In the mean time, I have edited the course wiki so that it is useful to people who simply want to use it as a guide to their own self paced learning efforts.

Thanks for your feedback

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Where are we up to?

Hi everyone, sorry for the communication silence my end. I've been working these past 2 weeks in Tuvalu and Internet connectivity was not as available as I'd hoped.

The FOC08 course officially ends this Friday and results will start coming (to the formally enrolled) over the next few weeks.

If you have not completed all the tasks on the Wiki, just send me an email to let me know what your intentions are. Its OK to take more time.

If you are an informal participant and would like to formalise your participation in this course with a NZ certificate and assessment, please let me know so I include you in the process. Please note, there is a fee for formalising.

Ok, I'll be catching up on what I've missed these past few weeks now. Sorry if you felt neglected.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Conference end (more to come)

Well, the Mini Conference is over and many thanks to those who ran an event, and a big extra thanks to those who attended events, Especially to Nellie - who I think must have been at every one! And to Minhaaj who I caught in one at 3am his time!

Thankfully recordings where made of many of the events and some have updated their event entry in the wiki with a link to their recordings and/or notes. If you have notes or a recording, please make a link to them in your event entry.

From my perspective we had a line up of very interesting topics in the conference. I think many of us learned a lot from the experience, especially the need for promotion right up to the last minute. In many of the events I attended, I think promotion was far too light, and so I found myself in a last minute flurry of instant messaging everyone I knew who might have had interest in attending. In my experience over the years, it is instant messaging at the last minute that gets people there. Twitter is great for it! It pays to be already well networked online, with your own online communities to call on mind you...

So, this week we simply kick back and reflect on what has just past. The week after we are looking for blog entries that critique our own or each others events. And with that the course will be finished! Elaine is already ahead of it all with her great reflection on her and Kay's event.

Some people have contacted me to say they could not organise an event in the week of the conference, but would like to organise one in the coming weeks. I think this is great to see. Remember the lesson learned though - promotion promotion promotion. If you are going to organise an event in the coming weeks, get it in the wiki as soon as possible, make it concise and easy to join, and promote it right up to the last minute. This will be harder for you because you won't be able to rely on a group of conference going people to call on.

So well done to the conference organisers, get your recordings and notes up, and have a long think about everything that has passed in this course. Get ready for your final post that sums it all up for you.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Conference update

I was entirely gutted to have to miss Grant Comber's interview in Second Life this morning. I thought the blockages for my access to Second Life had been fixed, but when I tried, they were not. Such is life when trying to work from within institutions :( I really hope Grant will let us know how it all went, and that someone grabbed a postcard of the meeting.

I did manage to catch Vida's session discussing an audio recording Vida had published, asking a Civic Facilitator about his work. I couldn't use voice, another limitation in my institution it seems, but the chat was alive. Nellie is all over these events and really helped Vida's session along. I think we have an interesting discussion in Chat conference with several of Nellie's contacts.

Bronwyn Stuckey, Jeffrey Keefer, Sue Wolff and Sylvia Currie's week long discussion about multimembership is going nicely, with a great Voicethread capturing a lot of audio discussion (see in embedded below). Below the VoiceThread are a range of text based discussion threads all discussing ideas and methods about managing workload and membership online.

Some of us may be experiencing low turn out to our events. This is to be expected and is something to learn about. It is a false idea to think that "if we build it they will come". Much of that thinking comes from the rhetoric and media hype about the Internet - the World Wide Web, the Global Super Highway.. and fears about everyone watching you online. The truth of the matter is that it takes a lot of work to facilitate and bring together a successful online event - let alone develop an online community. My hope is that low numbers will give us pause to think about this point.

What's coming up? (remember, these are UTC times)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Facilitating Online Communities Mini Conference 2 - 9 November 2008

Participants in the Facilitating Online Communties course have come together to coordinate an online mini conference. Below are the range of events scheduled so far. Keep an eye on the conference wiki for up to the minute details. See you there!

A mini conference for Facilitating Online

From Facilitating online communities

Date: 2 - 9 November 2008

All times are in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) unless stated otherwise. Use this time convertor to work out your times.

2-9Nov Community Leadership Development

Title: Community Leadership Development - review and feedback
Date: online discussion
Duration: throughout the conference period
Facilitators: Valerie Taylor with guests and friends
Venue: blog posts, discussion page threads


Community Leadership Development - online, open education and skills development for individuals and groups working with community-based organizations to provide leadership training, needs assessment and planning, coordination and management of projects to benefit the community.

As Community Leadership Development is a new course modeled on FOC08 and CCK08, participants in the FOC08 Mini Conferences are uniquely qualified to provide input, feedback and suggestions.

Throughout the Mini Conference, questions about the content and the process for the course will be posted for review and comment. Summaries and links to contributions will be posted each day.

Questions, offers of collaboration welcome.

2-9Nov Managing Multimembership in Social Networks

Title: SCoPE seminar discussion: Managing Multimembership in Social Networks: Oct 27-Nov 9, 2008

Facilitators: Bronwyn Stuckey, Jeffrey Keefer, Sue Wolff, Sylvia Currie

Description: How do you track and keep up with blog conversations? How do you manage your time as you engage in social networks? What are our limits as we integrate social learning into our work environments? When you do find yourself becoming disconnected from your networks and organized activities, how do you return to the fray? As facilitators how do you manage multimembership for your participants?

Many of us confess to fumbling along and we engage in multiple networks. Yet, many networks are essential for the projects, sectors and people that we work with, and for staying abreast of hot issues. Multi-membership and multi-platform overload is becoming a BIG challenge!

During this 2-week discussion we invite you to share tips for managing participation in social networks. This seminar is organized as part of the Facilitating Online Communities course mini-conference. There are many ways to participate! Take our survey, leave a Voice Thread, and join the asynchronous discussion.

Venue: SCoPE is an open, online community supported by BCcampus and hosted by Simon Fraser University. Membership is free and open to the public and our discussions are facilitated by volunteers. Access the seminar discussion directly.

Planning for the event: A record of our planning steps is on a subsequent wiki page: /multimembership

5Nov-7pm The Role of an Online Facilitator

Date: 7pm on Wednesday 5th November UTC (8am on Thursday 6th NovemberNZ DST) Check the time in your zone.

Duration: approximately 1 hour

Facilitator: Vida Thompson

Venue: Skype (contact skype user: vidathompson in advance to join this session)

Description I recorded an interview with a Community Facilitator here in Alexandra, Central Otago, New Zealand. For the mini conference I would like participants to listen to the inteview and then discuss their perception of the role of an online facilitator and how that compares to the role of a face to-face community facilitator. This discussion will be held on skype on Wednesday 5th November at 7pm UTC. (Contact skype user: vidathompson in advance to join this session).

All interested people are welcome to attend. It would be good if participants could listen to the interview before the event. Note: The interview does take a while to start as I edited the beginning out.

Please contact Vida Thompson in skype prior to the event so you can be included in the event when it starts (contact skype user: vidathompson or by e-mail There is a limit of 9 participants who can talk but no limit to the chat contributions.

5Nov 9pm Interview About Second Life in Second Life

Title: About Second Life

Date: Wednesday 05 Nov UTC at 9.00pm (Thursday 06 Nov 10.00 am New Zealand Time)

Duration: 30 Minutes

Facilitator: Grant Comber (aka Avatar: Clinty Inglewood)

Venue: Explorer Island in Second Life

How to get there? Click on this SLurl Link and then click on the Teleport Now button to zoom to Explorer Island. The Second Life Grid coordinates for the Venue are 195,208,22 (PG) Your Host Clinty Inglewood will meet you.

Reminder: Min computer specs - RAM: 500mb (preferably 1 Gig) Chip speed: 800 MHz Pentium III or better, Screen 1024x768 pixels Internet Connection: Cable/DSL Microphone/headset needed for Chatting

Description:An interview between newbie Grant Comber (Clinty Inglewood) and seasoned Second Life user Harold Atkinson (Hat Carter). General questions on the use of Second Life and sharing of unique experiences. Opportunity for all avatars in FOC to gain some insight into using Second Life especially those who are newbies like Grant!

So if you want to philosophize, go didactic on us or just talk some technical turkey issues please pop in for this casual interview.

My thanks to our guest Harold Atkinson who is a fellow teaching colleague of mine with much Second Life experience. See you there! Signing Off: Clinty Inglewood

6Nov-8am Stigmergic Collaboration: The Evolution of Group Work

Facilitated by: Daryl Cook with guest Dr. Mark Elliott.

Mark completed a PhD in 2007 that developed theoretical frameworks for collective activity and mass collaboration in conjunction with a number of real-world projects and now runs a consultancy that provides services surrounding online collaboration and social media / web2.0. In our meeting, Mark will assist us to explore:

  • Stigmergic collaboration as a means of explaining how co-ordination is achieved in ad hoc, massively scaled collaborative contexts (i.e. Wikis)
  • How we can, as facilitators, use Wikis to collaborate, share and learn
  • His experiences from the Future Melbourne project — the world's first, wiki-based, collaborative city plan.

The one hour session, will include a very brief presentation, but will mostly be informal and conversational. Definitely no Powerpoint.

Please join us!

DATE: Thursday 6th November 2008 at 7PM EST or check the time in your time zone.

VENUE: Join this online event at the Elluminate Meeting Room

Beforehand, please ensure that you computer is ready to use the web conferencing software (Elluminate).


ENQUIRIES: For any enquiries and/or for any assistance with Elluminate, do not hesitate to contact me.

6 Nov-10pm International Online Collaboration Group meets FOC08

Title International Online Collaboration Group

  • Date and Duration - UTC Thursday 6 November 10pm-11pm UTC (Friday 7 November 9am – 10am East Australia time)
  • Facilitators: Kerry Trabinger (CIT Australia) and Leigh
  • Description

This is a FANTASTIC opportunity for the group to meet with teachers who are currently completing a subject called Facilitating Learning Online in Australia. Come and discuss your experiences. Topics will include: - Introductions (where are you from and what area are you teaching in) - Virtual Classrooms - Do you like this platform? Will you use it with your students? Why or Why not? Any tips on using these platforms. - Time Management - How does your Institute allocate time for online delivery? Is it the same as for face to face? - Marketing - how can you get students or participants to join in an online dicussion or virtual classroom session? PLUS you have a chance to try a different virtual classroom platform.

  • Venue - VET VIRTUAL (a virtual classroom used in Australia VET Sector -

6Nov-1030pm TLC (Think, Learn & Create) Using Mind Maps

Title: TLC Using Mind Maps (TLC - Think, Learn & Create) - Online Discussion, followed by Presentation, - Friday 7 Nov 2008 11.30 am - 12noon NZ DST (10.30 pm - 11 pm Thursday 6 Nov UTC)

Facilitators: Kay Lewis and Elaine Dittert


  • Have you had difficulty keeping up with the 'overload of information' during this course?
  • Got confused or lost by trying to view all the discussion threads?
  • Have you jotted down some thoughts and ideas you've read and heard but by the time you're ready to go over your notes they make no sense?

If this sounds like you, this 30 minute session may be just what you need. It is designed to give you some pointers to help you gather and organise large amounts of data and provide a clear overview, analyse your thoughts, identify problem solving ideas and generate more ideas with clarity, efficiency and accuracy.

We plan to have one special guest speaker:

  • Jennifer Goddard, BBus (Admin), Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Master Trainer in Buzan Advanced Learning Techniques, inspirational Director of the Buzan Centre in Australia and New Zealand and co-founder of Mindwerx International. OR
  • Jennie Vickers, Buzan Licensed Instructor (senior advanced coach), Masters of Management, Diploma in Business Administration (University of Auckland), BA Law (Honours). Jennie is also an Alumni of the Leadership NZ Programme.

Venue: From your feedback in the discussion here [1], we will use 24/7 Meeting Room (Elluminate) or Skype to host the presentation.

7Nov-4PM EST Storytelling

Title: Storytelling

Date: November 7, 2008 at 4PM EST or check the time in your time zone.

Duration: 60 minutes ?




  • Do you think of stories when you look at a photo, a video, or listen to music? Does the topic interest you as a tool for instruction and learning or are you just curious? In any case, for whatever reason you may have, you are invited to join this storytelling mini conference.
  • We will have a live storytelling event on WiZiQ or Elluminate. Please refer to the main page of Connecting Online for further discussions on the topic.

Further Information

8Nov-Midnight Heart2Heart Online

Title: Heart2Heart Online

Date: Tentatively Saturday, November 8, 2008 00:00 UTC Time

Duration: 90 minutes

Venue: TBA (Skype, Elluminate Meeting Room or WiZiQ)

Group Size: Maximum of 8 people

Facilitator: Greg Barcelon assisted by partner Ivy (guest)

A place where we can simply be ourselves… sharing ourselves at a deeper level without the fear of condemnation, unsolicited advice, interruption or being judged.

Traditionally we got this deep level of connectedness with our true selves, and assist others in doing the same, from our families. But, with many people experiencing difficulties in their family life today, we need communities that can become "Schola Amoris," a School of Love, in which all learn to first of all accept themselves as they are, and then in a greater way accept others unconditionally – the greatest yearning we collectively have.

More about it here.

8Nov-7AM Connecting Online in Developing Countries

Title: 8 Nov-7AM GMT - Connecting Online in Developing Countries

Date: 7AM GMT, Saturday November 8, 2008. Check your time here.

Duration: 60 min?

Faciliatator: Joy Zhao & guest speakers

Venue: Wiziq

Description: We are connected online and forming various online communities. Do you know what problems people living in developing countries meet when they try to join in online communities and maintain the connection? What is the situation of online communities in developing countries? Our guest speakers are all very experienced and skilled in this topic. Come and share your thoughts and you will get more information than you expected.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Are you ready?

Next week is it! Starting November 2 we host an online conference about facilitating online communities. You need to finalise your plans this week, post them to the conference wiki and set to work promoting participation at your event.

If you need help, contact me.

The 24/7 Meeting room is always available should you need a space to meet and coordinate.

If you need to review the assignment outline, here's where to go.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Social Networking Platforms

This week (the one that's now over) we were supposed to be investigating social networking platforms. Out of interest, I searched one of the platform Ning for existing social networks about facilitation. There are quite a few!

I hope participants in this course will get in there and investigate these existing online communities on Ning, and perhaps even consider organising an event for our course mini conference where we can all take a look at what you've found, hear from some of the members, and discuss what makes social networking platforms like Ning so attractive to people.

Others might want to check out other platforms like Facebook, Myspace, Bebo and others.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Our Second Life Meetings

It was really interesting to be a part of our meetings in Second Life. We had 2, and one was entirely different from the other. In our first meeting, only 2 from the FOC08 course made it, myself and Amy. But it didn't take our host Jo long to fill the space with her contacts and before long we were having a rich discussion about community in SL and techniques for facilitation on SL. The chat log was recorded and is available here. I did the best I could in minuting the voice discussion.

Later, I asked Jo what location was the hot pic in SL at the moment. Jo took us to the amazingly romantic Tempura Island which could well represent an emerging culture in Second Life coming from Japanese developers. Jo explained that the space was developed by a couple of Japanese guys and it had attracted a lot of attention in SL recently. We could see why - it was a truly mesmerizing and immerse work of art, and it was wonderful to experience it with real people joking, laughing and talking through their avatars.

The second meeting saw a much larger group from FOC08.. I think there were 9 of us. I could only stay for 30 minutes so can't really say how it went entirely. Jo was a great help once again, as we had a lot of "newbies" - people new to using SL and needing a bit of help with the controls. Once everyone was reasonably up to speed with using their avatar, we all went to the Online Therapy Institute, where therapists are using SL to counsel people and to display information about mental health and other aspects of therapy.

In all, I felt it was the first meeting that more truly explored ideas of community in SL and techniques for facilitating, while the second seemed more focused on developing skills in the use of SL and legitimising the platform with an obvious example. I hope we will see posts on participant blogs that will go past the use and legitimisation issues, and look more deeply at the very real existence of communities in Second Life, and the strategies for facilitating such communities. You really can't get anyone more experienced in this than Jo Kay (Jokay Wollongong) who facilitates the Jokaydia sim.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wk 10: Looking for online community: Virtual Worlds - 13 - 19 October

Meeting with Grad Students in Second Life - a photo by Pathfinder Linden Pathfinder Linden spoke at a weekly meeting held by grad students who are using Second Life as part of their academic research. My discussion focused on the importance of research ethics in virtual worlds. Fantastic group of folks, and they have an excellent wiki with more information about their work:
A virtual world is a computer-based simulated environment intended for its users to inhabit and interact via avatars. These avatars are usually depicted as textual, two-dimensional, or three-dimensional graphical representations, although other forms are possible[1] (auditory[2] and touch sensations for example). Some, but not all, virtual worlds allow for multiple users. Wikipedia July 2008.
This week we will be focusing on the use of Second Life as a platform for interaction through an online simulated environment. It is recommended that you access are modern computer and you will need to install the Second Life client to do this week's activities. If you live close to an Internet cafe, they will be able to set you up for an optimal experience

To do

1. Download and install the Second Life client and post to your blog your Second Life user name.

2. Add your Second Life user name to the list of user names for people doing this course.

3. Once you have installed Second Life on your computer click this link taht will start Second Life and log you in directly to Jokaydia. We'll use the 24/7 Meeting room as a backup meeting space. In this meeting you will be shown how to use Second Life and then be taken on a tour of interesting venues and projects in Second Life.

Meeting times

3. Read through the Wikipedia entry for Second Life and conduct your own research into the platform to develop a perspective on what sort of communities exist there. Write a post to your blog with ideas on how you might operate as a facilitator for a community communicating on Second Life.

4. Continue preparations for your facilitated event at the course mini conference

Extra resources

Friday, October 3, 2008

Meeting recording available - preparation for course mini conference

We had a good couple of small meetings earlier this week to discuss preparations for the course mini conference. 7 people made it to the first meeting, and 3 to the second meeting, with about 5 sending in apologies. Here are the recordings of the first meeting.

It is great to see progress already in the preparations for the
course mini conference development wiki

The conference will take place starting the 2nd of November UTC. The week leading up to that date is last minute preparations.

So, for people participating in the course and aiming to do this assignment in the course, you should be arriving on an idea and implementation plan now (ish) and writing it up on your blog. Seek feedback, read other ideas and develop it more before adding it to the conference wiki page. It doesn't have to be a fully formed idea to be added to the wiki, the blog step is so you have a record in your own space, before putting it on the wiki for collaborative development.

Some people have started a new subpage to the conference wiki for their event. This is great and it would be good to see generally over time. But for now, just focus on getting something on the wiki so we can start securing times and dates, and thinking about collaborations.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Wk 9: Looking for online community: Wiki collaborators - 22 - 28 September

Jee wiz these weeks just go by so fast! I see that some of us have used the week to catch up a little, or simply get some breathing space, but we need you all back now, because things are about to get interesting...

Why Wikis. CC By blogefl
This week we will begin organising our course mini conference where you will each facilitate an online session. We will use a wiki to coordinate our events, so we can each experience collaboration through a wiki. Online communities through wikis are harder to identify as they usually focus around the creation of content. Wikis usually have a discussion tab with each page, and you can sometimes see community like communication there.

To do

1. Write to your blog the initial ideas you have for your assignment 2 - facilitating your event in the course mini conference. Describe who or what you plan to bring to the group and through what channel of communication.

2. Add your proposed event to the course mini conference web page, and use that wiki page's discussion tab to negotiate and discuss and develop the mini conference. Ie. start a discussion forum thread for your proposed event and discribe your idea in more detail, including any questions or concerns you have that the group may be able to help with. Respond to other people's threads and get the wiki happening.

3. Join in a webconference to discuss the up coming course mini conference and everyone's thoughts and ideas for it. Meeting 1 will be at UTC 9pm 29 September 2008 (what time is that for you?), and meeting 2 will be at UTC 8am 30 September 2008 (what time is that for you?). Both meetings will be in the the 24/7 meeting room.

Extra resources

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Week 8 - open vs closed is optional

Image: The "Feral Troll" by Benimoto

A few of us met yesterday and we first discussed what we should make of this week. I didn't record it because initially there was just Vida and I, Barbara and Nellie joined later and it took a while for us to actually talk about stuff to do with the course. Basically we all thought it would be OK to set week 8 as optional:

Wk 8: Open versus closed communities - 15 - 21 September

When people first start using the Internet to communicate, collaborate and connect with others they are often worried about the openness of information. There is debate around personal security and client confidentiality. For some an open platform such as a blog or a public email forum is intimidating and makes them feel vulnerable to criticism and predation. Is it just a matter of learning to write for a public forum or are there real issues around privacy in open forums? Is there a place for a closed forum? What are the benefits and the disadvantages of open networking versus closed forums?"

To do

  1. This week is optional. If you are feeling behind, take this week to catch up.
  2. If the open versus closed topic interests you, use the resources below to find your own path into it.
  3. If another topic is of interest to you and something you would like to spend some time on, do that.

Extra Resources

Friday, September 12, 2008

I'm falling behind Week 7 Blog networks

Its almost the end of week 7 where we look into blogging networks and I have only just finished catching up on emails and blogs posts. I realise that I haven't updated my news reader with the feeds of some late comers to the course too! Better do that.

2 things I am noticing over all. We are still tending to blinker our thinking with educator eyes. Most of us have the rest of our working days to think about teaching people we call "learners", how about taking some time out from that way of thinking and considering people as people, and facilitation not as teaching or an educational practice with some kind of learning objective. If you did try and think outside that box for a bit, as Bron has been doing for a few weeks now, I think you will discover ideas that will ultimately inform your teacherly practices, maybe even expand horizons to a possible new role in the community that is not all about learning outcomes. Perhaps listening to the meeting recording from last week will shed light on this line of thinking.

I have also noticed a slight slow down in blog posts, and especially comments and networking with each other. It is a shame to see more and more posts without comments, where as earlier in the course I was amazed by the number of comments helping to keep us stitched together. Naturally we all get busy, especially as the novelty of the course wears off, and it is in part due to the start of the CCK08 course for some of us, but I hope we can all keep up the effort for FOC08 and aim keep it going, networking with and supporting each other as much as possible. It helps us all along and keeps us feeling connected.

Not long now and we will be collaborating in the organisation of an online conference. I wonder how many people we will have with us for that? How many of us have started thinking what we will do for it? and how will we do it. Will we have panels, debates, discussion threads with summaries, photo stories, the development of a wiki document... I wonder?

So early next week I think we should aim to meet online again. I'm thinking Monday UTC at the usual two times.. 8am and 9pm UTC. One thing that really needs discussion at that meeting is what we should do about week 8! It has no instructions!!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Week 6 already!! Meeting time

There will be a meeting in the 24/7 Meeting Room to discuss this and next week. There are two meeting times to choose from. UTC 8am Thursday the 4th of September (8pm 4th Sept in NZ) or UTC 9pm Wednesday the 3rd of September (9am 4th Sept in NZ).

So we're focusing in on discussion forums this week, and only for the week. We have been going slowly up until now, spending 2 weeks on the foundation topics. Now we get down to business looking for evidence of community in a range of online environments, and thinking about what facilitation techniques might be appropriate in that context.

So, find yourself a few discussion forums. Preferably open access ones so we can all refer to what you are looking at. Browse Google Groups if you like, but there are many many other forum services to choose from.

Then go back to the question, what is an online community? See if you can settle on at least three indicators of an online community to use to analyse those you are looking at, such as: Has at least 10 active members, has a leader, is current and regular in postings.. (just off the top of my head - yours might be different indicators). Compare and contrast the forums you have found based on the indicators you are using.

Finally, consider the question of facilitation, teaching and moderation.. and make a suggestion of how you might go about facilitating one of the discussion forums you are looking at. What communication skills might you use or not use? Would you use the telephone to contact members of the discussion forum community? Would you email people privately? Would you moderate arguments and delete insulting content? Would you require dialog in the discussion forum - or will announcements be ok. etc.

Good luck, and hope to see you in the meetings.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

To facilitate, teach or moderate

So begins another 2 weeks considering the semantics of words related to the topics in this course.
"Those who can not say what they mean, can not mean what they say"
Peter O'Toole playing Reginald Johnston in The Last Emperor
In the last 2 weeks we have been considering what it is that makes up a community - particularly an online community. Many of us have focused on Wenger's Community of Practice, but some challenged the notion of CoPs, pressing for an understanding of community regardless of a practice or not. Some have given excellent and thought provoking examples of their experiences with online communities; others have bravely tackled the groups and networks debate set up by Stephen Downes. Of course, it is not a question to be resolved, only one to be explored. By exploring this question together we have all brought perspectives and reference points for each other to consider, and so each of us will develop a preferred understanding to work from. There has been some wonderful blog posts relating to this consideration, and its great to see so much commenting and cross referencing happening.

Don't forget to browse and update your subscriptions with some of the 11 late comer's blogs.

To kick off the next two weeks where we will consider the differences and similarities of the practice of facilitating, moderating and teaching, 12 of us met online (link to recordings). 30 minutes of the meeting was spent on a wonderfully colourful round of introductions, with voices and blog links coming in from many corners of the world, including ElderBob from Texas joining us while he cooked up a stew of crookneck squash! :) We had a great discussion about the meaning of community with some very insightful comments made. I offered some advice for the coming weeks, and encouragement to stick with the course through these semantic periods - the fun stuff will be starting soon enough. I suggested that we each start keeping an eye out for interesting topics and ideas for our facilitation projects for the course mini conference in November.

Apologies to those who made it to the meeting session 13 hours earlier. We did have two time frames listed, and we will continue with that idea so as to give people in the various time zones an opportunity to join in. I was absent due to a delayed flight. I hear a meeting was held and that it went well. Unfortunately there is as yet no recording or account of it.

I hope we all find some interesting links and perspectives over the next 2 weeks. Personally, I find this topic one of the more interesting in the course :)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Our meeting and our blogs

17 of us made it to the meeting yesterday. Here's the recording. The course wiki been updated with that link also. It was a pretty good discussion I felt.. there were some quiet moments that I tried to pick up with my rather poorly web conferencing facilitation skills. Thankfully there were some people there who were prepared to jump in and make comment and question things. One that sticks in my mind is Bron's tip on facilitation - "knowing what not to do".

I can certainly relate to this. Often, I will feel so uncomfortable with silence that I will fill the void with my own comments or opinions which may or may not be already more developed than the group that is asking for facilitation. This can have a negative impact on people developing confidence to join in discussions as they might start relying on you as the expert, rather than the facilitator looking to draw expertise and awareness out of people. So, knowing what not to do is critical. As a rule of thumb I have set myself, I will try to respond with more questions than answers, and focus my problem solving skills on making sure the technology us working and that everyone has a chance to be heard.

To that end, I have done my best to create a list of all the people doing the course who have a blog. This should assists us in being able to browse participant blogs and subscribe to ones of interest. I wasn't suitably prepared for the amount of interest in the course and so fumbled the maintenance of the list of people and their blogs, so apologies if you are not on there. Please email me directly if you are not on there but should be.

Initially I was keeping a Google Spreadsheet going (and still am) and keeping it up to date as people introduced themselves through the wiki discussion page. But as people kept joining well into week 1, and others were updating their intro with their blog links, it all kinda got out of hand for me here. I shouldn't have used the Google Spreadsheet until now... Anyway, I've learnt for next time - I will use the wiki for creating the list, and ask everyone to update that list by a certain date, and then generate a spreadsheet from there for my own records.

So, I hope you will access the meeting recording and check the blog list for other blogs of interest to add to your RSS news reader. Remember - don't add them all! just some that are of interest to you - that way it will remain managable for you and chaos for me ;)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Orientation complete? What is an online community?

It has been quite a week! The email forum has been going berserk with enthusiasm, confusion, chaos and insights. Reminds me of that moment you first walk into a fun park... trying to do everything at once :) It was good to see all this, and I think we managed to keep a balance in the orientation week's discussions.

The email forum is not a requirement for the course. It is a space for those of us who enjoy discussing the weekly topics and socially constructing our learning. The minimum requirements for the course are listed on the course wiki. In week 1 - Orientation, everyone should have by now set up their own blog, set up an RSS news reader, and introduced themselves to the course wiki with a link to their blogs.

It is now my job to create a list of everyone doing the course with their contact details and blog addresses. This should make it easier for the rest of us to subscribe to each other's blogs. We don't have to subscribe to everyone's blogs - just the one's that interest us. It is my expectation that little networks will naturally form based on what we can make out about each other through our blogs. Some of us will gravitate towards the more technical aspects of what make online communities work, others towards the more human aspects, and so on. So long as we cross reference each other from time to time such as by making hyperlinks to each other's blog posts from our own posts. Through tis linking a good over view of our network forming will emerge - just in time for week 7 - Blogging networks.

As was discussed in week 1 by some of the participants, a tag word for the course is being used as a way to collect and centralise all our dispersed work in this course. FOC08 is a way to label each of our posts so that they can be collected in one place. It is a nice way to quickly come together if any of us are already established online elsewhere and don't want to have to set up a whole new account and space. The search engine technorati is already starting to pick up references to FOC08, and a few of the participants have manually started collecting people's work into the one place for quick reference. To get your blog posts included in those places, just add the FOC08 tag word in the field below where you type up your blog post and it will appear. Its easy networking! I know.. it sounds complicated to those who are not familiar with it.. but it IS a very handy thing for people who are already set up online.. it saves a lot of time.

So, we now begin week 2 and 3 focusing on the question - What is an online community? We are meeting at 3am UTC (That's 3pm NZ time, and other times here). Just click the link to the 24/7 meeting room before that time and you won't need a password to join. A recording will be made available if you can't make it.

Things to do for the next 2 weeks are outlined on the wiki. Please take your time with it, you have 2 whole weeks (10-12 hours) on the question of what is an online communty? I think it is one worth reading up on, discussing in the email forum and posting a response to your blog. Already there has been a promising start to a discussion in the email forum on the subtle differences between blogs and forums for communication. Don't forget to cross reference to other people's posts, and of course to include other reference's in your post that show's you are researching and learning :)

Good luck, and watch this space for updates.. this space being the course blog - add it to your shiny new RSS News Reader ;)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Our first meeting

A group of 16 of us met in the Elluminate (24/7 meeting room) today. Here's a recording. (I will make an MP3 of that recording soon. As expected, others had some technical issues and weren't able to make it, others found their way into another meeting room entirely! And the meeting room that we did have dropped its connection for a moment there, which really freaked me out. All that aside though, it was a good meeting and we covered everything that needs to considered for this orientation week.. namely:

  1. Everyone focus on setting up their blog
  2. Updating their introduction on the course wiki with a link to their blog
  3. Setting up an RSS News Reader

These 3 steps are very important if we are to benefit from each other through this course. The wiki entry for this week has help resources on how to do those things if you are new to all this, and the email forum will be a great place to ask questions and get help. Please use them!

Regarding that meeting room. I thought I'd be tricky and set the meeting to begin from the 25 July and run until 24 December. I did this so we would all have constant access to the meeting space if ever any of us needed such a space at a time other than our allocated times. The link to that space will always be the same and is listed at the top of the wiki, and in the links on the course blog. Look for the link that says 24/7 meeting room. I plan to make MP3 recordings of our meetings for people to be able to listen in on commutes etc.

If this meeting room proves to be unreliable, we will move to one of many options. Lets see.


  1. Set up your blogs
  2. Update your intro
  3. Set up an RSS news reader

Monday, July 28, 2008

Making a start!

Well, Welcome all! We have quite a number with us for this course.. 63 people at the time I write this.. most of them coming in at the very last minute and from all areas of the world! I'm bound to have missed people, so please double check my lists.

This afternoon I have been going through the expressions of interest for participating in this course - that being all the introductions made by people to the course wiki - and adding emails to the Google Group email forum.

I wanted to keep email loads initially low for everyone and so I asked introductions to be made on the wiki. If some how you see that your name IS on the Google Group, but NOT on the Wiki introductions, please amend as you see fit. In the end, and at the very least, you want to have yourself on the Google Group email forum, as this is the end point for further instructions, and obviously a space for general discussion. Remember, if you want to keep email to a minimum, you can adjust your membership to any number of options such as daily digest or no email at all. Visit the Google Group archive for further details.

Our first web conference.

The following instructions are repeated in the full course outline on the wiki. (Repeated for importance :)

At 10pm on the 28th of July Universal Time Code (UTC) - That's 10am on the 29th for us in New Zealand (other time zones here and appologies to those who are outside a reasonable hour for the meeting) we will attempt to connect voice to voice for the first time. You can do this by clicking the link to the 24/7 Meeting space about 30 minutes before the time. This will leave you enough time to load the required software (Elluminate) and test the connection (no password required).

This being our first try at connecting via web conference, we should expect that some of us may not be able to connect for various reasons such as workplace security settings, computer set up, hardware or just the mystery of computing and networks. For this reason, the webconference will be recorded so that those that cannot be there can at least access the recording. The 24/7 Meeting room is always open to anyone who wants to use it for there own meetings about this course - perhaps at better times for you... just click the link at the agreed time :)

Other instructions for week 1
(copied from the wiki)
A week spent orientating yourself into the course, the commitment required, the assignments and what else is involved. For those new to this way of learning online, this week will seem daunting. Get through it and the rest of the course will flow for you nicely.

To do

  1. Set up a blog for your weekly work in this course. If you already have a blog, you are welcome to use that so long as you can clearly indicate what posts are for this course. If you are new to blogging, refer to this resource for getting started. If you are based in the Otago region, Otago Polytechnic offers learning support in setting up a blog through its Learning Centre (for enrolled students) and Community Learning Centres (for the wider community).
  2. Attend the web conference meeting room (No password required) at UTC 10pm 28 July (10am 29 July NZST, see World Clock) to discuss the orientation to the course. Please try to introduce yourself to the course discussion page before this meeting begins. This meeting will be recorded and made available directly after if you cannot attend. You can test your computer and network settings prior to the meeting by using the meeting room link any time. Trouble shooting and help at the Elluminate support page.
  3. Post to your blog what you hope to get out of this course. Include any concerns or questions you may have.
  4. Introduce yourself to the course in the discussion page. When you have your blog set up, add your blog's web address to your introduction.
  5. Set up an RSS News Reader and subscribe to the blogs of others in this course. Again, refer to this resource for getting started with an RSS News Reader to subscribe to blogs. More information on RSS available via CommonCraft

Extra resources


So many thanks for all your interest in this course, I hope it lives up to your expectations and I hope you will give back by making the most of your time with us and these topics. Collectively I am confident we will be a valuable resource for each other. There is a wealth of experiences among us.

You should allow around 5-6 hours per week for the course, if you are going over that time stop and ask yourself why. If its because you are really enjoying the topic or activities, then great. But if its through technical difficulties and just general management of the course requirements, please get in touch with me and we'll see what can be done to help. It shouldn't be a heavy workload. Good luck and enjoy yourself!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Next course starts 28 July 08. Open participation, all welcome!

Chat Room - A photo by iBoy Daniel

That course we ran last year is coming up again. I've tweaked it quite a bit - free at last from the learning management system it was locked up inside, running in a wiki schedule, backed up by blogs and an email forum.

This course has been developed by staff in the Educational Development Centre of Otago Polytechnic and is designed to help both formal and informal learners access and interpret models, research and professional dialog in the facilitation of online communities. After completing this course people should be confident in facilitating online and/or be able to critique and offer advice to other people in the facilitation of online communities.

The next facilitated course starts 28 July 2008.

Participation in this course is open. You will need to have regular access the Internet and be comfortable with independently completing tasks. To join simply introduce yourself to the discussion page and include an email address that can be use to add you to an email forum for the course.

In formal learning terms this is a level 7 course registered on the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. Formal learning participants engage in this course for a period of 10 weeks with an indicative time commitment of at least 6 hours per week. Formal learners will receive concentrated learning support throughout this period, and assessment services and formal recognition at the completion of the course. Some people may prefer to engage in this course informally and to set their own pace through the work using the schedule as a guide. Informal engagement is welcome and arrangements can be made for formal assessment and recognition at any time with the course facilitator.