Monday, November 30, 2009

30th November Round up assignments, course review

This week is the last week and will be a breather period to tie up all your assignments, review and summarise your weekly blogging efforts, provide feedback to the course facilitator on the content, workloads, and other aspects, and to meet in our final web conference to discuss the topics as a whole.

To do

1. Write a closing post to your blog with links to your previous postings made for each of the 10 topics. Include a few sentences after each link that summarises what you wrote for each topic:

  • What is an online community?
  • Facilitating, moderating, or teaching
  • Discussion forums
  • Blog networks
  • Wiki collaborators
  • Virtual Worlds
  • Social networking platforms
  • Reflecting on the different kinds of online communities
  • Facilitate an event for the course mini conference
  • Evaluate the facilitation of an online event

2. Finish this closing post with feedback to the course. Did you learn new and useful things? Was it challenging enough? What could have been better? What could you have done better. Did the course facilitator do a good job? How will you apply what you have learned? Who would you recommend to do this course next time?

3. If you would like to give feedback in a more private forum, feel free to complete this evaluation form.

4. Attend meeting on Elluminate to debrief the mini-conference and wrap up the course, Tuesday 1st December 8pm NZ - international time here.

If you are not going to be finished by the end of the week, 6th December, please let me know. If I do not hear from you I will assume you have finished all the assessments and I will complete the marking process.

Thank you all for working so hard over the last few weeks. Whilst I know there have been a number of challenges, I also hope you have enjoyed this course and learned some valuable lessons about facilitating online.

Good luck and have a wonderful Christmas, Sarah

Image: Fireworks - St. Louis Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton

Monday, November 23, 2009

23rd November Evaluate the facilitation of an online event

So, did we survive the course mini conference? More importantly, did we learn a thing or two about facilitating online and our responsibilities to this our online community of sorts? This week we reflect on the experience and make note of the things that happened and what we learned from it all

To do

This is the week you complete assignment 3

1. Those of you who have not arranged a mini event yet, please finalize details and let us know on the mini-conference page. If you're wanting to know what is a good day for me, Tuesday 1st and Friday 4th December are both days I can attend as marker.

2. Consider your own or another's facilitation of an event at the course mini conference. Review the preparations that should have been documented on the wiki's history, the wiki's discussion area, and the blog of the event facilitator.

3. Complete assignment 3 as a post to your blog

4. Attend a webconference on Elluminate on Tuesday 1st December at 8pm NZ time to debrief the mini conference.


There are quite a few of you running behind schedule. I am very happy to give extensions if you need them. Ideally, I would like everything wrapped up by Sunday 13th December which gives me a week to finish marking etc. However, if you think you'll need longer to finish, please let me know.

Please drop me a email to confirm when you have finished your blogging so I know I can complete marking your posts - I don't want to mark you down for not doing something when you actually haven't quite finished. Any questions about any of this, please let me know. I am away until Saturday so won't be very quick to answer emails over the next couple of days.

Good luck, Sarah

Image: Lotus Flower Reflections IMGP6812-refl Bahman Farzad

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

'To the mighty FO09'

Here's a 'good luck' message to everyone from Leigh Blackall.

If you want to leave him a message, go to the video on YouTube and leave a comment...that way you can see how conversations develop on YouTube and have a think about how you would use it as a platform for facilitation. You can also have a browse around and see what videos Leigh has made and what he subscribes to.

Monday, November 9, 2009

9th November Facilitating Online 2009 Mini-Conference

Things are certainly hotting up and the 2009 Facilitating Online mini conference starts today. Check out the schedule on the course wiki to see details of the events, where and when.

I am very excited and really looking forward to attending the events. Unfortunately, we have had to make a last-minute change to how we mark the assessment of this course. Leigh has just moved to Canberra for a new job so we have had to abandon the model we were using ie keeping the facilitator separate from the marker. Thus, I will be marking all the course assignments and someone else from EDC Otago Polytechnic will be moderating.

To do (if you haven't done so already)
This is when you complete Assignment 2.

1. Confirm details of your event listed in the course mini conference.
2. Actively promote your event to the rest of the participants and wider. This conference is open for anyone to attend, so take the opportunity to bring in wider audiences.
3. Facilitate your event at the mini conference and attend as many if not all other events in the conference.
4. Help document the conference by posting commentary to your blog.

Those of you finalising your events
For those of you who have yet to arrange your event, please check what has been organised thus far. There is a very strong theme about online tools and how we use them to organise ourselves, so be careful that you do not replicate what is already being offered.

Also, if you're thinking about asking for a brief extension, I will be away from 24th-27th November so will be unable to attend any live events during that time.

'Thank you' to Leigh
Last, but certainly not least I would like to thank Leigh for all the work he has done in this course not just this year but over the last few years, and wish him all the best for his new job. It was Leigh, Bronwyn Hegarty and this course that started me on my journey three years ago and for that I am very grateful.

I can tell you that this course is only the beginning, and that you have heaps more challenges and fun in front to you :)


Image: 'untitled' Emery_Way

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

2nd November Reflect on different kinds of online communities

You should now have more understanding about the difference between a community, a group and a team. Also how the roles of a teacher, moderator and facilitator differ and the diverse range of skills each role needs. Spend this week reflecting on what you have learned so far about different online communities and the roles and skills required of an effective facilitator.

To do
1. Write a post to your blog that reviews all you have considered in this course so far. When you talk about the previous posts you have made, please link to them so we can all track back to the orginal post.
2. Be sure to read the posts of some other participants and offer comments and feedback.

Last week's recording
Last week we met and discussed the features of social networking platforms and how we could use them for facilitation. We spent a lot of time discussing the issues of security and online identity. In response to this discussion, Herve has written a blog post discussing the issues and linking to some interesting articles about the dangers of using platforms such as Facebook. Herve has written:

I am more comfortable with a closed environment where you can control the membership of the group and moderate the content.

If you read his post, please leave a comment with your opinion and join in the discussion about how facilitators can ensure security yet encourage open networking and constructive engagement. Krishan has joined the conversation on his blog by publishing some very useful guidelines for using social networks.

The link to the recording is here.

Mini conference - time is running out
Just a reminder that the mini conference starts next week so you're running out of time for the planning and advertising. Please make sure you put the details of your event on the course wiki on the page "Course Mini Conference". Don't forget you can look to see what last year's partuicpants did if you want some ideas. Here are some ideas about how you can advertise your event:
  • tell your work colleagues, institution or company;
  • blog post;
  • FO09 email group;
  • create event on Facebook;
  • email to 'networked learning' email group
  • ask the group who use Twitter to send to their network.
If you are still struggling for ideas, please contact me persoanlly asap.

Practising with Elluminate
Just a reminder that if you want to practice the full range of facilities on Elluminate, you need to ask me to meet you there so I can give you the ability to be the 'teacher'. Once I have done that, I can leave you in peace to get on and have a 'play'. Please feel free to ask me to meet you in the evenings or at the weekend - I don't have a 'real' life so I'm online most of the time :)


Image: 'Une représentation de mon réseau social dans+Facebook' luc legay

Monday, October 19, 2009

19th October Looking for online community: Social networking platforms

Social networking platforms are web services that technically facilitate social networking and community development. From Facebook to Linkedin, each social networking platform has slightly different functionality and social phenomenon. In this topic we will try out the Online Facilitators network, and review several other social networking platforms like it.

To do

1. Join the Online Facilitators network on and help generate activity by creating a strong profile page, observing and interacting with other members.

2. Attend the Elluminate meeting on Tuesday 27th 12pm (world clock here) where we will discuss the features of other social networking platforms, and become administrators of the network so we can view the admin features of this particular platform.

3. Write up a summary of social networking platforms and include ideas on how you think facilitation would work in these contexts.

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

Second Life

A small number of us met in Second Life last week. As a follow-up, I would like to offer you two more sessions: Tuesday 20th October 10am and Thursday 12pm. I will meet you at :


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Extreme facilitation

I had an experience of extreme facilitation last night which gave me a few gray hairs. We had an Elluminate meeting set up to discuss the mini conference with Leigh, who has recently moved to Canberra. It was a very important meeting aiming to clarify things about this important assessment and a good number of people were present. But Leigh and Herve just couldn't get into the meeting room. Leigh had the idea of integrating Skype into Elluminate, so we eventually managed to communicate with each other with me acting as a form of conduit between the two technologies - a great example of the problems you face with online facilitation and how to deal with them.

Clarifying things about the mini conference
The link to the meeting can be found here. It is well worth listening to the recording because a number of important points were clarified by Leigh. Here's a brief summary of what we talked about.

Topic of event.
Should be related to the course in some way. May be a further exploration of what we've already looked at in terms of online facilitation or related in some way. For example, there seems to be a lot of interest in DimDim so one event could be an Q&A session with someone who has used DimDim a lot. Another idea for an event is an interview of a person who is known for his/her online facilitation such as Sue Waters or Nancy White.

Don't get too hung up on the topic of the event - the important element of this assignment is the process of facilitating the event and what we learn from it. Having said that, we also want to enjoy the events and get something out of them.

The event may be synchronous or asynchronous. You could organize a live event - interview, Q&A session, panel discussion or debate. Or you could facilitate an asynchronous discussion using a wiki, email group, Facebook or blog. You could record an interview with someone then have a live event with participants discussing the recording, or integrate the recording and discussion into YouTube or Slideshare.

The presenters do not need to be 'experts' in their field - you could interview a classmate about their experience of DimDim or get a panel of classmates together to discuss the pros and cons about blogging, online facilitation or open access education. You could interview previous course participants on what they learned about online facilitation and how they have used that information in the last year/s. However, if you do approach an 'expert' like Nancy White, please be mindful that they are likely to be very busy so may not be able to help you. They will also require plenty of notice so you'll need to get on and organise things asap.

Please do not hesitate to ask Leigh or I for ideas about who to contact as a speaker. For instance, if you were going to run a session about DimDim, I can recommend someone who has had quite a lot of experience of using it and would probably be happy to come and talk about it.

The planning of the mini conference including times for the events will be continued on the course wiki - the page to look for is "Course Mini Conference". A number of people have already started to discuss their ideas for topics on the "Discussion" page. If you're stuck for ideas or not sure how things should be organized, have a look at what students did last year. Also, don't forget to check the instructions for the assignment - this gives clear information about how to organize your event and what information you need to share with us on the wiki.

Using the wiki
To start you off, I have written an example of the information we require from you on the wiki. A number of people have said they are anxious about using the wiki and not quite sure what to do. The easiest way I know is to copy what has been written before. I am very happy for you to contact me and I can talk you through a few basics via Skype or Elluminate. I am back in Dunedin so can also be contacted by phone via Otago Polytechynic as from next Monday. I am also happy for you to phone me at home in the evenings - let me know and I will give you my phone number.

Communication platforms
You can use whatever communication tool you like but you must keep in mind access issues for your participants. I know we've had a couple of issues with Elluminate but on the whole it is a very reliable communication platform and can be used on Internet dial-up. Second Life is also a reliable platform for conferencing although it does take a little time getting used to it. I have organised a couple of times for looking at other communication options - I am as new to these tools as you are, so these sessions will be very informal 'test' sessions.
  • DimDim: Thursday 15th October 1pm & 4pm; Friday 16th October 12pm. Let me know if you are coming and I will send you an invitation - if I can work out how to do it :)
  • WiziiQ: Monday 19th October 12.30 pm - click here for meeting
  • Tinychat: Tuesday 20th October 12.30. I don't think this room can be set up beforehand so I will email the link to the room around 12.15 so you can join me by 12.30.
All these times are New Zealand times. If those of you who live over seas would like to arrange alternative times to test these tools, please let me know.

Whew.....I think that is it. Needless to say, if you have any queries please don't hesitate to contact either Leigh or myself. Sarah

Image: Image: 'Icarus - 127/365' tranchis

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Wayne Mackintosh and wikis

The recording of the meeting where Wayne Mackintosh talked about wiki is here. I haven't been able to check that the recording is all correct, so please let me know if there are any problems with it. Wayne is speaking under the name of 'Terry Marler', so sorry about any confusion.

How a wiki works

In the meeting Wayne gave a short explanation about how wiki works and how communities of people are formed as a result of the work they do on wiki. Wayne told us a little about Wikieducator, which is the wiki project he is involved in.

Looking at wiki community
To get a better sense of how wiki community work, I suggested that everyone has a look at the discussion pages that sit behind a page on a wiki. For example...look at the entry about global warming on Wikipedia...then look at the discussion page...what do you see?

Mini conference

At the meeting we also had a very quick discussion about the mini conference. Here's a couple of points that cropped up:
  • Don't forget you are the facilitator of the event...not the teacher/speaker.
  • Make sure you post the focus of your event on the discussion section of the mini conference wiki page so we can all see what you're thinking of doing. I'm starting to get a sense that there is a duplication of ideas, so it's important that we all liaise on this page.
  • Leigh will be available on Wednesday 7th October 8pm NZ to discuss questions about the mini conference - world clock here

5th October Looking for online community: Virtual Worlds

A virtual world is a computer-based simulated environment intended for its users to interact via avatars. These avatars are usually depicted as textual, two-dimensional, or three-dimensional graphical representations, although other forms are possible (auditory and touch sensations for example). Some, but not all, virtual worlds allow for multiple users. Wikipedia July 2008.

In the next two weeks 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 a modern computer and you will need to install the Second Life client (platform/program) to do the activities. If you live close to an Internet cafe, they will be able to set you up for an optimal experience. Some people working in public institutions or large organisations have experienced restricted access to Second Life. If this is the case check with your computer administrator, or consider completing this topic on an external computer and network.

To do

1. Download and install the Second Life. Set up a Second Life account and avatar. Post your Second Life user name to your blog. Instructions for how to do all this can be found here in this orientation package.

2. Add your Second Life user name next to your details in the Participants list. You will see that my name is Petal Stransky.

3. Once you have installed Second Life on your computer feel free to have a look around. This link that will start Second Life and log you in directly to Jokaydia. Jokaydia is an island in Second Life that has a very active community of users, including a number of educators and researchers. This link will take you to the Second Life Education New Zealand project, which are two resources that support the teaching of interview skills and midwifery practice.

4. Attend the meeting I will be leading on Thursday 15th October 8pm NZ - world clock here. 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 including Jokaydia and the SLENZ builds. Please note we will be starting off in Elluminate before I take you into SL.

5. 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 within Second Life.

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

Extra resources can be found on the course wiki.


Image: Mini-Conference in Second Life PiAir (Old Skool)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Online meetings for the next couple of weeks

Here are the dates and times for online meetings for the next couple of weeks.

Wiki, community and facilitation
I will be interviewing Wayne Mackintosh about wiki, community and facilitation tomorrow, Friday 2nd October 12pm NZ - world clock here.

Apologies for the late notification of this meeting.

Planning for assignment 2 and the mini conference
Leigh Blackall will be available to talk to you more about the mini conference and the virtual event you are asked to facilitate. This is planned for Wednesday 7th October 8pm NZ - world clock here.

Learning about Second Life
I will be putting on my 'teacher's' hat and teaching a session on how to use Second Life. This ties in with the section of the course that looks at community and facilitation in Second Life. This session will be on Wednesday 15th October 8pm NZ - world clock here. Leigh will facilitate this session.

The session will start off in Elluminate but we will be moving over to Second Life to have a look around and learn more about how to interact there. I am currently taking the Learner Centered Learning course so this teaching session will be observed as part of my assessment. I will send you full information a little nearer the time but if you want to get a quick preview, here is my lesson plan. Please feel free to leave me comments or feedback about my plans to help me prepare for the session.


Monday, September 28, 2009

28th September Looking for online community: Wiki collaborators

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 shared 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 describe 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. Review the links in the navigation box titled "community" to the left of this wiki, and see if you can detect key members of the Wikiversity community.

4. Join the online meeting where I will interview a key member of a wiki community, asking where they think facilitation skills and services are needed. We will also discuss the up coming course mini conference and everyone's thoughts and ideas for it.

The provisional date and time for the meeting is Wednesday 7th October 8pm New Zealand time (international time zones here) - I will get back to you in the next few days to confirm the date and time. I haven't arranged a meeting this week because many people are away on holiday. However, if you would like an informal meeting this week, please let me know.

Extra resources to help you understand more about wiki can be found here.

I am sure there will be lots of questions thrown around over the next few weeks so feel free to ask them in the course wiki, as per instructions above.


Image: 'Rainbow' jakerome

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Getting our heads around blogs, forums, Twitter and facilitation

At today's online meeting we had a great discussion about networking, facilitation and the difference between blogs, forums and Twitter. The recording of today's meeting can be found here.

I think it is important to understand the difference between a discussion forum and blog so that you can then go on to recognise how to use facilitation in those different forums. A blog is a web site that is under the personal control of the owner. It can be used for personal reflection, disseminating information, creating discussions and networking. Ultimately, its use is dictated by the blog owner. A forum is collectively owned by the people who use it to discuss issues. There will be a forum owner or moderator who makes the rules and keeps track on what is going on in the forum.

Twitter is synchronous communication tool. It is an instant message system whereby you can only use up to 140 characters. It is used for disseminating information, connecting with people, giving out your personal ideas and thoughts, advertising synchronous events, and as another form of RSS. Some people use Twitter to advertise their latest blog post. I use Twitter to keep in touch with people, while my blog posts tend to be a deeper reflection of what I have been doing and thinking.

Here is what Problogger has to say about Twitter and blogging. And here is another conversation about the pros and cons of Twitter and blogs on Steve Wheeler's blog.

If you want to follow conversations on Twitter, follow the tags (hashtags #) that are put on tweets to identity them. A lot of people use a tool called Tweetdeck that allows them to do this.

Blogging network
A blogging network is a group of blogs that connect together. This may be under the umbrella of an organization or company. One example of this is the Education Australia that has an online platform called "edna", which includes personal blogs.

In my experience, the more dynamic blogging networks are formed naturally as a result of people's interests and desire to communicate with each other. A blogging network will not suddenly form just because you have set up a blog or collection of blogs. You will become a part of a blogging network and/or community when you regularly read other blogs, leave comments, join discussions, take the discussion back to your blog, and link with other blogs.

Sue Waters and Edublogger
A good example of blogging networks and facilitation is the work of Sue Waters. Sue set up her own blog a few years ago to help teachers to learn more about the use of technology in their teaching practice. As a result, her blog has become a major link in a network of educators who blog and use social media and technology in education. She is now employed by The Edublogger and facilitates free online meetings for her network.

So my message to you this week is: if you want to find active blogging networks, you need to look beyond constructed blogging groups to the informal networks that have formed as a result shared interests and commitment to blogging and communication.

A few blog posts to look at
There have been some really interesting blog posts written by course participants this fortnight. Debra is getting her head around what a blog is and how it can be used. Rachel has picked up a few good tips about blogging which are to write regular posts, post from your experience and use a clean blog design. Catherine has challenged me to reflect on how I have been facilitating this course. In her latest blog post, she talks about the differences between a teacher, moderator and facilitator. Stephen's post about forums and facilitation has attracted some interesting discussion. In particular I have enjoyed Nancy White's definition of the difference between community and networks. She says "community often “nests” inside of networks". And the other post I followed a link to was that of WiserEarth in which Angus talked about 'weaving' a community as opposed to facilitating it.


Image: 'Rosie the Blogger' Mike Licht,

Monday, September 14, 2009

Online meeting to discuss blogging networks an facilitation

Just a quick note to confirm our next online meeting will be Wednesday 23rd September 12.00 New Zealand time where we will discuss blogging, networks and facilitation. For other time zones, please click here.

As always, the meeting room is open, so please feel free to use it this week if you wish to arrange a more informal student meeting amongst yourselves.


Friday, September 11, 2009

14th September Looking for online community: Blog networks

A blogging network is what we are building in this course. We each have a blog, we each should be monitoring each other's progress, and we should be commenting and cross referencing each other's posts from time to time. Hopefully by now, we ARE doing all this and are starting to see how a blogging network can function. But ours is a small and time dependent network. Real blogging networks develop over longer periods of time and include strong and weak connections between people, and a much more diverse range of topics.

To do

1. Look at the Wikipedia entry for Blogosphere and pay particular attention to the See Also section. Read up on one of the listed blogospheres in that section and write a post to your blog that explains in your own words what a Blogging Network is and can be - cite examples.

2. Make contact with a member of a blogging network you have identified and interview them for comments and ideas on how they think their blogging network could benefit from facilitation services. It might be they'd appreciate a chance to conference with each other on a particular topic, they might like to meet each other in person, etc.

3. Some of you will be contacted to present in this topic's meeting.

Next online meeting/s
Please see my previous blog post about arrangements for the next online meeting/s and let me know what you would prefer to do so I can get on and make appropriate arrangements.


Image: 'Britain Going Blog Crazy - Metro Article' Annie Mole

What we've learned about online forums

Last night we had a great meeting where we discussed online forums, what elements of community we saw in them and how the forums would benefit from facilitation services. It was fascinating to hear about the different discussion forums, people's various interests and experiences of interviewing people in the can read more in course participants' blogs. The recording of the meeting can be found here.

NB: I am writing this on a computer that does not give me access to Elluminate, so I am not 100% sure if I have given you the correct link to the recording...please could one of you check and let me know if there are any problems with the link or recording.

Summary of the discussion
I have to say that I didn't feel I did a very good job of facilitating the meeting. I could feel myself starting to impose my own opinion and I didn't summarize or conclude the meeting very well. So here's a quick summary of some of the main points.
  • There are many, many forums around of varying quality and relevance. It can be challenging getting access and joining, but they can be very interesting and supportive.
  • People talked about a continuum starting at being a lurker, where you find out about the group and how to communicate through to being an active, regular participant.
  • Clearly there is a need for moderation in order to deal with conflict, spam and other issues and many forums have moderators. We have to be careful we do not confuse moderation and facilitation in this context.
  • Some forums spontaneously 'facilitate' themselves, other forums look like they would benefit from facilitation services.
  • We weren't sure how facilitation would work in the context of online forums, especially in 'volunteer' forums...would anyone have the inclination to do it without payment, would payment be required, how would payment be organized?
If you have any further comments or feel I have summarized our discussion incorrectly, please feel free to leave a comment on this post.

Next meeting
We seem to have settled into a pattern of weekly online meetings...informal meeting one week to discuss whatever takes our fancy, and a more formal meeting the next week to discuss the latest activity. So, theoretically, we should be in line for an informal meeting next week, and then the week starting 21st September, we should be scheduled to talk about blogging and online community.

However I am away the week of the 21st September and cannot facilitate a meeting that week. So we have several choices...please could you get in touch either on this blog or email group about what you think is the best arrangement, as soon as possible.
  1. Have a meeting about blogging and community at the end of next week and no meeting the week of the 21st September.
  2. Have a meeting about blogging and community at the end of next week, and an informal meeting next week facilitated by a course participant.
  3. Have an informal meeting next week and the blogging meeting the following week, facilitated by a course participant.
Hope that makes sense!?

Let me know which option you prefer...and if you like the idea of a meeting in the week of the 21st September, please feel free to volunteer to facilitate it which will include setting a date and time, and letting everyone know about the meeting...great practice for assignment 2 :)

On a personal note
I am also a student at the moment, looking at how to develop appropriate learning environments for learners. One of my assignments for this course is to 'teach' a session and have it observed and critiqued. I thought I would use one of our informal meetings to do this (if that's OK with the group).

So my question to you is: what would you find useful to look at...for me to 'teach'...I would be aiming to do this session at the end of September/beginning of October. The topic doesn't have to be directly to do with this course...maybe you'd like to know more about social tools....?? Please let me know what would be useful for you.


Image: 'untitled' starlights_

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Looking at online forums

This is just a quick reminder about what you should be doing this week.

Identifying 'community' in online forums
By now you need to have located an online forum and looked at it to identify what aspects of 'community' you see in the forum. Information about what an online community is can be found in our meeting discussions on the 10th August, as well as the blogs of course participants. You'll probably have to look at the forum archives to get a real sense of how the forum operates.

Blog post
Then you need to interview a member of the forum to find out how she/he thinks the forum could use a facilitator. Once you have done this, write up your findings into a blog post.

Once you have published your blog post, send the link in an email to the course email group.

Next online meeting
Our next online meeting is on Thursday 10th September 8pm New Zealand time (international time zones here). Be prepared to present the findings of your investigations at the meeting.

Swanning off to Darwin
I am currently in Darwin, Sydney and Adelaide for five weeks. I am still available in all my usual online places if you want to get in touch. If you need to speak to me, let me know a convenient time and I will phone you.

Thinking of you all as I swelter in the tropical heat. Sarah

Image: Bicentennial Park, Darwin, Australia yeowatzup

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Filling in a few blank spaces

Yesterday we had an online meeting in which we had a couple of informal discussions that will be of interest. The link to the recording is here.

Informal and formal students
In the first part of the meeting we talked to Leigh about the model of formal/informal learning that this course follows. Leigh explained the difference in the 'services' that informal/formal students received. He reiterated that it is not the type of enrollment that is important but rather the learning that is shared by course participants.

Writing blog posts

We thought that blog posts differed depending on the type of enrollment, that posts by informal students tended to be shorter, more concise and 'friendlier'. This is a lesson for formal students - your blog posts do not need to be mini essays but rather concise reflections and summaries of your personal learning. And do not be afraid to add stories from your own experience, and link to wider reading beyond recommended texts and resources.

Clarifying this week's activities
The second half of the meeting we spent clarifying what is required in this week's activities. You need to find a discussion forum in the form of an email discussion group or bulletin board. I came up with a couple of examples that ranged from the Google email "networked learning group" to discussion forums on Trademe and Amazon.

Type of forum
The forum you look at may be one based on education, or it may be focused on a special interest, hobby or health/family issue - the choice is up to you. You will not have time to immerse yourself in the community so you'll need to be able to access the forum archives to get a sense of how that particular community works. However, when you are blogging about the forum, please be mindful of confidentiality issues ie do not identify people or issues if the group is a closed forum.

Hope this helps to clarify questions....if it doesn't, please get back to me.


PS: The picture has no relevance to the course other than we are welcoming Spring here in New Zealand :)

Image: 'That's a BIG Noise from a Lil+lamb..:O)))' law_keven

Saturday, August 29, 2009

31st August 2009. Looking for online community: Discussion forums

Since the commencement of this course we have been looking what online community is and defining its features. We came up with some ideas about how to identify an online community in an online meeting, and carried on our discussions in our blogs such as those of Dean Groom, HeatherM and Adrienne.

The last two weeks we have been considering the difference between teaching, facilitation and moderating. Course participants have written some great posts and it has been interesting to see different perspectives of facilitation between educators and non-educators in blogs such as Stephen Blyth, Chris Woodhouse, Rachel, Herve and Hilsconnectionto. And as I said in my last post, we came up with a list of facilitation skills in our last online meeting.

Looking at discussion forums
Over the next two weeks we will be looking at online community and discussion forums. Discussion forums are probably the most used platforms for online communication and community development. Car lovers use them, software developers use them, subcultures use them.

A discussion forum is primarily a text based mode of communication where someone will post a start to a thread and people will respond to that thread. Often, many threads can be going at the same time, with discussion lasting from a few hours to years in some cases! Google Groups and Yahoo Groups host many discussion forums, with the added feature of sending email to participants. Other forums might not have the email feature, relying on users returning to the forum to post.

To do
1. Locate an example of an online forum and post to your blog a link to the forum with an assessment of the forum based on the list of identifying features that we have collaboratively developed in our online meeting.

2. Interview a member of the forum you are looking at and obtain comments and ideas on how the forum might benefit from facilitation services - such as a coordinated event to help focus people around a particular issue, or the writing of a summary to close a thread in the forum.

Course email forum
3. Join this course's email forum (if you haven't done so, or if I haven't joined you up already) and post an email with a link to your blog post containing your write up and interview.

Any questions?
The next online meeting will be on Tuesday 1st September 3pm New Zealand time (international time zones here). I have asked Leigh to talk to us about formal/informal learning which is modeled in this course, as some of you have shown interest in knowing more. We will also be available to answer any questions about what we have done so far and the weeks ahead.

What you have found out about online forums and community
The following online meeting will be on Thursday 10th September 8pm New Zealand time (international time zones here). In this meeting we will be discussing what we have found out about online forums and community, and some of you will be asked to present your findings.

Here is the link for both online meetings.

How are things for you?
I would appreciate a quick sense of how things are going for you, especially those of you who are enrolled into this course, so please feel free to do the poll on the right. If you have any questions or feedback about how the course is going, please feel free to contact me in any way. I will be phoning all enrolled students again over the next few days to check in with you.


Image: 'Sarah laboring under the misconception that partially+obscuring+her+face+will+slow+down+my+picture+taking...+seriously,+how+long+has+she+known+me?'

Friday, August 28, 2009

Great meeting this afternoon

I am thrilled to say (I hope!) that the recording of today's meeting worked, so you can find the link to the recording here, as well as on the course wiki. We had a very lively discussion about the difference between teaching, facilitation and moderating with an excellent example of moderation from yours truly (even if I say so myself).

What I found interesting was that definitions seemed to vary depending on people's context - the recording is really worth listening to if you missed the meeting.

Skills and actions of a facilitator
Here is the list of some of the skills and responsibilities of a facilitator that we came up with - thanks to Stephen Blyth for transcribing. If you want to know more, check out some great blog posts by various course participants.
  • active listener
  • time keeping
  • helps to coordinate an exchange of ideas
  • re-framing contributions
  • guide the learning process
  • challenge the idea, not the person
  • has a toolkit of methods to get wide involvement, eg match-sticks, brainstorming
  • distinguishes process from content
  • summarising and checking
  • guide the learners but brings out areas that they might already know about - and increases the understanding.
Next activity
There appears to be a little confusion about our next activity or module. Some people have started talking about looking at blogging communities, but actually the next section of the course if looking at online forums. So make sure you have the correct details which can be found on the course wiki. I will send out a blog post with more information at the beginning of next week.

Image: '0216' Cia de Foto

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sorting out definitions and roles

Just a quick post to apologise for the poor recording of our session led by Chris last Monday, on how to set up a Pageflakes page - I don't know what happened - there may have been a break down in the technology when my own computer crashed.

Suffice to say, there's no need to panic :) If you want to know more about Pageflakes or iGoogle, have a look at their 'help' pages which will give you information on how to use the platforms. The other way to learn about online resources such as these is to check out Youtube.

In the meantime, don't get distracted with 'bells and whistles' - get stuck into the serious contemplation about the difference between teaching, facilitation and moderating.

Look forward to hearing about your thoughts on Friday at 12pm, New Zealand time.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Managing the chaos

A number of people doing this course is finding it hard to get their heads around how they can follow all the blogs and all the other sources of information. That is a very normal feeling when you are new to a course like this, and it takes a while to settle into a routine that suits you, with tools that work for you.

Today, Chris Woodhouse shared suggestions about what works for him, including Pageflakes and iGoogle. Have a listen to this recording for all sorts of tips about managing online communication. Then have a think about what you can use for yourself, and how you can use them to facilitate communication in an online community.

If anyone would like to have a go at facilitating the next meeting on Friday 28th at 12pm NZ time, please let me know - we will be looking at the difference between teaching, moderating and facilitating.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

17th August: Facilitating, Moderating or Teaching

Many people either don't understand the differences, or too easily confuse the different roles of a facilitator, moderator and teacher. Some teachers believe that teaching is an act of facilitation. Some facilitators see their main role as moderating discussion and keeping order. Over these two weeks we will consider the differences in these three roles and attempt to describe situations where they might be mutually exclusive from one another.

Things to do
Try to determine what the different roles and behaviors are for these three roles:
  • Facilitator
  • Moderator
  • Teacher
You might like to look for their definitions on something like Wikipedia.

As a post to your blog, answer each of the following questions:
  • When might the role of a teacher undermine the role of a facilitator?
  • When might the role of a moderator undermine the role of a facilitator?
  • When might the role of a facilitator undermine the role of a teacher or moderator?
Try and identify some of the skills required to carry out the different roles and post these on your blog.

Attend the next meeting on August Friday 28th August at 12pm New Zealand time (see world clock here) to discuss these roles and work collaboratively to develop a list of skills and techniques for facilitation.

Supporting resources
Have a look on the course wiki for a list of resources that will support your reflections and deliberations.

Image: 'The Evilution of Communication' Torley

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Getting our heads around what an online community is

On Monday we had another great Elluminate meeting in which we got to know each other better, nutted out a few 'house-keeping' issues and discussed what we had learned so far about what an online community is. The link to the recording is here.

Communicating with each other
We are still trying to decide what modes of communication are best for supporting each other and passing on resources. At the moment everything feels a little chaotic but this is normal for a course such as this. As we get to know each other better and become more confident with online communication, then we will settle into using tools that suit our own individual needs.

At the moment the plan is to concentrate on developing our blogs, commenting on other participants' blogs and building a solid blogging network or community.

If you haven't done so already you should have written a blog post in which you explore your reflections and ideas about what an online community is.

If you have any resources you would like to share with course participants, write them up in your blog for others to learn about. Anything that you think is particularly relevant to assignment two and the mini conference, please feel free to add to the course wiki on the "Course Mini Conference Page".

Next online meetings
The next online meeting will be on Monday 17th August 9.30 am New Zealand time (check here for world clock) and will be facilitated by Chris Woodhouse. He will be showing everyone how to set up a Pageflakes page like the one he set up for the course. Please note this is half an hour later than Chris had originally stated in his blog post.

The following meeting will be on Friday 28th August at 12pm New Zealand time - see world clock here. At that meeting we will be concluding our thoughts about the differences between the roles of teacher, facilitator and moderator.

Other free online meetings and resources
Mireille has sent me the details of another free online seminar coming up.

Live Webcast: The Top 10 Tips for Successful Webcasts: Friday, August 21, 2009 1:00 PM ET / 10:00 AM PT / 5:00 PM GMT.

as well as the link to a book called "Online communities in business" . Thank you, Mireille.


Image: 'Digital Media Arts Lab' laffy4k

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Last night's meeting

Last night we had our second attempt at a meeting on Elluminate where we orientated ourselves to the Facilitating Online course. Thankfully everything went well and we had a great time getting to know each other a little better and clarifying aspects of the course. The gold star goes to Mireille, who was attending the meeting in Canada, at 4am!! I think she's mad!

The link to the recording of the meeting can be found here.

Here are a couple of things that cropped up that I would like to bring your attention to.

Chris Woodhouse has been a star and set up a FOC09 Pageflakes page which has brought all the blogs together so we can follow the blogs more easily. This is great work, Chris - thanks so much for doing that for us.

Email group
Some course participants prefer to communicate via email, so here is the link to the FOC09 email group. Please feel free to join it if you prefer that form of communication.

Resources for Assignment Two
When you look at Assignment Two you will see that you have to facilitate an online meeting. You are very welcome to use the Elluminate room or you may wish to use other online meeting resources. If you come across any resources for online meetings that you would like to recommend, please list them on the Mini Conference page of the course wiki. I have made a start and recommended a couple of online meeting tools.

Next online meeting
The next Elluminate meeting will be at 9am Monday 10th August. Here is the link to the world clock and international time zones.

And here is the link to the Elluminate meeting room. We will be discussing what online community is and how to recognise it - further details can be found on the course wiki.


Image: 'HHR Meeting.' ghindo

Sunday, August 2, 2009

3rd August: What is an online community?

During this course we will be looking at how we function as facilitators in the context of online communities. We'll be looking at communities that use blogs, wikis, Second Life and other modes of online communication. But before we launch ourselves off into the ether, we must consider what an online community is.

What is an online community?
You will hear educationalists use the term "online community" to refer to communities of practice, classes, groups, professional bodies, teams, networks, you name it - they have all been referred to as communities at some stage, and when they predominantly operate through the Internet they are called online communities.

But what is an online community really - especially if we want to relate the words to their true and common meaning? Is it a group of people who communicate online, and through that connection they share a sense of belonging and responsibility for one another? Is an online community like this necessary for work teams, classes, professional bodies and all those other things that have been called communities?

Things to do
You have the next two weeks to look at these links:
  • Groups and Networks - video of Stephen Downes 2006. You will need a broadband connection speed to view this video, and I suggest you open the link, press play and then press pause for 10 minutes or so as to let the video load ahead some. Same technique for dial up, but wait much longer on pause.
Write a blog post
Referring to at least two of the items above, write a post to your blog that summarises what they say about online community. Conclude with your own list of at least three forms of evidence that YOU would look for when determining an online community.

Give feedback as a comment on the blog post of at least one other participant from this course.

Course meeting
Attend a meeting to collaboratively develop a list of features to look for when identifying an online community, and to begin a discussion on how such communities would benefit from facilitation services. We will use this list when looking for online communities later in the course.

I will let you know later in the week when/where the meeting will be. To give me a rough idea of when you prefer to attend a live meeting, can you tick the very quick poll at the top right hand corner of this blog.

Extra resources
You can find extra resources to enhance your learning if you click here on the course wiki.

Getting started
Most participants are up and running with their blogs, so drop in and say 'hello' to as many people as you can. You may find that you can't keep up with everything that everyone is writing, and may choose to keep in close contact with a smaller number of participants. Feel free to do what ever suits your style of learning. However, the more interaction you become involved with, the more you will learn.

If you're lucky, someone may work out a way of collecting everyone's blog posts in one 'easy to read' space like Mike Bogle did last year :)


Image: 'flickr contacts - March 28, 2005 {notes}' striatic

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Second introduction meeting

First of all, I must apologise to everyone for the Elluminate meeting we tried to have yesterday but didn't. We were just getting going and then we lost Elluminate - a problem with the Internet server, I think.

Anyway, I'd like to give you another opportunity to attend this meeting on 3rd August Monday evening at 8pm New Zealand time - click here to see international time zones.

To attend the meeting
  1. Click onto this link to the Elluminate meeting.
  2. Enter your name - don't worry about a password - you do not need one.
  3. Wait for Elluminate to download.
  4. Check that you can hear and speak - may need to work your way through the audio setup wizard ->tools -> audio-> audio set up wizard.
All things going well, I will record this meeting for anyone who cannot make it.

First major lesson about facilitation of online events
The failure of this meeting provides us with our first major lesson about facilitating real-time online events. (Yes...that's was a teaching deliberate ploy...NOT!).

I had forgotten one of the cardinal rules of real-time online facilitation, and that is to have a back-up plan for when the technology fails you. So my back-up plan for Monday evening's meeting will be to meet in Skype if Elluminate fails. If there are just a couple of us, we can have a voice-conference. If there more than about five of us, we'll continue the meeting by text chat.

So if you do not have access to Skype, please install it before Monday and add me to your contacts. My Skype name is: sarah.m.stewart.

This is a very important lesson for you to remember when you come to facilitate your own real-time online events for assignment two.

A place for students to meet
The Elluminate room is available all the time for students to meet and hang out. So if ever you wish to have a 'get-together', just click onto the link - you do not have to have Leigh or myself attend with you.

Any questions, please let me know. However, please be mindful that I am in Lumsden being a real midwife for the next two weeks, so will only be available for online real-time conversations during the evenings. I check my email several times a day if you prefer to communicate me that way. However, if you wish to phone me, my number is: +64 277379998

Image: 'Meeting Table' mnadi

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Our first online meeting

Our first online meeting will be tomorrow, Friday 31st July at 11am New Zealand time (click here for international time zones). In this meeting we will be introducing ourselves and looking at what we want to achieve during this course. We will be recording this meeting so if you miss it in real time, you can listen to the recording at your leisure.

We plan to alternate the times of our meetings so hopefully we will meet everyone's needs with regards to time.

Setting up for Elluminate
We will be using the web conference platform Elluminate throughout this course. To get to the meeting, please click on this link. If you have never used Elluminate before, I strongly advise that you get set up before hand. Here is the link to information about setting up your computer to use Elluminate.
  1. Click onto the link to the Elluminate meeting.
  2. Enter your name - don't worry about a password - you do not need one.
  3. Wait for Elluminate to download.
  4. Check that you can hear and speak - may need to work your way through the audio setup wizard ->tools -> audio-> audio set up wizard.
Dealing with problems
In my experience, the main problems people have with Elluminate happens when they are trying to access it at work. Firewalls often prevent people accessing Elluminate so if this is a problem, please contact your IT people. You do need Java on your computer, so check that it is enabled first.
  • go to 'tools' on your Internet browser
  • click onto 'options'
  • go to 'content'
  • click onto 'enable JavaScript' and 'enable Java'.
Any further problems with Elluminate, please let me know. Sarah

Image: 'Roscoe Considers Recording a Podcast' zoomar

Monday, July 27, 2009

Welcome to Facilitating Online 09

Hello everyone and welcome to Facilitating Online 09.

My name is Sarah Stewart and I am very pleased to be facilitating this course along with Leigh Blackall. We have people joining us from all over the world so we can expect great networking, discussion and collaboration.

We will be spending the next couple of months looking at how to be an online facilitator, discussing the difference between facilitating, teaching and moderating; looking at various online communities and facilitating our own online events. For details about the course schedule, please check the course wiki.

Getting started
If you haven't done so yet, please set up a blog that you can use for your weekly reflections and explorations. If you're not sure how to set up a blog, have a look at these instructions. For an idea of how blogging works, have a look at the blogs of previous participants.

When you write a blog post for this course please label or tag it FOC09 - that way we can all keep a track of what and when we're writing.

Once you have set up your blog, add it to the list of this year's participants, then write a post about yourself, introducing yourself to everyone - write about who you are, why you are doing the course, what you hope to get out of the course and what experience you have had of belonging to an online community.

Connecting with other course participants
To get the most out of the course it is advisable to network with the other course participants. One way of doing this is to subscribe to each other's blogs. Follow the thoughts of your 'classmates', leave comments and continue the discussion on your own blog.

First online meeting
Our first online meeting will be on Friday 31st July at 11am New Zealand time - click here to see what time this is in other regions of the world. We will be using the online web conferencing platform Elluminate - click here to find out how to access Elluminate. In this meeting, we'll be introducing ourselves and getting to know each other better. We will record the meeting so if you are unable to attend, you will be able to view/listen to the recording.

Saying 'hello'
I will be phoning around over the next couple of days to catch up with formally enrolled students. If you are an informal student and wish to check in with me, please feel free to contact me via any of the online communication channels I use.

Any queries about what we're doing, your enrollment or the technology, please feel free to contact me. Sarah

Image: The Street Where I Live Choconancy1