Friday, September 11, 2009

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_


willie campbell said...

well people. I must say that my own life has become more inportant at the moment than this community-although in is very interseting how you have caught the vibes.
Our oldest son came ome earlier this year to be with us as his blood cancer rogressed. and he finally flew away into the ether on Thursday at the witching 2.00am.
Debra- you in the meeting picked that didnj't you? I appreciaetd your comment about how I was and thought what a wise person.
He was the son I have described as belonging to groups and I have now unsubscribed him for 3 Google and 1 Yahoo group.I was interested that all replied with a check that I really wanted to unsubscribe from these groups. another hing to consider-how long do groups hold on to you.
So I will probably just hold off from group involvement until the week of Septemebr 28.

Leigh Blackall said...

Dear Willie, I'm very saddened to hear this news, this must have been a tough period for you and your family. A testament to your strength is that I had no idea you were going through such a thing. It has been wonderful to read your posts, and see your progressive confidence in communicating online this way. As you would say - "go well". I look forward to when you do come back.

Sarah Stewart said...

Dear Willie

Please can I say how very sorry I am to hear your news - my love and prayers go with you.

May I reiterate what Leigh has said - to my mind you have been a font of knowledge to me, not just during this course but also as you comment on my blog. Your input to this course has been invaluable faithfully comment on people's blogs, share your vast knowledge and challenge us. Thank you for that.

We look forward to your return to this course as and when you feel you are able to return.

Hervé said...


I have just come across the information, trying to catch up with the work.
Sorry to hear about the dreadful news. My thoughts are with you.


Hervé said...


You mentionned that you did not make a good job og facilitating the meeting. One of the reason you give is that you gave your opinion. It however was very intersting to hear it, as you probably have more experience in the topic discussed than any of us!.


Sarah Stewart said...

To be honest with you, Herve, I am trying to keep a facilitator's hat on & not go into teacher mode...and I don't find this very easy. That's why I have kept my opinions to myself. The two Twitter posts I wrote for you are wearing my teacher's hat.

So, long story short...I don't find it very easy to separate out the two roles in this course. I would even go so far as ask if it is possible to be a facilitator only, in an education course? What do you think?

willie campbell said...

I'm not sure why we need to keep apologising for being teachers. if we are.(whatever the job title might be). I guess I do think of classic facilitation as the group work model that those of us in community development weere trained in, where you weren't supposed to have an opinion on anything really, and so worked very hard to hide your perspective on things, but of course it showed in who you worked with and why, so there's no getting away from the political aspect of working with others.