Saturday, June 26, 2010

How to use DimDim

DimDim is a free web conference tool. It is worth having a look at this tool if you are a business or non-profit organisation who cannot afford to pay for a propitiatory platform such as Elluminate.

Instructions on how to use DimDim can be found on the DimDim Support Page.
What I like about DimDim is that you do not need to download any software or have an account to join a meeting - you do need an account if you wish to host a meeting. Having said that, it does come with it's own set of challenges - here is my review of DimDim back in 2009.

I strongly recommend that you have a 'play' before the course meeting in DimDim, especially if you have volunteered to be a facilitator of the meeting.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How to download Skype and set up an account

Skype is a program that you download onto your computer and allows you to make free voice and video calls to other people on Skype. You can have private one-to-one calls or conference calls to groups of people. Skype also allows you to share files, share your computer screen and send instant messages.

Here is a video that will show you how to download Skype and set up an account.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Case Study Three: Facilitating asynchronous discussion

One of the questions that frequently arise when talking about online facilitation is how to engage people in asynchronous discussions be they discussion boards, blogs, email an educational course or a wider online network or community.

Here is Sarah Stewart talking to to Lorraine Storry Mockford who is the Health and Human Services Alternate Delivery Coordinator at the Nova Scotia Community College, Nova Scotia, Canada and Pam Harnden who is a postgraduate midwifery student at Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin New Zealand.

Lorraine says
"I have been fascinated by the process of asynchronous communication in discussion boards for years, starting with my participation in various self-help and literature groups in the early 1990s. As a faculty member I brought asynchronous discussions to my classroom through course internet groups (Yahoo, Google). About 10 years ago I started helping my Academic School to implement asynchronous discussions in both onsite and online courses using the WebBoard. We now have training for faculty interested in using asynchronous communication effectively."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Case Study Two: The Virtual International Day of the Midwife

The Virtual International Day of the Midwife is an annual 24 hour free online conference facilitated by Sarah Stewart and Deborah Davis, who are midwives and midwifery educators on May 5th May.

The aim of the event is to share information and resources with the international midwifery community; introduce midwives to online communication and collaboration technology; introduce midwives to concept of open access and Creative Commons; support midwives' professional development, especially those in rural and remote locations.

Communication tools
Here is the wiki that is used to organise the conference, disseminate recordings, provide information for participants and collect feedback:
The VIDM Facebook fan page is used to disseminate information to midwives and facilitate Q&A, as well as discussion:
Twitter is also used to disseminate information:
VIDM evaluation
Here is an evaluation of the 2009 event and the 2010 conference so you can see how the event has evolved. Accompanying these evaluations are some comments about how to organise a virtual event using social media.

Organising an online event
Here is a video of Deborah and Sarah talking about how to facilitate an online event - it may take a little time to download. An audio-only recording can be found here.

Case Study One: eMentoring

Jennifer Leigh is the director of J.Leigh & Associates based in Brisbane, Queensland. Jenny spends much of her time working with non-government and non-profit organisations, both as a consultant and volunteer. One aspect of her work is done with community organisations taking a development approach to community-based transport in Queensland.

Sarah Stewart talked to Jenny in June 2010 about how she used online communication tools in her business as consultant, mentor and facilitator.

What online communication technology do you use?
I mostly use Skype for one-to-one mentoring sessions and group business meetings. I have been using Skype for a year and have found it to be so successful that I now offer it as a standard service. In the past I have travelled to an organisation for a week and delivered information in one massive lump, which has been overload for staff. Now I use Skype to provide incremental learning on a weekly basis initially which is then distanced out as the person feels needed. This provides a far more flexible service that meets the needs of staff and prevents information overload. It allows me to use my time more effectively and reduces costs to the organisation because they do not have to pay my travel and accommodation expenses.

In the future I want to look at how I can use 'Google Documents' for collaborative work, and YouTube for disseminating information and education videos.

How do you use Skype for mentoring?
Skype allows me to provide an individualised mentoring service that I just would not be able to do in a face-to-face context because of the geographical distances in Queensland. The eMentoring I do tends to be weekly at first, then monthly, then whenever I am needed. We address transport issues and do activities like talk and work our way through documents or the Queensland Government Transport website.

What other things do you use Skype for?
I use Skype for business meetings, especially in my unpaid role as chairwoman of the Transport Development and Solutions Alliance. The TDSA is a non-profit, self-funding organisation so we have very limited funding. Using online communication has enabled us to reduce costs, and it has also given us a greater representation on the TDSA committee. This is because people can join committee meetings online, whereas before, geographical distances meant they could not go to face-to-face meetings.

How do you get buy-in from staff and organisations?
What I have done is invited managers and IT administrators to our initial meetings so they can see what Skype is and how it works. I have found that once organisations see the value of web conferencing with Skype in terms of finance and networking, they have quickly taken it on board for their business. Seeing how it works encourages managers and IT administrators to address issues such as firewalls, which have previously prevented them from using online technology. So I have found there is a trickling effect to technology uptake.

How have you built up relationships with people using Skype?
I haven't had any problems building online relationships with the people I mentor or work with. I use webcam so we can see each other, which is a great help. Having said that, some people prefer to be anonymous and not to be seen on webcam.
What difficulties have you had and how have you overcome them?
When I started eMentoring I had problems with organisational firewalls and IT policies that prevented me using Skype with staff. But as I said before, once managers saw how it worked these issues were resolved. The main problem with the technology has been variability of Internet performance. When we first started using Skype it was a big drama when the connection dropped. But now we have become confident with the technology we cope much better and take it in our stride.

What tips would you pass on to facilitators who are new to using online communication?
Begin with the assumption there will be some technology glitches and this is perfectly normal.

Image: Image: 'The Great Indian Traveller - Richksaw'