Once you know what you want to facilitate there are several issues you need to think about.
- What is the most appropriate approach to the event, project or discussion? Synchronous or asynchronous?
- What are the barriers to your facilitation and what are the enablers? For example, do the participants have access to the Internet bandwidth that will support your event, project or learning activity?
- What communication tools will be most appropriate? How will you ensure your participants will have access to the tools?
- What technical skills will you need as facilitator and what skills will your participants require? How will you ensure the participants have the appropriate skills?
- Is this a work or 'play' activity? Will time constraints impact on the participants' ability or motivation to attend and engage?
- If this is a work activity, will the participants' organisation, institution or employer allow them to have access to the Internet, or will institutional policies or firewalls prevent them from engaging with you?
- What are the costs to you, the participants and their employer/institution/organisation? Will the costs be prohibitive?
Another issue you need to think about is sustainability of your online facilitation. In one respect working online is more sustainable than spending large amounts of money to fly people around to attend face-to-face meetings. Developing resources and making them available online often reduces the wasteful use of paper. At the same time, there are more general questions about social sustainability to consider.
- Who's going to be involved and who is not? Who does your event or learning activity discriminate against? In other words, who cannot attend because they do not have access to a computer or the Internet?
- How do you ensure that everyone has equal opportunities for learning, communication and collaboration. Is everyone's needs being met?
- Is online the best mode of delivery? Is there another mode of delivery that is more appropriate?
- In terms of planning for the future, how do we manage eWaste?
Skype is a free tool that you download onto your computer and use for synchronous voice, text and video meetings. It is especially effective for small group or one-to-one meetings.
1. Download Skype and set up a Skype account.
2. Add your Skype details ie user name to the "Participants" page. Add course participants to your contacts list in Skype.
3. Connect with a course participant and have a one-to-one meeting. In your meeting you may wish to discuss what you have learned this week, or your experiences of using Skype.
4. Connect with several course participants and arrange a Skype conference call in which you may wish to discuss the questions that have cropped up this week. (A Skype conference call can take up to 25 people but it is preferable to have a smaller number of people to retain the quality of the call).
- How to set up a conference call in Skype. Here is a short video that shows you how to set up a conference call.
- You may wish to use Doodle to help you work out a time that is convenient to meet.
1. Read the article Building Sustainable Communities through Network Building by Valdis Krebs and June Holley (2002).
2. Watch the video of Carol Cooper-Taylor talking about "How to ... Have Successful Online Forums/Communities".
3. Read the wiki page Synchfacilitation - moderating live synchronous sessions.
4. In your blog, you may wish to reflect on your experience of using Skype.
- What worked well?
- What did not go so well?
- What skills or resources do you need to facilitate one-to-one meetings or conference calls with Skype?
- How do you see yourself using Skype in the future, if at all, for online facilitation?