Saturday, March 26, 2011

March 28th What is online facilitation?

Over the last two weeks we have thought about what and why we want to facilitate, but we haven't really talked about what online facilitation actually is. The definition of facilitation in the Oxford Dictionary is to 'make easy or easier'. As online facilitators, we need to think about how we make communication, learning, task management and use of technology 'easier' for the people we are working with. There are a number of models around that support us as we develop online facilitation skills. Nancy White has suggested we think about ourselves as a 'community technology stewards'. Gilly Salmon has developed a 5 stage model of online moderation and Ed Hootstein refers to wearing four pairs of shoes. To be effective online facilitators, we also need to understand how online communication works. In order to do this, it helps to understand the 'rules' of online communication otherwise known as 'netiquette'. Those of us who are teachers are further challenged to think about our practice, be it in the online or face-to-face environment - what is the difference between facilitating learning and the more traditional views of teaching? In other words, how do we facilitate learning compared to the traditional model of delivering content as the 'expert' to the learner who knows nothing? And how do we do this in the online environment?

Web conferencing
Join the virtual class meeting in Elluminate on Wednesday 30th 13.00 hours New Zealand (World Clock). Greg Walker will be discussing how he facilitates online courses. Greg is an educational technology developer and distance education coordinator at the Leeward Community College, Hawaii, USA. He is also the facilitator of the FO2011 sister course, iFacilitate. This session will be facilitated by course participants.
  • The facilitators will be responsible for liaising with the speaker, managing the meeting room, reminding the course participants about the meeting, facilitating the meeting and sorting out any technical problems.
  • If you are a facilitated or formal student, please feel free to volunteer to facilitate this session if you would like practice with facilitating a live web conference, or would like experience working with Elluminate.
1. Read "CoP Series No 10: Stewarding Technology for Community" by Nancy White, 2009.
2. Read Wearing Four Pairs of Shoes: The Roles of E-Learning Facilitators by Ed Hootstein, 2002.
3. Read the Gilly Salmon's 5 stages of moderation model, 2004. Gilly's work is based in education but the stages that she proposes for online engagement apply across the board. If you would rather watch/hear Gilly talk about her model, please go to her presentation "E-moderation strategies in educational contexts", 2009. NB: The term 'moderation' is interchangeable in our context with 'facilitation'.
4. Read "Netiquette" by Learn the Net, 2010.
5. Write a blog post about what you learned from White, Salmon and Hootstein. You may wish to consider these questions.
  • What is an online community and an online network? What is the difference between the two?
  • What online communities and networks have you been a member of? How did they work? Was there a facilitator? What was his/her role?
  • How would you utilise the Salmon model of facilitation in your own context?
  • What facilitation "shoes" do you wear now? What shoes would you like to wear in the future? What do you need to do to have the skills that Hootstein talks about?

Image: 'tangle'

Looking for volunteers

There isn't much to report in terms of blog postings this week. We're still waiting for several participants to add their blogs to the course wiki, so if this is you, please don't forget to do that. It is really important that we all know who you are so we can contribute to the conversation on your blog.

We are a small group of people this year which means we need to participate regularly and interact with each other. If we don't, we'll miss the unspoken nuances of online communication. We must be able to communicate and work together online before we can move on to being online facilitators.

Who are the participants of this course?
To find out who is taking part in the course have a look at the course wiki, at the "Participants" page. You will see the contact details of 24 people. Some of them are not participating regularly, so the challenge for you will be to connect with those who are blogging about the course and are people who you can network with. And don't forget the students of iFacilitate who will also be keen to hear from you.

Another reason to checking out the course wiki is because there are informal students listed who are working through the course with us. I do not include them in my weekly summary however, I know they are blogging regularly and have some very valuable things to add to our conversation. If you do not check out the wiki, you will not know who they are and miss out on making valuable connections :)

And don't forget - those of you who are formal students - that having a blog is a major requirement for the course assessment - Assignment One is due on April 15th 17.00 hours New Zealand.

This week we had a fabulous live meeting with Terry Neal who talked about facilitating online teams. She gave some very practical advice about facilitating the phases of teamwork: forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning. We discussed how to overcome negative attitudes to online communication; how to work with newbies, and how to break the ice when you are working with teams who have never met each other face-to-face.
I have promised to turn the recordings into mp3 files so you can listen to them on iPods etc, but to be honest, I forgot to do that this week - I will get onto it first thing next week.

Looking for volunteers
One of the aims of this course is to provide 'practice' experience of online facilitation as we go along. It is an opportunity to 'have a go' in a safe environment, where you will be well supported by the rest of us.

If you are a facilitated or formal student, please feel free to volunteer to facilitate our next live session on Wednesday 30th 13.00 hours New Zealand. As the facilitator, you will be responsible for liaising with the speaker, managing the meeting room, reminding the course participants about the meeting, facilitating the meeting and sorting out any technical problems. I will support you to do this. If you think next Wednesday is too soon, let me know and I'll pencil you in for another week.

The Virtual International Day of the Midwife
I will also be looking for volunteer facilitators to help out on the Virtual International Day of the Midwife on May 5th 12pm - May 6th 12pm. You do not need to know anything about midwifery or childbirth, but you do need to be fairly comfortable with using Elluminate - here is more information about what is expected from facilitators.

Have a great week, and please get in touch with me if you have any queries about blogging, or any other aspect of the course. Sarah

Image: 'MBC Lille 2007'

Sunday, March 20, 2011

March 21st The 'who', 'what' and 'why' of online facilitation

It is important that we understand why we are using the online environment for communication, and how online communities and networks work before we launch into our adventures with online communication tools.

Why? The world is changing and the Internet allows people to communicate, collaborate, network and learn in a new and different way. As teachers, we have to understand that students are learning by connecting to their online network. The freedom that the Internet provides is allowing them to manage their own learning and take control of what, how and when they learn. Those of us who work for non-profit organisations need to realise the potential of the Internet to develop online communities and networks that can support each other, advocate and campaign for change. As for business people, we must understand how to connect online with our customers as well as effectively utilise online communication tools in these days of increased costs and budget squeeze.

What? Any number of things can be facilitated online from an email discussion list or bulletin board on Trade Me, to a real-time business meeting or Twitter campaign protesting a social issue.

Who? The 'who' can vary from a formal class enrolled at an educational institution, to a network of people loosely connected because of a common interest or goal. Or the 'who' may be a formal community of practice made up of people who have come together with a definite purpose in mind, such as a professional organisation or group with a special interest.

Web conference

Join the virtual class meeting in Elluminate Wednesday 23rd March 10.30 hours (World Clock). The speaker will be Terry Neal who will talk about how to facilitate virtual teams. Terry is an experienced project manager and facilitator, especially well known for her management of the Second Life Education New Zealand project in 2009. Terry is currently the Flexible Learning Manager (External Services) at Open Polytechnic of New Zealand.

This session will be facilitated by course participants.

  • The facilitators will be responsible for liaising with the speaker, managing the meeting room, reminding the course participants about the meeting, facilitating the meeting and sorting out any technical problems.
  • If you are a facilitated or formal student, please feel free to volunteer to facilitate this session if you would like practice with facilitating a live web conference, or would like experience working with Elluminate.

1. Watch the video "Did you know 4.0" which will help you start to think about the 'grand scheme of things' and where you sit as an online facilitator.
2. Watch the video "Communities, networks and what sits in between" by Nancy White. Nancy is an extremely experienced online facilitator - it is worth taking time to browse her blog which contains lots of valuable resources for and about online facilitation.
3. Read "Building Online Communities" by Chromatic.
4. Watch the video Seven key skills of workshop facilitation by Jan Delmas, 2008. Thank you to Suzie Vesper for drawing my attention to this video. This video has a business focus in the face-to-face setting but is none-the-less relevant to us all in the online environment.
5. Continue to connect with the other participants on the course.

  • Leave comments on people's blogs.
  • Get in touch with people you think you would be interested in working with.
  • Organise yourself so you are following and connecting with people who will support your learning and visa versa. This may include starting a special interest group on the course "Participants" page.

6. Write a blog post about online facilitation. You may wish to consider these questions.

  • What is online facilitation?
  • How do these skills differ from face-to-face facilitation?
  • What experiences do you have of online facilitation both as a facilitator, and as a participants in a community, network or event?
  • What have you seen work well, and what has worked less well?

Image: 'Sunny Side Up'

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

FO2011: Summary of week 2

We have come to the end of the second week and by now you should have had a good read of the course outline and weekly schedule so you have a thorough idea of what's going on. At this stage of the course I would expect that you have your blog up and running, written a post about who you are and what you want to achieve during the course, left your contact details on the course wiki, connected with a few of the other course participants and left comments on their blogs.

How do I know when someone has left a comment on my blog?
One of the best ways of learning in this course is to connect with others and tap into their knowledge and expertise. The more comments you make on other people's blogs, the more they will visit your blog and give you feedback.

The best way to know when people have left comments on your blog is to set your blog so that you get an email every time someone leaves a comment. If you have a Blogger blog, go the your dashboard and click onto "Settings".

When you get to "Settings", then click onto "Comments".

Once you get to the "Comments" section, scroll to the bottom of the page and enter your email into the "Comment Notification Email" box.

For any other questions you may have about how you monitor comments on your blog go to Blogger Help, or have a search on YouTube for videos that will show you what to do. If you have a Wordpress blog, go to the "Support" for information on how to set up comments.

How can I make sure people can follow my blog?
The other thing you should do when you are setting up your blog (again, I am talking about Blogger - if you have a Wordpress blog, go to "Support" information) is make sure people can follow your blog. My best advice is to add a gadget to the side of your blog called "Follow by Email". To do this, go to "Design" and then click on "Add a Gadget".

Another window will appear with a number of gadgets that you can choose. In this case, choose "Follow by Email" and then click onto "Save".

You will then see the gadget appear on the side of your blog which will allow your followers to receive an email every time you write a blog post. There are other ways of following a blog, but for newbies, this is probably the easiest way.

We had two live meetings this week, going over information about how get going with the course. If you wish to watch a recording, can I recommend you watch Thursday's session. In this session we were joined by Greg Walker and his iFacilitate class. It was really interesting to find out what the participants of that class are up to and finding out that their main problem is finding the time to engage properly with online communication - is that a problem you are finding? In the meantime, please say 'hello' to them on their blogs...I am sure they would love your encouragement, and vis versa.
What FO2011 participants are saying this week
On the whole, people have been focusing on getting their blogs up and running, like Lorna who is looking forward to "learning how to apply new communication technology to facilitate adult student's learning". Florence has joined the course because she wants to work out how to be more innovative when she teaches French to her teenage students. Chris has taken things one step further and has been thinking about 'fancy' ways of following other participants' blogs. He did recommend Pageflakes but there have been problems with it - if you check out Chris's most recent post, you will catch an interesting discussion about alternative ways of following blogs. Morag is doing FO2011 because she wants to catch up with her students in terms of online communication. However, she feels there is a tension between becoming more active using blogs and Twitter and protecting her privacy. What do you think? Is privacy and online communication a contradiction in terms? How can we protect ourselves yet still engage online? If you have an opinion, pop along to Morag's blog and let her know what you think.

Look forward to reading more blog posts this week. Sarah

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Another opportunity to learn

One of last year's FO2010 participants, CoachCarole has offered us the opportunity to attend a live session talking about online facilitation. Here is the information she passed on:

by CoachCarole

I facilitate online and so do many of my colleagues around the world. eFacilitation is an important skill for the organised and elearning savvy teachers and coordinators in our educational and corporate environments. This is a new series of webinars being introduced to budding eFacilitators everywhere.

Monday March 14th at 5 pm Sydney time (GMT +11)

efacilitateKnow your tools, work with people

Facilitating is about working with people, whether it is online or face to face. Every facilitator needs to be able to use the tools for the job: the learning platform (Moodle); the web conferencing system (Elluminate); and other communication tools such as email, skype or messaging.

The tools though, are secondary.

Please join us to Identify good facilitation practice! and discuss the question:

Why do we need facilitators for online courses?

Join us at:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

March 14th Setting the scene

This week we would like you to think about what you want to achieve during this course - what is it you want to learn to facilitate? Are you a teacher wanting to know how to facilitate online teaching and learning? Or, do you work for a non-profit organisation wanting to know how to facilitate online communities and networks, or run information campaigns? It may be that you work for a business and would like to know how to facilitate online meetings or collaborative projects. This plan will act as a guide for your learning, and will also help us to tailor the content of this course to meet your needs.

Here are some ideas about online facilitation that you may wish to explore during this course:

  • Meetings
  • Events eg seminars, workshops or conferences
  • One to one meetings eg academic supervision or business coaching/mentoring
  • Long term (or short term) projects eg collaborative work
  • Teaching an online class
  • Presenting information to sell a service or business
  • Develop an online community or network
  • Run an online campaign
Web conferencing

Join the virtual class meeting in Elluminate to share your ideas and plans with other participants

  • Wednesday 16th March 20.00 hours New Zealand (World Clock)
  • Thursday 17th March 13.00 hours New Zealand (World Clock). This session will be co-facilitated by Sarah Stewart (Otago Polytechnic, New Zealand) and Greg Walker, Leeward Community College, Hawaii. The students of FO2011 will be joining students of Leeward Community College until the middle of April. We will be sharing resources, conversations and supporting each other. In this session, Greg and Sarah will be explaining how this collaboration will work.

1. Watch the video by Clive Shepherd called "Welcome to the virtual classroom". This video explains the difference between asynchronous and synchronous communication, and explains why and how you'd use online communication.
2. Join the 'Facilitating Online' Google email group.

  • NB: This resource will be available to facilitated and formal students.

3. Make a plan for what you want to learn and explore, and write it up (or present in another way eg mindmap, video recording) on your blog. Answer these questions.

  • What do you want to learn to facilitate?
  • What are you doing now in terms of online facilitation?
  • What would you like to achieve, change or do more of?
  • What do you need to do or make happen to achieve your goal?

4. For those of you who are educators and/or are interested in using virtual worlds and Second Life for online facilitation, there is an opportunity to attend a free international conference Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education on 17-19th March. This is not a required activity - we will be looking more closely at Second Life and virtual worlds later in the course. However, this is a great opportunity to see how Second Life is used for facilitating a large international event, as well as hearing how virtual worlds are used for facilitating teaching and learning.

  • Click here for more information about how to get started in Second Life.

5. For those of you who are interested in seeing how others use Elluminate to facilitate events, or learning more about online teaching and learning, you may wish to attend one or more events that are freely available via LearnCentral (this is not a required event). LearnCentral is an online community that is sponsored by Elluminate, which produces asynchronous resources, synchronous webinars, networking opportunities and a free conferencing space. There is a program of weekly events held in Elluminate which are all free to attend.

  • To see a great facilitator in action, try to attend an event facilitated either by Steve Hargadon or Jo Hart.

Image: 'Zion and Tracy jumping'

Summary of week 1

Hello everyone

Well, I don't know where the first week of FO2011 went, but here we are about to go into our second week.

Blogs and contact details
This week has been hectic with everyone getting their blogs set up and putting their contact details on the course wiki. If you are a little late to the course, check out the course schedule and follow the instructions for 7th March - here is the link to Pdf copy of the course outline which includes a study timeline.

We had the first of our live meetings and enjoyed getting to know each other a little better. We were joined by several participants of FO2010 and they shared a few tips for getting the most out of the course:
  • Connect with each other...share resources, information and support. We are our own best learning resources.
  • Keep up to date with blogging. Connect with others by leaving comments on their blogs and joining conversations.
  • Have a go...don't be afraid to 'play' with the technology....make the most of the course as a safe place to experiment and learn about technology.
Learning and chaos
We were thrilled to be joined by Nancy White on our Friday meeting - Nancy is an expert online facilitator and this course uses a lot of her research and material. Nancy's main comment was that at first we may feel a great sense of chaos as we sort ourselves out how the technology works...and find out the best way of connecting with each other. But Nancy reassured us that out of the chaos will come learning.

Meeting recording
For those of you who couldn't make it to either of this week's live meetings, here is the recording of Friday's meeting:
We ran out of time, so next week we plan to talk about how you can easily follow other participants' blogs using tools such as Google Reader. Another way of following blogs is using Pageflakes - Chris has set up a Pageflakes page for FO2011.

My tip
In terms of following and connecting with people, I do not expect you to network with everyone on the course. What you may be better off doing is deciding to focus on a smaller number of people, making sure you read their blog posts and regularly leave comments. Whilst it is natural to network with people that you have things in common with, it's also fun to connect with people who walk different paths to you.

Look forward to catching up with you next week. Sarah :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Exciting news: Hot off the press

I am extremely thrilled to announce that we are joining up with another group of people looking at the same issues as us, via a course called iFacilitate - here is the link to the iFacilitate course. This course is being facilitated by Dr Greg Walker at the Leeward Community College, Hawaii. Greg did a fantastic session for us last year in which he talked about facilitating asynchronous communication.

Here are the blogs of the iFacilitate participants. Please feel free to drop by the blogs and say hello. Greg and I would like to encourage you to join the conversations they are having - at the same as they will join us.

Greg and I have scheduled live web conferences over the next few weeks in such a way that we'll all be able to join together. So please join us...I know we'll learn heaps from each other.

(In this virtual age, I am still eagerly waiting for my invitation from Greg to go and run some face-to-face meetings for him!!) Sarah :)

Image: 'Jack Johnson surfing'

Monday, March 7, 2011

March 7th 2011 Introduction

We will spend this week orientating ourselves to the course, becoming familiar with the online technology and introducing ourselves to the rest of the course participants. All the information about the course can be found on the course wiki, but for those of you who would like a hard copy, here is the link to the course outline.

For those of you who are new to this way of learning, the first few weeks may seem quite daunting. However, stick with it, network with others for support and help, and the rest of the course will flow on nicely.

Setting up your blog
During the course you will be expected to keep a reflective blog for your personal learning and to meet the requirements of each assignment. There are a number of free blogging platforms available - this course recommends Blogger because it is very easy to use if you have never blogged before. However, there are other choices such as Wordpress, Typepad or Edublogs.

Joining Wikieducator
As part of the orientation to the course, we would like you to add your contact details including your blog address to the Course Wiki 'Participants' page.

Course meetings
We will have regular 'live' meetings (otherwise referred to as web conferencing or webinars) that will help us get to know each other better, build a learning network and/or community, and become more familiar with web conferencing tools. The days and times will vary from week to week to give everyone the opportunity to attend as many meetings as they can. We will also try to accommodate as many of our international colleagues as possible with regard to dates and times. We will record all meetings so if you miss one, you will be able to catch up with content.

  • NB: Facilitated and formal students will be strongly encouraged to take it in turns to facilitate the live meetings. This will give you the opportunity to practice online facilitation and become familiar with the communication tools before the mini conference.
  • Our first few meetings will using Elluminate, which is a propitiatory web conferencing tool. This virtual classroom is open now so that you can go in, set up your computer and meet others to practice online communication. To access the Elluminate virtual classroom, please click on this link.
  • For further information about how to set up Elluminate and what to do when you get into the virtual classroom, please click here.


Join the first course meeting in the Elluminate virtual meeting room on Thursday March 10th 20.00 hours New Zealand (World Clock), or Friday March 11th 12.00 hours NZ (World Clock)

  • During this first class meeting we will introduce ourselves, discuss the course, and discuss any issues that have cropped up so far.
  • We will be joined by participants of the 2010 course who will pass on tips on how to 'survive' 'Facilitating Online'.
Please try to complete the following tasks before the first course meeting.
1. Set up a blog for your weekly work and reflection 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.
2. Post to your blog a little bit about you and why you are joining in with the course.
3. Introduce yourself to the course by adding your blog's web address to Participants page.
4. Go to the blogs of some of the other participants, leave a comment to introduce yourself.
5. 'Follow' or 'subscribe to' the blogs of the other participants so you are kept updated every time they write a blog post.
6. Prepare your computer so you can attend the first of our regular meetings.

Image: 'Footprints'