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'

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