Once upon a time, I would have said I know everything I need to know about facilitating online – given my years of experience! However, there is always more to learn!
Let me break down my facilitating online strategies one by one and provide an overview of how I do it – this is a new process for me and one that has been stimulated by my involvement in the Facilitating Online course with Sarah Stewart and an international cohort of learners. Details of this course can be seen at: http://wikieducator.org/Facilitating_Online and I need to acknowledge the learning from this course right here and now – one of the most useful PD decisions I have made this year. I learned here the power of the Google Groups as a medium for facilitating online conversations and I have adopted it for my project: VET Eportfolios Community of Practice http://groups.google.com/group/eportfolio_conversations
- Google groups
- Moodle forums
Facilitation mode 1: Google groups (anytime)
First steps were to invite a targeted group of e-portfolio practitioners to join the group – this was done from the Google group invitation function. This process gave the conversations a head start.
Here’s a few of my facilitation strategies that seem to be working well:
- Plan the first series of ‘conversations’ to stimulate discussion and get buy-in – then deliver on those over a period of one month – new posting each week.
- Monitor the responses regularly and respond where I see the conversation flagging – this required a daily vigilance in the beginning – and now a weekly monitoring
- Notify others of the conversations happening by promoting in communication tools such as Twitter – recently setup a shared Twitter account for the EpCoP so that two people can now do that
- Reflect some of the gems of these conversations in the EpCoP Google site and use these to stimulate interest in the monthly Elluminate events for the community of practice
- Ensure that the Google group is now open to the public to read (without joining) to ‘push’ the information and upcoming case studies to a wider range of e-portfolio enthusiasts
Facilitation mode 2: Skype (real time)
First steps with Skype is to send an email with instructions on how to setup a Skype account and to ask them to find my coach.carole identity and add to their contacts
Here’s a few of my facilitation strategies that I use when Skyping with those I mentor:
- Add each to my contact list and send a private individual text message to each of them to check if they can access and respond in text chat – they can respond at any time – Skype alerts me
- Plan and schedule real time meetings with individuals or groups using email invitations and remind them the day before and half an hour before to gather in Skype – online presence displayed by Skype
- Use the text chat to indicate that the meeting or workshop will start soon. If the meeting is with an individual – invite them to ‘call’ when they are ready. If the meeting is between several – add them to a group chat and then advise that I will make the ‘group call’.
- Add a set of agenda items in the text chat and then get everyone to give a brief introduction in voice and to add questions in text.
- I keep a summary of their speaking in the text chat – this is especially useful if we are brainstorming ideas together and if we are to take some actions – these form the minutes of the meeting
- I will send documents to them using the file share function in Skype where relevant and invite them to share with me
- I can share my desktop with an individual to show them something on my screen – this needs to be done separately as share screen does not activate for a group meeting
- Often I will copy and paste the transcript of our meeting to a Google doc and share with everyone – and remind them that they can still access the original text in their Skype folders
Facilitation mode 3: Moodle forums (any time)
First steps in Moodle is to plan the sequenced content for the News forum (messages from this one go to all who are enrolled) and to set up separate Discussion forums within each topic. I ensure that I select the notification rule from these forums to send a daily digest rather than individual messages each time a new posting is made.
Here’s a few of my facilitation strategies I use while Moodling with those I teach:
- Create meaningful discussion topic titles to entice and inform participants of the content – enter an initial ‘call to arms’ type of posting giving instructions and posing questions to answer
- Monitor the ‘flow’ of discussion using the forum tools to show as threads with most recent at top – keep a word file open beside me as I go to jot down points to ponder and questions to answer
- Post a reply to individuals frequently in the early weeks of a course – then drop back to a weekly summarising format for the later weeks – include highlights from participants (this engages the individual to read and look for mentions of their names)
- Create and post forum summaries and facilitator notes frequently and use the News forum to send out to all participants (frequency of these will depend on activity of the group) e.g. in one group I facilitate I am now only posting News summaries once a fortnight.
- On occasions I will use other tools to notify of specific events in the Moodle course using emails, SMS text messages, Twitter or voice mail. E.g. in one Moodle domain they provide a set of Wimba voice tools and I can set up a Voice board and/or Voice emails – each of these notify the participants by email of something new to listen to.
Facilitation mode 4: Elluminate (real time)
Elluminate Live session facilitation forms a large portion of my online facilitation activities – and I employ several strategies that you may find useful. I have gathered these into the before, during and after categories for your Ellumination below:
Prior to an Elluminate session:
- Book an Elluminate room (if this is a private one) or schedule an event in a public Elluminate room (e.g. The Australia Series) for the date and time of the session
- Send out email reminders to those who’ve registered (private event) or Tweet a reminder to Twitter (public events)
- Prepare my materials (powerpoint slides, URLs, applications to be shared, files to be shared)
- Prepare for my guest presenters (reminder emails, gather slides, bios and pictures) – add to the event scheduler if using the LearnCentral Event manager
- Enter the room and set up well in advance of arrivals (set the timer, set the interactions to notifiy arrivals, set the Audio, upload slides etc.)
During an Elluminate session:
- Send the Running Sheet to co facilitators – do this as they arrive
- Send any files for sharing – so they can be received and stored by participants as they enter the room
- Load any multi media to the library to allow time for those to be fully loaded as people enter the room
- Start the recording and Instruct participants on ‘style’ of session – expectations, tools to use, what to do
- Deliver the session with the aid of the co-facilitators – watching for questions in text, difficulties with sound, interacting frequently, enabling shared voices
After an Elluminate session:
- Stop the recording and advise people to save slides and text chat if required
- Advise on the next session date, time and focus
- Post the recording link to a web page or send the link to participants via email
- Check and action any tasks that came out of the session – followup with individuals where necessary by email
- Post a summary of the event in a web page or via Google docs or groups
I recently presented an Elluminate session for the Australian Elluminate Users Conference and invite you to learn more about it by accessing the recording of:
Facilitation mode 5: Blog comments (any time)
This is a strategy I have yet to adopt and would really welcome your advice on this and invite you to step into the comment area for this blog posting and send me your tips on facilitating in Blog comments. I will subscribe to the RSS feed for the comments on this article so that I will receive notifications of your postings via gmail. Here are some questions that may help you provide the advice I need:
- What should I do to entice folks to comment?
- How do I post my replies to those who comment?
- How do I get ‘conversational commenting’ style happening rather than the ‘one comment and run’ style?
- Where can I go to see good examples of ‘conversational commenting’ in other blogs?
- When should I summarise, if at all?
Your ‘conversational comments’ are welcome.