Week 4: Back Pocket Strategies

2. Mini Session: Facilitating Online Teams

Goals of this activity:

This week’s discussions on facilitating online teamwork might leave you feeling the need for two pockets! There are a few things going on here that, as facilitator, you want to stay on top of:

  1. helping your students unpack the 'Team in Trouble' case so that they are able to use it as a springboard for as much rich discussion and learning as possible
  2. managing timelines – both a process of discussion AND a process of collaborative writing need to take place.
  3. notice, reflect upon, and discuss your own team dynamic.

Unpacking the Case

This kind of discussion is about finding ways to help your learners critically examine a real-life case. Case-based learning and discussions are very common at Royal Roads and in higher education, so this is a great opportunity to explore ways to structure digging into cases beyond telling learners to simply “read and discuss”. Ultimately, we want to:

  1. explore critical issues raised by this case – there are some obvious, and not so obvious, ones.
  2. generating strategies to address the issues (and implications for choices/actions)

To get at these things directly, you might pose questions along these lines:

  • based on the information provided, what do you think is going on here? What do you feel are the critical issues at play? Are there any subtle (almost hidden) issues that might be overlooked?
  • as the course instructor, what steps would you take to effectively manage these issues?
  • can you think of a way to get there less “obviously”, but still directly?

Timelines & moving your participants along: There is a summary due, at the end of this activity, to be posted to the class so sharing can occur. Again, this is a common way to structure online discussions – small team discussions followed by summaries posted to the whole class (the online equivalent to what we often do with large f2f classes). How can you help your learners get there in a timely way?

Sometimes students are assigned roles for collaborative work like this - can you think of roles or “hats” students can wear that would advance the quality of their discussion and work here?

Your own team dynamic

Yet another learning opportunity is to explore how your team functioned in this discussion. Was it effective? Consider using the following questions as prompts and discussion starters:

  • how does your experience as a group relate to Tuckman’s Five Stages (forming, storming, norming, performing...)?
  • how did you work effectively as a team to work on this assignment?
  • what lessons learned about facilitating team learning came out of this assignment for you?

Another idea: make it personal

It may be interesting and worthwhile to invite your learners to share their own stories about team dynamics. Inviting personal reflection and storytelling can stimulate participation, engagement, and make the learning seem highly relevant. It can also extend the time needed to support the activity. If you go this route, we suggest you:

  • start a new thread for this kind of sharing
  • think about sequencing – when to invite sharing?
  • watch your time: be careful the discussion doesn’t wander too far away from the task at hand. One way to go about this is to provide timelines and structure. For example, rather than saying, “does anyone else have a horror story to share?”, you could ask learners to think about a time they experienced or heard about a conflict similar to the one described in the case, and share:
    1. how that case was framed/understood by the people involved,
    2. what was done about it (strategy used), and
    3. what happened next (i.e., was it a good strategy in the end?).