Learning the Art of Online Facilitation: March 1-21, 2007

Tips, Tricks and Advice and for Facilitators

Tips, Tricks and Advice and for Facilitators

by Carol Isakson -
Number of replies: 20

I’ve just come from an exhilarating campfire conversation in SL where, among other topics, we had a short discussion of effective communication practices for facilitators. I suggested starting a thread for sharing tips, insights and solutions to build a productive learning experience. Since I suggested it and am a newbie facilitator I’m starting the thread and look forward to learning more from this wonderful community.

To get started, in a chat, does anyone have suggestions for helping slow typers keep up with the conversation?

Do you recommend any books, blogs, websites or online courses for learning the skill of facilitation?

Carol Isakson (a.k.a. Sunshine Hapmouche in SL)

In reply to Carol Isakson

Re: Tips, Tricks and Advice and for Facilitators

by Sylvia Currie -
Thanks for starting this topic, Sunshine Hapmouche! Wasn't that neat the way Nick managed to fit in some SL feature highlights then got us sitting around the campfire and focused in on a discussion about online facilitation so easily? He even fit in private messages to me because I couldn't figure out how to sit down! LOL Now that takes a special kind of attentiveness, and it reminded me of how much you learn just by experiencing good facilitation in action.

There are many excellent books, blogs, websites and online courses out there. Let's start rounding them up!

I'd like to point everyone to the Facilitating Online pages at Wikiversity. http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Facilitating_Online
Perhaps there's a contribution we can make there? I first heard about this project through the Teach and Learn Online group (TALO) in November. It's really taking shape! I was especially interested in Leigh Blackall's question in the TALO thread:
"Specifically, does anyone have any links to audio, video and graphically enhanced content relating to the idea of facilitating online?"
There really seems to be a shortage of this kind of multimedia content. Leigh has also put some energy into drawing a distinction between teaching and facilitating -- implying that we've begun to use the term facilitation too loosely.

Anyway, I'm starting to pack too many thoughts and directions in one post. Time to hit that post button! tongueout
In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: Tips, Tricks and Advice and for Facilitators

by E.A. Draffan -

Still having a lovely holiday in the sun, but I printed out Web 2.0: About "Coming of Age: An introduction to the NEW worldwide web" , a collection of articles by teachers and specialists that was wide ranging and a fun read. Terry Freedman, the editor has a useful site http://www.terry-freedman.org.uk/db/web2/  and there are many others mentioned in the free downloadable book such as http://www.shambles.net/

I am looking forward to keeping up with all the links and good advice when I am back in the rain and cold of UK

Best wishes E.A.

In reply to E.A. Draffan

Re: Tips, Tricks and Advice and for Facilitators

by Emma Duke-Williams -
Hi E.A.
You are doing well to keep out of the rain here! That booklet is useful, isn't it? Terry is currently working on the new version, though he seems to be moving some of his ideas away from a paper based version.
In reply to Emma Duke-Williams

Re: Tips, Tricks and Advice and for Facilitators

by E.A. Draffan -

I am dreading getting back to it all sad ! 

Thank you so much for the update note.  I can see where Terry is coming from but for an oldie, being able to read away from the screen and reflect in between pages is still so much more relaxing at times!  I fear I am now being old fashioned, but often the physical pen as a highlighter and the sticky note as a marker are more tangible than the virtual bookmark and saved note in a folder on the computer.  

Is this something that affects all aspects of e-learning and the facilitation of interactions?  Is it possible that sometimes the best moments happen away from the screen?   

Best wishes E.A.

In reply to E.A. Draffan

Re: Tips, Tricks and Advice and for Facilitators

by Emma Duke-Williams -
Oh, I fully agree. You can also sit much more comfortably if it's only a bit of paper that you're holding. Even a light weight laptop is quite a weight after a while! 
In reply to E.A. Draffan

Re: Tips, Tricks and Advice and for Facilitators

by Jeffrey Keefer -

I have not been able to get that website to open. Is anybody else having problems with it?

Is that where the online book (also referenced) can be found?

In reply to Jeffrey Keefer

Re: Tips, Tricks and Advice and for Facilitators

by Emma Duke-Williams -
Which site can't you open, Jeffrey? The one that I posted, or the one that EA posted?

I can open both (Using firefox, and the current time is 17.52 GMT)

The blog about the update is only at the location that I posted, http://web2booklet.blogspot.com/ it's a blogspot site - could your systems admin people have blocked blogspot?

If, on the other hand, it's also online at http://fullmeasure.co.uk/Coming_of_age_v1-2.pdf - (pdf file - quite large)

I hope that helps!
In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: Tips, Tricks and Advice and for Facilitators

by Barbara Dieu -

Some time ago, I prepared a list of resources on moderation and communities of practice for an online workshop on weblogging. Maybe some of the material may be useful for you.

Main topics:

COMMUNITIES AND HOW THEY WORK
ENCOURAGING PARTICIPATION
GROUPS AND LEARNING
ACTIVITIES TO PROMOTE E-LEARNING
Being an effective MODERATOR

There is this as well:

Online Learning: Social Interaction and the Creation of a Sense of Community

 

 

In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: Tips, Tricks and Advice and for Facilitators

by Stephen Thorpe -

Hi Sylvia,

I wanted to respond to the point you raised earlier (also Leigh Blackall's) about drawing a distinction between teaching and facilitating. I work in both domains and there are some differences between the role of a 'facilitative trainer' and that of the 'group facilitator'. The key distinctions for me lie in the areas of decision making and content neutrality.

As a trainer my primary role is the transferring of some kind of information or knowledge to individual participants. I also manage the group process while individual learning is taking place and am also involved in assessing individual performance in some way. As a teacher I can often be very facilitative, and this is great for learning. However, the primary role is individual learning within a particular sphere of knowledge. As the trainer I choose how and when students are involved in the decision making processes.


Group facilitation, on the other hand, is a process in which a person who is acceptable to all members of a group, is substantively neutral, and has no decision-making authority, intervenes to help a group improve the way it identifies and solves problems, and makes decisions, in order to increase the group’s effectiveness.

I'd really be interested in what others think or have grappeled with in this area.

Regards,
Stephen Thorpe

Some good resources that discuss content neutrality, decision making and the differences between the facilitator and trainer roles:

Chapter 2 of the 2007 edition of The Art of Facilitation by Dale Hunter.
For a useful diagram see page 28 of The Skilled Facilitator Fieldbook, also chapter 3 by Roger Schwarz discusses the differences between facilitator, consultant, coach, trainer and leader.
Chapter 30 of the IAF Handbook of Group Facilitation
Also a reprint of a classic by John (Sam) Keltner Facilitation: Catalyst for Group Problem Solving in the December 06 issue of the IAF Group Facilitation Journal

In reply to Carol Isakson

Re: Tips, Tricks and Advice and for Facilitators

by Robin Yap -

Sorry I missed that SL session - if you see Phronos Bailey, that would have been me. But I have yet to master SL manouevers since I'm brand new (in fact about a week old and since my computer is slow, I'm having difficulty just moving about the main island).

About your question Carol on slow typers - whenever I start an online session I always indicate that typos are ignored and sentence construction not graded so people don't feel that they have to recheck their sentences and lose their trend of thought. I've even allowed for texting in messages just to get them started. My younger students seem to like this idea although frankly I have a hard time understanding all the shortcuts.

The online facilitation programs I've used have audio so I always point out that they could always use their mic's instead so they don't have to type. If this is unavailable and you're only way to communicate is through typing, then I know I have to wait and verbalize this to the group that I will count to 50 or something just to allow for the slow typers.

Re online facilitation skills books - Learning in Real Time: Synchronous Teaching and Learning Online ir?t=consultantsanded&l=ur2&o=1Facilitating Online Learning: Effective Strategies for Moderators .

Blogs - http://liveonlinelearning.blogspot.com/, http://online-mentor.blogspot.com/; Nancy White's blog of course

Articles - http://www.learningcircuits.org/2005/oct2005/miner.htm

Courses - http://www.learningtimes.net/synccertified.shtml

Hope that helps

In reply to Robin Yap

Re: Tips, Tricks and Advice and for Facilitators

by Carol Isakson -

Wow! Thank you for all the resources Sylvia, E.A. and Robin! I sent for the pdf version of the Web 2.0 "Coming of Age" book tonight. If you don't see me in a tree or stuck in a wall in SL it's because I'm busy exploring all the sites.

Robin, I'm curious about using audio as well as text. What are the programs? Is it difficult to keep track of "input" from 2 mediums at once, or more importantly, can students follow the thread in a group setting? Do you record the conversations as well?

I especially liked the idea of not counting typos and sentence construction, that would certainly relieve a lot of stress and increase interaction.

Carol / Sunshine

In reply to Carol Isakson

Re: Tips, Tricks and Advice and for Facilitators

by Deleted user -
Carol, concerning double (or triple) media handling software I use a lot of Skype.
You can have audio, video and text chat, you can handle a lot of people at once (up to 100 in Skypecasts,if I'm not wrong) and it's free. You can also record audio chat with the Pamela plugin (I've just written a tutorial on how to use both for multi voiced podcasts, but it's in Italian for now, sorry...)
Concerning text chat speed I personally use a little trick: during the conversation, if I come up with things to say, I write them down in the notepad and just cut and paste when I need it. It does help!
Jan/Obyonethehobbit
In reply to Carol Isakson

Re: Tips, Tricks and Advice and for Facilitators

by Kaj Rietberg -
I believe that it is for studentas easier to follow 2 mediums at once then teachers. They are more used to multi-tasking then we, teachers are.

I find it sometimes hard to keep track op voice and written chat. But I think I just have to do it more and get more used to it.

In reply to Carol Isakson

Re: Tips, Tricks and Advice and for Facilitators

by Susan Alcorn MacKay -

This is a fascinating conversation though I didn't have time to learn how to do SL (dial up at home).

But I am wondering how this activity might impact a person with a disability.

Blind or partially sighted persons might find using a screenreader slow as would a person with a learning disability or mobility difficulties.

It might seem a good idea for the facilitator to find out some of these questions about their participants before the activity?

Or has anyone thought of solutions for this???

:) susan

In reply to Susan Alcorn MacKay

Re: Tips, Tricks and Advice and for Facilitators

by E.A. Draffan -

As an assistive technologist my main concerns lie in accessibility and usability of digital materials and I have been involved in several projects around the subject.  Engaging in the desing of teaching and learning materials that suit all is hard to achieve.  We all have our own preferences - I wish we could go for a universal design principle and know it would work but it is not always possible so for some pragmatic approaches...

Making your teaching inclusive http://www.open.ac.uk/inclusiveteaching/

Skills for Access http://www.skillsforaccess.org.uk/

Last day on the beach!  cool

In reply to E.A. Draffan

Re: Tips, Tricks and Advice and for Facilitators

by Karen Baker -
Thank you for the helpful links!
In reply to Carol Isakson

Re: Tips, Tricks and Advice and for Facilitators

by Robin Yap -

Hi Sunshine (Carol)

I love to multitask and I use Trillian (and will be moving to Meebo) to hold all my text conversations during the day. Yes, I think I'll get Twitter too just because seeing friends online (I work from home) makes me feel like I'm at an office.

This daily routine of working while seeing chat texts allow me to navigate Centra, Breeze, or Interwise easily. I know it took awhile to get used to seeing text, talking to the camera and seeing my powerpoint presentation all at once. One comment I normally say to students is not to take notes since that will move their eyes away from the monitor and to their notebooks. I do let them know that they will get copies of everything that happens in the class so they should not worry about it (audio, text chat, presentation are normally recorded) 

When I teach online instructors I likened this skill to driving and how we learned to scan the mirrors but make sure that we face the road. I'd have peripheral vision exercises wherein I'd have the students move text chat window to the side, push visually entertaining photos through powerpoint and make them critically think about it all the while sending text chats (since I've done this before I'd actually have this on notepad so I just cut and paste so it looks like quick texts coming their way). They initially freak out with so much input but by the end of the class, they get used to it. When I teach training managers though, they're like regular online students, so this exercise does not work for them and I end up retreating to my initial comment that they don't have to worry about typos/sentence construction and then counting to 50 or so to allow them to keep up.

As an aside, I normally have multi-generational students and I find that my younger students have no problem with multi-window inputs (text, presentation) along with audio but not with the ones around my age or older (40s up). So I adjust accordingly.

Centra, Interwise and Breeze all have recording capability so I always tell the students that I will publish these sessions immediately at end of day so they could review if they want and take notes.

In reply to Robin Yap

Re: Tips, Tricks and Advice and for Facilitators

by Emma Duke-Williams -

From Re: Tips, Tricks and Advice and for Facilitators by robinyap on 04 March 2007 19:00:00:
About your question Carol on slow typers - whenever I start an online session I always indicate that typos are ignored and sentence construction not graded so people don't feel that they have to recheck their sentences and lose their trend of thought. I've even allowed for texting in messages just to get them started. My younger students seem to like this idea although frankly I have a hard time understanding all the shortcuts.

The online facilitation programs I've used have audio so I always point out that they could always use their mic's instead so they don't have to type. If this is unavailable and you're only way to communicate is through typing, then I know I have to wait and verbalize this to the group that I will count to 50 or something just to allow for the slow typers.


I know what you mean about the difficulty understanding shortcuts - I agree that I don't mind if the students use txt spk, though I aim to write correctly myself, as I think that it gives them a better model. In addition, it takes me longer to rmbr txt spk than it does to remember how to spell things properly!
The SL chat, and also MSN chat are handy, as you can tell if someone is writing - SL by seeing them type, MSN because it tells you. Both of those I find very useful. In WebCT chat, you have no clues - so if there are  no messages appearing, I have no idea if the students are all frantically typing, or if they've all fallen asleep. It makes me much more twitchy, and far more likely to jump into what I perceive to be a period of silence, rather than waiting for them to finish.

I'm never that sure about audio, to be honest. There are two main aspects to it as far as I can tell. Practical - e.g. all having working microphones / speakers, turn taking, bandwidth issues etc. Then there are the more individual based; is audio easier or harder to follow. What if you need to go over something someone said a few minutes ago? What's easier - talking or writing, listening or reading. It presents different opportunities I think. Catching up afterwards is also different. A text chat over 1 hour generally is much quicker to skim read, than a 1 hour audio recording to listen to again, as you can't "skim listen". On the other hand, compared to face to face discussions, it is possible to (easily) capture the audio.
I don't think that there is a "right" answer, nor a "wrong" choice. We have to use both, and make choices. The chances are that our choices will be good for some users, less good for others - in the same way that in a face to face class, some students enjoy discussion sessions, others hate them but like the anonymity of a darkened lecture theatre.
In reply to Emma Duke-Williams

Re: Tips, Tricks and Advice and for Facilitators

by E.A. Draffan -
Continuing from the issues that arise for screen reader and magnification users - we have learnt through Neilson's work and others that it takes a good screen reader user on average 6 times longer to work through web pages and those using magnification 3 times longer.  In the case of the screen reader user, they may cope at 400 words per minute if experts, but still, as has been pointed out, you cannot scan audio text you virtually have to listen to the everything when first encountering the text.
In reply to Carol Isakson

Re: Tips, Tricks and Advice and for Facilitators

by Nick Noakes -
Carol thanks very much both for suggesting this and for carrying it through to make it concrete.

One of my top sites I subscribe to is Nancy White's blog and her website has a wealth of resources ... if you are new to this, check out Nancy's online facilitation toolkit on her Resources page. Like Bron, Jenny Preece's book is a great one as is the one from the MooM course, Facilitation Online Learning and also Gilly Salmon's e-Moderating.

It's all about the people and the language and behaviors we use and implicitly model. :-)