Here's the question: how are online communication tools used to facilitate online?
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Here's the question: how are online communication tools used to facilitate online?
To some extent what makes a good on-line facilitator is the same as what makes a good face-to-face facilitator.
Engagement. This covers two aspects, the most important being the engagement with the subject matter. An enthusiastic articulate teacher is like gold in almost any situation. Most other elements in the virtuous circle are initiated by this passion. The second part is the direct human to human engagement that is not quite the same thing as engaging with the subject. I have know some very engaging teachers who didn't get their students into the subject matter very well but were loved by students. How to get both sorts of engagement into your on line facilitation? Hmmm.. I think to some extent you're born with a personality that works in this context. But you can work at it and by trying to understand the motivation and like difficulties of the other on-line participants get them to the same place as the profoundly charismatic Nobel prize winners.
Mastery of subject. You have to know your stuff and be good at getting basics across. This is not as obvious as it seems as much of the IT-type subject matter changes very quickly. There is another dimension to this in the on-line world where you have to master the on-line tool if you're the facilitator. At least up to the level required by neophytes who are being facilitated. Going into a classroom and talking is pretty straightforward but going on-line and talking is not the same and both can be pretty deadly to listen to.
Appearing organised and structured. This is a consistent complaint by students in all forms of delivery. They want to see structure and and a non flustered teacher who has a plan and takes command. Not bossy or inflexible just organised and has some contingent plans for when things go awry.
Beyond those above characteristics, I think we can add some special elements that a skilful on-line facilitator will have.
Before the meeting:
Having good idea of time and date.
Booking all equipment for the session
Lining up the speakers and giving them a run through
Advertising the session effectively
Shoulder tapping people who'd be ideal participants
Making notes to have ready when real thing starts
Getting biographical data from relevant people.
Anticipating time differences
Setting up pictures and slides
Thinking about take-home message
Thinking about subsequent sessions
Anticipating the time given over to different activities.
Just before the session
Check in with the main speaker
Have a plan with that speaker
Go over protocols
Test equipment working
Start the timer
Make sure slides and images are ready and seen by early people
Decide on microphone usage and breakout rooms
During the session
Give structure of session
State purpose and outcomes
Explain simple features of on-line tool
Establish protocols for questions
Say when comments are welcome
Give procedures for when crashes may occur
Keep eye on chat window
Encourage quite ones
Discourage crass ones
Wind up session when nearly finished.
Give instructions how to re-hear session.
Engage in elegant departure
Follow up with speaker by email.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Recent upheavals in Tunisia (see image below)and Egypt have thrown up the terms “Twitter Revolution” and the like and this indicates the maturation of social networking into a force comparable to traditional print journalism. I think this is a bit exaggerated but there is something in it.
Now we acknowledge that big sites like Twitter, Google applications, Facebook, Flickr and the usual suspects are excellent sites, in that they are successful with millions of users, what happens when we drill down to ordinary prosaic sites that range from wonderful to horrible? How do we judge them and how do we run the ruler of excellence over them?
More pointedly, what are the features of successful online communities? At first it seems easy enough to answer this because, we have some examples above of very successful online communities in terms of simple parameters like profitability and the number of people who use them. But if we dive into some of the research we see that there are many dimensions to success in this area and non-numeric qualities like engagement are hard to measure.
Graph site link.
In the graph above we see that in one survey, people rated the ability to connect with like minded people as the most important attribute in an online community. But there are 10 other attributes that scored well too. They included:
- Ability to help others
- Exclusive product and service offers
- Ability for members to develop reputation
- Quality of community and site managers
- Community focused around a hot topic
The most comprehensive inquiry into the factors that contribute to a successful on-line community that I found was written by Wise, Thorson and Hamman. And called Features of Online Communities and Their Effects on Participation and Evaluation
Amongst some interesting things I found was that with just text and pictures in a community's meeting place a set of quite sophisticated norms are built up with a variety of methods to cope with departures from the norms. As individuation decreases, flaming and ad hominem practices increase and the whole society associated with that community can collapse. That's one end of the spectrum. The other is wonderful flourishing communities. To investigate what are the precursors to a flourishing on-line community the authors set up experiments at a US university and tested some of the following factors that they assumed to be important in an on-line community:
- attracting members
- retaining members
- encouraging participation
- the role of moderation
- structure of the site
- nature of the content
- time between posts
- role of synchronicity
There were no obviously strong conclusions concerning the above factors that came out of their experiments as there were always confounding factors and quite small samples used. However the discussion and the pilot experiments were extremely relevant to this current paper.
Monday, November 22, 2010
"Finish the course with a closing post with feedback about the course. Did you learn new and useful things? Was it challenging enough? What could have been better? What could you have done better. Did the course facilitator do a good job? How will you apply what you have learned? Who would you recommend to do this course next time?" ... Said Sarah
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
There were a whole lot of fellow learners on the FO2010 course and I feel the event was interesting to some of them.
Colleagues I work with could have been shoulder tapped.
I run a business group very interested in sustainability. Each of them would have been interested.
The wiki page was done late and could have been more zingy.
There was a FO2010 Google Group with over 180 people who may have been interested. Should've contacted them.
My blog has followers and casual readers who wouldn't know there was an event on. Some sort of background and countdown could have been instituted.
I am a man of three tweets in his life and could have tweeted my small circle with a mini announcement.
We have an excellent organ in Dunedin, NZ, called the Otago Daily Times that's always looking for soft news.
I teach an IT class. Could have made viewing compulsory.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Nicola talked about the impact on the planet and people of all the social networking going on in the world today. Her message was one about being aware rather than ceasing all activity. How much coal gets burned to upload a photo into Facebook? What does Google plan to do about powering and cooling all the servers it needs? All this is on the Elluminate recording whose link is on the previous post.
I prepared a bit for this presentation and Nicola and I went over our roles that morning. I've been winging lessons all my life in a face to face situation but I know that where a lot of technology sits between you and your audience you have to make sure everything works and have a plan B for any eventuality.
Two issues were identified that I would have to work on for the next event. One was advertising which was minimal in my case so we had only a small audience. I've got to find out how to advertise more widely.
The second was the lack of instruction I gave to the audience about how to raise your hand and perform the small feedback actions. Assumptions lead to some pauses that might be evident in the recording.
I thought Nicola was excellent in the way she responded to the typed ad-hoc comments. This made the sessions more interactive.
Summing up: a great topic, a great presenter and an average facilitator.