Monday, August 4, 2008

Kicking Off Online Events

The process of getting this course underway last week got me thinking about how I normally start off a new class. I realised that I am normally quite prescriptive and structured. The relatively free-and-easy approach here in FOC08 was quite refreshing.

Some of the items on my checklist for starting a class include:

- Post my Introduction (on the LMS)
- Invite participants to post their introduction
- Welcome each student as they arrive and pick up on something in their intro that resonates with me
- Encourage participants to draw out these introductions by exchanging follow-up posts with each other
- Post details of deliverables and deadlines
- Encourage students to only start new threads if they want to discuss something new
- Start a discussion about how we are going to use the discussion board
- From this discussion, formulate a set of discussion guidelines
- Start discussions!

As I read down through this list I realise that Leigh showed us most of these steps during Week 1. But he made it look very effortless and light - a real skill IMHO.

I would love to hear how others approach this 'First Week' challenge.
Do you think that rigid structures inhibit participation?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Facilitating Online Communities

I am taking a course. I'm also starting a blog. In fact I'm starting the blog BECAUSE I'm taking a course! Facilitating Online Communities is a 17 week online course run by Leigh Blackall and his colleagues at Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand, and without so much as a visa or a passport they have kindly enrolled me as an online participant!

I had been thinking about doing some facilitation training for the past year or more - but not getting around to it. I occasionally read Leigh's blog via Bloglines so that's where I heard about the course.

Why Online Facilitation?
Why did I want to enhance my online facilitation skills? I have been involved in training for over 12 years and for most of those years I had a very 'teacher' inspired view of the training process - but that has been changing. In a previous life I had been inspired by some of the values and practices of a facilitative approach to learning. More recently, I completed an online MSc which also espoused a more learner centered approach and in the past year I have been involved as a facilitator on that course. So, both in my 'teacher' role and my 'facilitator' role I am keen to understand the underlying processes of online facilitation more clearly and improve my practice.

I also do some software development work - and the power of online communication to support the development process can be immense. But, it's not always clear how best to facilitate these online discussions, and sometimes they lose focus (at which point we usually schedule a F2F meeting!). So, I would like to understand the processes more clearly and become more adept at keeping discussions productive.

Finally, I have been lurking around the conversations that Leigh and others (Nancy White, Bronwyn Stuckey, Stephen Downes, George Siemens etc) have been having over the past couple of years and I always get a sense that these people are really shaping the future of education! Over the past couple of days, it is becoming clear that there are many more of you out there with wisdom and experience - and a willingness to share it. So, I am really looking forward to the conversations we will have over the coming months and the sharing of resources which has already begun.

So in summary my objectives are:
1. Understand the core skills of online facilitation more clearly.
2. Practice some of these core skills.
3. Develop structures which will help me apply these skills in my work.
4. Meet some great people and participate in worthwhile discussions.
5. Share resources, insights and practice.