I ran an introduction to online facilitation in September and in preparation, I reflected on my first experiences in lecturing. I was newly qualified and nervous. Gee, was I nervous. At the end of my first term, I wanted the class to watch a video that pulled everything together. With the TV and VHS player borrowed from the library and microwaved popcorn, I sat with the class. But, I didn’t watch the movie. I spent the whole time checking if anyone had seen us, getting my rationale for having my students watch a video as opposed to anything else that I might have done with them.
In retrospect, it was all about confidence. I felt like a sham, I didn’t have the confidence what I was doing was ‘right’.
It’s the same with online facilitation.
So here’s my top 10 list for building confidence in online facilitation. (I’m not going to differentiate between synchronous and asynchronous online – the list covers both).
- Build confidence by getting started. Use a webinar for your meetings, meet a colleague via Skype/Hangouts. Start a blog or join a wiki. The best way to build confidence is to set up a safe environment and see what happens when you get in there. See what happens when you can’t make your microphone work or you can’t work out how to edit the page. Things are going to go wrong, the best way to be able to troubleshoot is to practice!
- Break your tasks into technical and facilitation related tasks (or think about what shoes you are wearing). Ed Hootstein says that when facilitating online, we wear four pairs of shoes – Instructor (consultant, guide, and resource provider), Social director (creator of collaborative environments), Program manager (director of the agenda) and Technical assistant (model of proficiency). As you start to plan your online facilitation, think about that tasks you are working on. This can help distinguish between the technical and pedagogical/andragogical. My hint is: Try to work with someone who can assist with the technical tasks, so you can concentrate on building an online community. See this link for his paper:
- Identify what do you want to achieve. Gilly Salmon’s model of online facilitation (see http://www.gillysalmon.com/five-stage-model.html) is a great model to get familiar with. You wouldn’t expect participants in a face-to-face session to build a strong learning community in an hour – so why expect it of an online session? Think about how you build the relationships with your participants.
- Think about what you want to achieve and how you would do it in a face-to-face environment. Then think about the way the technology can allow you to do this in. This simple substitution can be a great first step to building confidence. There is a table at the bottom of the list to get you started.
- Once you have worked out what you want to put online/what you are facilitating, think about your stages of facilitation and the tasks you will perform. I’ve added a simple table here to help get you started. There is a table at the bottom of the list to get you started.
- Once you work out what you are facilitating online, organise a colleague to help you out. This might mean meeting you online to test what your system can do. Or testing how an online tool might work. Can you do a breakout room in your webinar? How can you encourage asynchronous peer collaboration?
- Go to webinars/MOOCs and critique. The best thing you can do is be a participant in an unknown space then critique what the facilitator does. Apply their strengths to your delivery and learn from their weaknesses.
- Build your toolkit of methodologies. As a new lecturer, I had no confidence and had to build my toolkit of methodologies. It’s the same when you facilitate online. However, it’s easier! If you have experience in a face-to-face environment, you have something to bring into the online environment,
- Practice, practice practice.
- Fake it until you make it. When it comes to confidence, no one will know that you aren’t confident unless you tell them – so don’t tell them!
PS – if you want a brilliant video about headsets and Windows 7, check out KerryJ’s video –