20 November 2008

Weeks 15 & 16

Assignment 3: Evaluate the facilitation of an online event - what we learned!

Organisation and promotion of the event
  • Planning - the draft proposal was posted in our blogs in Week 9 - Elaine and mine . We both actively participated in the preparation of the online event. It allowed us to consider pre-conceived problems, our interaction with others (or lack of), our communication methods and having to take risks!

  • Promotion - as Leigh suggested to us both (before and after the event), we needed to assist in the promotion of the events and in getting a group of people to attend. Prior to the event we assumed a group would evolve from the FOC community and would just come along … yet we ignored the lack of discussion in the forum and failed to actively promote our event. In Elaine’s post she quotes from Leigh …
    "It is a false idea to think that "if we build it they will come".”
    We are both now fully aware of the importance of actively (and consistently) encouraging participation in the discussion forum before the event.

    Once Leigh realised no other people had joined our session, he immediately made connections with his contacts and within only a couple of minutes, we had a group (audience). (Thank you Leigh)!

While I was in Auckland with our planned guest speaker, Jennie, the week prior to our mini conference, we checked access to Elluminate and completed a ‘dummy’ run. She was going to be in Raglan at her holiday home prior to the conference but had assumed that internet access would not be a problem. Plan A was to have Jennifer Goddard (Master Trainer) however she was still flying back to the Gold Coast at the time of the conference. Plan B was to have Jennie Vickers (Senior Advanced Coach). Plan C wasn’t considered (at that stage)!

Setting the stage

I set up the Elluminate site with a visual representation of the Laws of Mind Maps for participants to view during the presentation.

Management of the event

As Russ had suggested in an early posting:
“Facilitation in this environment feels like and sounds like being nudged gently in the right directions by the community with the possibility that someone in that community takes responsibility for the general direction of that.”
In the planning stages it was decided that Elaine and I would co-facilitate in Elluminate, however at the last minute she became the sole facilitator. She liaised with Leigh to ensure we were able to gather an audience, provided a warm and friendly welcome at the beginning, introduced the “guest speaker”, explained the format of the presentation by engaging them, and demonstrated the ability to provide direction and support to build an online relationship with the participants, in a neutral and facilitative manner. Elaine also demonstrated her skills in managing the online discussions by managing the audio and chat and ensuring I was aware of these communications.

We ended up going over time by a few minutes, Elaine managed to review the session and ensured the chat and audio recordings were posted in the FOC Course Mini conference wiki page within a couple of days.

Follow-up - what’s next in Mind Mapping?

We wondered whether we should have post further information on the Discussion Forum and have now done so, with new information about being in new 3-D mind map software in Second Life.

What went well?

Elaine was left to facilitate the online event on her own, felt the fear and did really well. She created a friendly, social environment for learning. She especially encouraged participation using a friendly, personal tone. Elaine:
  • demonstrated the ability to provide direction and support to learners
  • displayed a capacity for relationship building within the group
  • provided appropriate listening and feedback skills
  • remained the “guide on the side”
  • maintained a nurturing pace for responses
  • kept her cool (even though she may not have felt so)!
What could be improved
  • We could have added a weblink to a YouTube video and asked the audience view beforehand. It is a 5-minute introduction by Tony Buzan, which demonstrates the basics of mind maps. The online event could have then been as a ‘show & tell’ session, or the sharing of experiences, barriers, uptake etc. computer-generated MM software and freeware, collaborative mind mapping, FreeMind (writing on a tablet) …
  • At the last minute (Plan C) I had no option but to take the role of the presenter and quite rightly as Leigh stated
    "It was a lecture ... very teacherly."
    What I failed to consider was that participants may have come in with that prior knowledge of the Laws of Mind Mapping and just wanted to share their experiences and frustrations of its use in the classroom. We should have placed more emphasis on trying to gather interest and comments from our Discussion Forum. The laws could have been included in some ‘pre-reading’ and from that questions may have been prompted that would ‘set the scene’ for the facilitation of the online event, instead of a ‘show and instruct’ session.
  • We did not acknowledge or gauge the diversity of participants’ backgrounds and interests.

  • We did not consider nor design a regular, manageable feedback loop and managing our time more effectively – we realised afterwards we should have paused at the end of each “branch” of the map to ask for questions – rather than wait till half way through the presentation.

As I reflect on the process that Leigh clearly set out for our team (Elaine and I), we realise now how unconsciously unprepared we were. We have now experienced the process - we both felt like total newbies similar to our first classroom experience as a teacher). Immediately afterwards, we completed a debrief, shared our feelings and reactions, identified fairly quickly what we would do differently and since then have spent the past couple of weeks analysing and reflecting on the experience.
I believe we both have a far-better appreciation of the importance of the skills and roles required of a facilitator and have moved to becoming more conscious of our incompetence … and more conscious of Leigh’s expert facilitating skills!

This opportunity provided us with a concrete experience that has served as a practice, preparing and training us for future facilitative roles. By being part of the experience, we have extracted and learnt meaningful, relevant and essential knowledge and skills that can be transferred and used in our roles as online facilitators.

Overall, I found the learning process challenging, relevant and fun, and I have developed a far greater awareness and admiration of the skills required as a facilitator in an online environment - especially not to impose a point of view on the discussion - and to demonstrate the art of leadership in group communication.

I believe we have both become more aware to test and apply those lessons learnt in a similar situation (for continual improvement)! However, we felt the fear and did it anyway!


Elaine Dittert said...

What a great post. You summed up our event (and us)really well I think! The unconscious lack of preparation was key - we thought we were prepared but really had no idea what was to come.
I certainly learned the power of promotion and won't take that for granted again.
Well done :-)

vida said...

Hi Kay

vida said...

Hi Kay,
I too did not promote my session either. I did send an e-mail to the FOC group but that was not enough.
However Leigh & Nellie came to the rescue for me. I also found that I could not keep track of the chat & listen to the speaker. You are right Leigh is a great Facilitator he keeps track of everything. Sorry I missed your session but have listened to the audio and it was very interesting. Loved the mindmap. I think next time we will all be better prepared as we know what is ahead. We have the skills we just need to practise using them in an online situation. Well done.

Joy said...

Hi Kay

My promotion was not enough too. Like Elaine mentioned, we thought we prepared but we found we didnt when the session started. I thought quite a lot about my session before we held it but when I review it, I can tell I need more and detailed preparation.

well, we'll do better next time. Practice makes perfect, isnt it?

Leigh Blackall said...

Well done Kay, it is a good post. And many thanks for the generous words for my work! As Vida says, it takes practice practice practice. Sarah Stewart (a participant from the last course) regularly facilitates live events for her subject area of midwifery. It is great to see her getting the practice in.. she's actually better at all this than I am! Less than 6 months of practice!

Congratulations on finishing the course. I hope you will keep using your blog and consider rejoining the email forum. I have learned not to open the email forum up too much too early, and things have quietened down there some. t would be good to keep you veterans in that email forum to help guide the next course. (practice practice practice ;)

If not, following the course blog in your RSS reader will keep you updated.

mike said...

love to see this discussion! It’s great to see you all working through the issues and also, it’s great to see recommendations for testing. In the end, it’s what your actual users do and prefer hat should be your biggest driver in making these decisions.

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