Nancy White of Full Circle Associates has been leading discussions and activities related to developing collaboration and facilitation strategies, communications, planning and Internet collaboration for many years. She has created a wiki to accompany her eLearning 2010 presentation in Ft. Worth Texas, “Online Facilitation 13 Years On: What We Learned and What Do We Need to Learn?” Here are some of her thoughts on that:
“Online facilitation is not magic. It is based on older, known F2F practices with new expressions online.” http://twitter.com/NancyWhite/status/9478483976
“Technology keeps changing what it means to “be together.” http://twitter.com/NancyWhite/status/9478926210
“Online facilitation is a bit like yoga. A practice. Something that changes every time you do it. Must be present.” http://twitter.com/NancyWhite/status/9477991782
“Online facilitation is about making things visible, discussable, actionable.” http://twitter.com/NancyWhite/statuses/9480108571
As you learn more about online facilitation by exploring the following two models, think about how White’s quotes fit in with those models, if at all.
Andrew Feenberg and Cindy Xin
In a jointly-authored paper, Feenberg and Xin refer to facilitation as the “art of leadership in group communications.” They also point out that online facilitation has its roots in the face-to-face equivalent that has been going on in classrooms for years, but the introduction of technology introduces further aspects such as technical issues and support, and being able to effectively explain concepts at a distance. Feenberg and Xin indicate that the first step in effective online facilitation is agreeing on a communication model, and then ensuring all participants work within that model by acting as a “chairperson,” reassuring participants and generally modelling good practice. Keeping participants motivated is another challenge once the online communications model is established, but a skilled facilitator can keep the online community viral, with participants looking forward to coming back to the discussions day-after-day.
Feenberg and Xin describe a list of 10 online communicative functions and divide those functions into three groups: contextualizing functions, monitoring functions, and meta functions. Within this set of functions, they mention the process of “weaving,” which involves the facilitator finding areas of agreement within the discussions and gluing those together for the participants.
You will find more details on Feenberg and Xin’s thoughts on online facilitation on this archive of the TextWeaver website.
Wearing Four Pairs of Shoes—Ed Hootstein
Ed Hootstein points out that e-learning and online communication is making a transformation from an instructor-centred learning model to a learner-centred model where students take on more responsibility for their learning. Hootstein also point out that even though this shift is occurring, there is still a critical role for the instructor as a facilitator of online communications. “The effectiveness and success of e-learning programs are dependent on facilitators’ roles in delivering and managing instruction.”
Similarly to Zane Berge’s four-part model of online facilitation, Hootstein has the two-footed facilitator wearing four pairs of shoes by acting as the instructor, the social director, the program manager, and the technical assistant. Hootstein suggests that standards should be set for the roles of online facilitators, and that this process helps ensure the delivery of a quality e-learning program. Hootstein provides a more detailed description of the four pairs of shoes that an online facilitator must wear in his article in the American Society for Training & Development Learning Circuits publication from 2002.