When the course started back in July, we had 15 formal enrolments and 22 informal students. Of the 22 people who indicated an interest in being informal students, five got past the first couple of weeks. Of those five, two ended the course - one student completed all the assignments and was presented with a "certificate of participation".
Of the formally enrolled students, two dropped out and 13 completed, which is a 87% completion rate.
The students had three ways of evaluating the course. The first way was to give oral feedback at our last live meeting. The second means that students could give feedback was on their blogs. The third method was via an anonymous online survey - three students used this method of feedback. The general consensus amongst the students was that the course was a great learning experience.
The most enjoyable aspects of the course
- Organising and attending the mini events. The mini conference put things into perspective for people, and was a great way to put theory into practice.
- Understanding the difference between facilitation, teaching and moderation
- Exploring other technologies - the course opened eyes to potential and possibilities of online communication tools.
- Interacting with other participants - a very supportive group.
- Having synchronous meetings via Elluminate - helped people feel more connected.
- Blogging - useful way to learn and interact with other participants.
- Support and feedback from the facilitator.
- Feeling confident to have a go and explore further.
- Managing the workload - the work load is too great for a course of 10 credits.
- Managing the online events.
- Finding more time to interact with their blogs - participants see the value of blogging by the end of the course.
- Getting the hang of things and building up enough courage to 'talk' online.
- Elluminate's unreliability made life difficult for people who already were challenged by technology.
- Technical difficulties were a barrier at times.
- The course wiki was the most difficult tool to interact with.
- Increase credits of the course, or reduce workload - look at the weekly "to-do" activities, which were difficult to keep up to date with.
- More practice with communication tools before the mini conference - more experience at facilitating live events as the course unfolded, instead of being dropped into things at the mini-event.
- Preferred a set time each week for live meetings, rather than my approach of changing days and times each week.
- Participants felt they were thrown in the deep end - would appreciate some sort of pre-course preparation.
I really enjoyed being involved in the course. I found it fascinating to watch the movement that participants made from being totally confused to having an understanding of how and why networking and connecting is so important. I felt that the group moved from being individuals struggling to organise their thoughts, to a learning community who actively supported each other. I was blown away by how supportive and patient people were, especially at the time of the mini event.
For me, the highlights of the course were:
- watching the self-organisation that participants did eg the setting up of a Pageflakes page by Chris Woodhouse;
- discussions that evolved that were driven by students, not by the course eg personal information security and Twitter;
- involvement of informal students who added different perspectives and helped keep everyone motivated;
- the mini-conference - diversity of subjects, speakers and communication tools.
During a conversation I had with Bronwyn Hegarty as part of the moderation process, we talked about how the students did with their facilitation in the mini event. We agreed that there needs to be more emphasis in the course on the practicalities of how to facilitate, not just focusing on technology - thinking about what makes a session interactive, being prepared with questions and activities that lead the audience in discussion.
My recommendations for the future
- Increase the credits of the course, rather than reduce activities. My understanding is that is going to happen in 2010.
- Spend more time looking at the theory of how to facilitate online - have a look at work of people like Nancy White and Gilly Salmon. I think there is a tendency to get hooked up on the technology and we forget that we are there to learn about facilitation. If people are better prepared to facilitate, maybe we won't have the problems that we had this year with the technology failures at the mini event eg empathize the importance of having a back-up strategy that works.
- Give people opportunity to practice with the technology- I did try this at the beginning of the course but people were too 'shy' at that stage...obviously is a concept worth pursuing. Having said that, there's nothing stopping people from trying out tools at their own instigation.
- Be consistent with times for live meetings. This is difficult to manage when you have people attending from different time zones. Maybe the best thing to do is alternate an evening meeting with a lunch time meeting.
- Look at facilitation in more general terms, not just in the educational context - think about facilitation of events, not just as a way of delivering educational content. Important to remember that participants may be from areas other than education.
- Think about a follow-up to this course as a way of maintaining people's interest and support them to develop their facilitation skills further.