Monday, July 19, 2010

What I want to achieve in 'Facilitating Online', 2010

The open, online course I am facilitating called 'Facilitating Online' starts today. I am very excited about it because we have a wonderful diverse group of people joining us, both from New Zealand and overseas. Of course, it remains to be seen how many people complete...keeping in mind the 1% rule, I am looking at about three informal participants making it to the end of the course.

My learning
The course has already enabled me to develop my instructional design and wiki editing skills. Now I am looking forward to further developing my facilitation skills, especially in the context of an open, online course. It's going to take quite a lot of juggling to make sure everyone has access to the course across a number of time zones, especially the real-time activities.

Time management
I think the challenge for me is going to be time-management. I must make sure I do not end up spending lots of unpaid hours supporting informal learners ie the participants who are not enrolled on the course and thus are not paying fees. The focus of my attention has to be the formal learners who are paying for support and assessment services. At the same time, I want to ensure that the informal learners enjoy themselves for several reasons:
  • I wish to contribute to people's learning in the same way I have gained from others over the last couple of years;
  • informal learners may end up being formal students.
I plan to contact David Wiley, Alec Couros, George Siemens and others who have facilitated open courses to see how they have addressed the time-management issue.

Focusing on facilitation, not tools
I am really looking forward to seeing how the new course format pans out. I have integrated facilitation activities into the weekly schedule so that participants can practice as they go along, as opposed to leaving it until the end of the schedule and the final assignments. It will be interesting to see if that makes a difference to facilitation skills development, or whether the course ends up being a focus on tools, which is what I want to move away from.

The other thing that interests me is the difference in the feel of this course compared to last year. Last year the course was nearly totally made up of 'newbies'. We had a fabulous time but I felt we focused on the tools as opposed to developing our online facilitation skills. This year we have a number of very experienced people joining the course. Initially, this made me feel very nervous - what on earth could I teach them?! People like Carole McCulloch are far more experienced then me. What I am hoping will happen is that people will organise themselves (this may need a little input from me as facilitator) into mentoring relationships so that the experienced people support the newbies...which will also lighten my workload.

This would lead to a nice research question...what motivates people to mentor and provide unpaid help to others in the online environment?

Questions that I want to answer
I am planning to write a joint article with Leigh Blackall (who originally developed 'Facilitating Online) about the course and how it has performed and evolved over the last four years. I would especially like to compare our experiences with the other open courses that are currently available like the 'Connectivism' course. Here are a few questions I would like to investigate further and integrate into our article.
  • What makes people enrol as informal learners?
  • How many people complete the course? What influences them to complete or drop out?
  • How many people enrol as formal students? What influences participants to become enrolled?
  • What are the benefits and disadvantages of this model of delivery to the facilitator and institution?
  • What are the financial costs involved?
I'd love to hear from anyone who has some thoughts about any of the points I've raised, especially the questions I have just asked.


Claire Thompson said...

I'll be interested to hear how the time management goes for you. I've have co-facilitated week long online courses before and found that they could use up every spare minute I had... if I let them ;-)

You said, "what motivates people to mentor and provide unpaid help to others in the online environment?" I think that would make a great research question! One big upside is that those are exactly the type of people who would be willing to give you some of their time to conduct your research. (Far easier than a project on why 99% of people do not actively participate in online courses/communities!)

Looking forward to the course!

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi Caire

The trouble is with this sort of work is that I find it really difficult to separate out work and 'play'. But its unfair to the person following on behind me to set up unfair expectations about workload management- I get annoyed when people do it when I'm on the other end.

I am convinced the best way to manage this is to facilitate mentoring relationships but I don't find that very easy because I find it difficult to stand back and let people get on with things...all part of the learning for me :)

WiseWoman said...

Good questions, Sarah. I was motivated to sign up (and I put it on FB today and I think a few more of my friends will sign up) because I had such a positive experience with the Int'l Day of the Midwife. I blog, do Twitter, FB, Second Life because of coaching/courses I took with Laureen Hudson and you. I'm very dependent on my tech person, tho and would like to be able to do more things with my blog without having to get help from him. Be independent and capable. I'm going to be a serious student of the course because my time is valuable and I treasure your expertise.

Floyd said...

What motivates me, may be lack of motivation. Where my natural interest and independent research is taking me these days, is running a similar path to what your doing here, so it all seems a happy coincidence.

I'm certainly an informal learner, and just looking for ways to contribute, lurk, and learn all at the same time.

Sarah Stewart said...

@WiseWoman this technology lark is the same as any skill development...the more you use it, the more competent and confident you become. I think the key is to have a 'play'...give it a go. As for support and advice...I get a lot of my info about how technology works from YouTube.

@Floyd What I am wondering is...could I put together my own qualification on instructional design from open courses and online material...enough to get a certificate from a RPL process with an institutional? Something I must look into.

Margot/NZ said...

I'm one of your 'informal' students, and I've started to do this course alongside my immediate manager and a co-worker from Wairarapa REAP. As well as hoping the tools I become more familiar with are useful in my work (not sure yet how much they'll be used) I've also got an interest in blogging (having followed a number of blogs for several years now) and this has been a great excuse to dip my toe into the water of the blogosphere (nice temperature so far!)

Sarah Stewart said...

@Margot Great to hear from you. Glad to hear you have a study group you can work with...I'm sure it will be useful to have someone to 'play' with :)

Floyd said...

I had to google "RPL Process" ahh
"Recognition of Prior Learning"

Well I learned something new. :)

Sarah Stewart said...

Sorry Floyd...must remember not to use silly abbreviations :)

Chris Woodhouse said...

Hi Sarah,
I'm working my way through the list of blogs, hoping to comment on everyone's. Your post is very thoughtful, so really warrants a more thoughtful reply than I really have time for. My first thoughts are of surprise - surprise that you had so much trepidation last year. From what you've said about this year, I'm looking forward to working with some experienced facilitators, as well as to finding out about toys (sorry, software tools) I haven't seen before.
See you on Thursday!

Sarah Stewart said...

@Chris Last year was my first year facilitating this course...and first time facilitating a non-midwifery course, so yes, I was anxious.

This year I want to build on what we did last spend more time looking at how we facilitate...but it goes without saying, that it is easy to get side-tracked into the tools.

I did this course in 2007 when it was facilitated by Leigh Blackall and Bronwyn Hegarty. It was a life-changer for me. I hope I can be as supportive to you this year as Leigh and Bron were with me :)

Tracy Pemberton said...

I was so impressed with the International Midwifery Day. I knew there were things I didn't know about but it blew me away. I want to learn to do this and really appreciate that you are putting all this time and effort into helping us learn. I love the mentoring and welcome the chance to meet other "students" that know so much more than I. I already have ideas of how to put this into practice.

Coach Carole said...

Time management across the zones can be assisted with co-moderators in different time zones to you.
Earlier this year my UK colleague and I ran an introductory course in the Moodle environment at EdNA Groups and we ran two Elluminate sessions per week to suit the participants location.
I am a keen online mentor and thrive on opportunities to tap into the wisdom of an international crowd.
What I see happening here for me is a renewed interest in the power of comments on blogs such as yours; the power and ease of Googlegroups for threaded conversations; and the use of WikiEducator as the hub where all can see the content without having to login.
I've learned some valuable insights in the first two weeks of the course. Putting them into action for my project of setting up an Eportfolio Community of Practice. Gaining momentum with purpose and structure.

Sarah Stewart said...

@Carole Yes, you're right about having co-facilitators across time zones - that's what I did with The Virtual International Day of the Midwife - Chris Woodhouse in the UK very kindly helped me out with that.

The issue I currently have at the moment is this course is unfunded...more or less. We don't have many formal students at the moment...I am providing this course on behalf of Otago Polytecnic because of our commitment to open education. So long story short...I don't have funding to employ any extra facilitators or speakers. Having said that, if people from other time zones enrolled formally, I would be duty-bound to ensure they could attend live sessions in their time zone.

Patricia Wyatt said...

Not sure how this works, but I am just saying Hi! I met you in Cairns when you met with me to discuss the E- Mentoring through Aged Card QLD.I have subscribed to this site. Interesting Reading!
Patricia Wyatt
CEA - Community Enterprises Australia - 07 40 500 107
Mobile# 0458 200 472

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi Patricia, lovely to hear from you. How's things in your part of the world?

Was there anything I can help you with specifically?