Communities of Practice Online (CoPo)

Communities of Practice Online (CoPo)

Saturday, August 21, 2004

The Art of Facilitating Online Discussions course

This course was delivered online by Colleen Kawalilak via the University of Calgary.

The course highlighted the importance the role a facilitator plays in the success of an online discussion (or CoP).
Colleen lists the following as important points to consider or use when when faciiitating online:
- navigation
- silence
- a space of welcome
- inclusion
- solicit
- formatative feedback
- individual-personal contact
- co-create community
- quotes, references and comments
- colourful, emotional language
- visual
- empower

The term 'safe online learning environment' was discussed at length. Colleen commented on the importance of 'the power of relationship'. It is up to the faciliator to create this. Hints on how to encourage this safe environment include :

- using warm words such as ending with 'warmest regards' and 'good morning wonderful people'
- using emotive icons eg. :)
- encourage learners to contact the facilatator one to one if they need help
- mediate early if there is any negative emotion
- using photos
- use personal antedotes
- make sure you as a faciliator respond in a timely manner ie don't leave the student hanging
- keep the groups small
- students feel more comfortable if the learning platform has spellcheck
- send out private email or private call every now and then to keep in touch
- send out weekly email as a review of previous week or information on the coming week
- ensure the technology and learning management tool is easy to use for example the discussion forums should have a 'compile' or 'collect' function
- make postings interesting by using colour
- start a seperate 'coffee club' area for students to communicate socially
- KISS Keep it simple sunshine!
- inform the students of correct netiquette
- provide tool links to time management, study, writing tips, tutorials

It is interesting to note that much of the above information I gathered not from the actual course material but rather the very interesting discussions which Carol facilitated in the discussion forums! Other students who participated in these discussions included
Georgio Agosst - ABB
Marguerite Wells - Cornel University
Sandra Larwill - Ontario University
John Toews - University of Calgary

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