It’s all about engagement: facilitating e-learning

By robynjay On May 3rd, 2012

I’ve enrolled in the new TAE50211 Diploma of Training Design and Development, and once again am busy gathering evidence for RPL. Its a good opportunity to look back over a career and reflect on what I’ve done and the changes I’ve made both in direction and thinking. A key part of RPL, I think, is reflection so I plan to use the blog to do this in a more public way so I can gain further input from readers.

It’s very difficult to tackle something that is your life, an integrated whole, in a segmented way i.e. unit by unit but I’ll see how I go.

I guess my first point of reflection about the unit ‘Facilitate E-learning’ is the unit authors view of what ‘learning’ is. Most of my work over the past 15 years has been in a range of staff development roles, and by this I don’t ONLY mean formalised training.

As educators we learn every day. We learn by reading, we learn by talking and debating, we learn by watching, and we learn through personal critical reflection. All of this can occur online and as a facilitator of learning for educators, my job has been to design spaces and guide processes to make that enjoyable, accessible, challenging and self sustaining. The goals have not changed over time. What HAS changed is the range of online spaces that allow individuals to create and drive their own connections with others.

Having lived and worked online for many years now, my first point of call was the web. If you Google your name what do you find? So, focusing on the online facilitation work I’ve done here’s a list of the most significant:

1. In what must have been the mid 90s I obtained funding to establish a space for the Far Nth Coast adult literacy network. While the site now makes me cringe it was quite ground breaking. Facilitation in those days meant talking to people, gathering ideas/content/needs via email/phone and uploading it. I can remember a lot of discussion about the audience and ongoing review about the effectiveness of the content. We’ve come a long way 🙂 We went on to trial MOOs and MUDs for learning and networking but the platforms were simply too complex for most teachers.

2. From 1998 – 2004 I worked in a few roles on the North Coast supporting the Community Colleges and in particular the ELLN staff and programs. For general management communication and collaboration we used Sharepoint. ITs primary use was sharing of files and conversation around key issues in between regional face to face meetings. I set up and co-facilitated the space. Clunky but reasonably effective.

3. Around this time some virtual meeting rooms started to appear. For the Community Colleges most were over-priced, but one iVocalize proved accessible and was used for a number of years and varied projects. In 2005 I was on the executive of the Australian Council for Adult Literacy and acquired funding for the Literacy Live project. WE used the platform to connect adult literacy practitioners around Australia. It was used for meetings and guest presentations which I facilitated. I was also involved in running awareness raising sessions at conferences and training sessions for State ELLN bodies including QCAL

4. An then into my role as LearnScope manager etc for the then Australian Flexible Learning Framework. While our roles were largely management ones we also provided a range of e-learning awareness sessions and online resource information. Sessions were facilitated in Elluminate and ADobe Connect, a blog was published covering news, events, info and help, and we started a wiki as an information hub. The Framework then used a range of discussion forums and there were some rather interesting challenges faced by the national team around flaming and aggressive posts and how to deal with these.

5. In the past few years I have designed and facilitated a range of blended staff development programs. Typically these included a Moodle hub for content and ongoing asynchronous conversation forums, with face to face workshops and follow up conversation via Moodle and email if required. The material used for these outside Moodle is all freely available online via my Slideshare account and my wiki

6. Most recently I’ve developed the Designing for Flexibility blended workforce development program for Sydney Institute. We have used a mix of F2F, wiki, Facebook group and online Adobe Connect sessions. I facilitated the 2011 trial which has since been reviewed, updated and mapped against TP units, and we’re about to roll it out once again.

Each example has involved an ongoing process of review, evaluation and continuous improvement. In most cases this has involved a mix of informal feedback, team critical reflection, and the use of feedback surveys. In review the focus and emphasis will vary according to audience and purpose but typically will cover:

  • fit for purpose – applicability of content
  • accessibility – level of pitch and suitability of content for the level of skills
  • opportunities for engagement, feedback and ongoing networking and professional connections enabled
  • timing and access
  • suitability and effectiveness of the chosen platform or blend of strategies
  • follow up opportunities

Thankfully as technologies have progressed, and there has been a shift toward spaces that are increasingly easy to access and master, the interactive, collaborative element of learning and connecting online are becoming easier. It remains the case, however, that it is very very easy to teach (as opposed to facilitate) very very badly online. Whatever the platform, maximising engagement and focusing on business and learning needs is the imperative.

[CC FlickR image by Will Lion with acknowledgment also to Tapscott & Williams Wikinomics and Thomas Hawk]


how is the internet changing the way you think?

By robynjay On January 14th, 2010

The 2010 question for the Edge World Question Centre is “How is the Internet changing the way YOU think?”

With over 167 responses, it is clearly designed for a long day curled up by a cosy wood fire in the snow bound Northern Hemisphere!
I haven’t had a chance to read them all yet but am inspired to respond and hope you will add your personal response too…

I’m not sure that the way I ‘think’ is as significant as the way I live, respond, learn, engage and create. Kai Krause aptly describes this as a redefining of ‘ how we perceive the world and ourselves in it, new models of how we work and research, entertain ourselves, communicate with our family and friends, how we learn about the past and preserve our memories, what we expect of the future and how we plan for it, what we watch, read, listen to: all greatly influenced by technology in general and the Net in particular.’

I mustn’t be ‘normal’ for one my age in this regard. Quite frankly I am sick and tired of people using their age as an excuse for non-engagement. It’s not about age. Being at the tail end of the ‘boomers’ I spent the first half of my life with pen in hand and nose in a book; all my undergraduate degrees were hand written, so I have as much excuse for non-engagement as anyone (excluding those who are truly disadvantaged through poverty or lack of connectivity).

Of course there’s good and bad, but I couldn’t imagine a life unconnected. The internet overlays my life; work and relaxation.

I engage with the lives, ideas and creativity of people who live in places I’ll never see in real life.

I can independently create content and share it with the world

I can collaborate with wide-spread teams and communities.

I feel closer to people on the other side of the world than I do to the couple in the apartment next door.

I can converse with people with interests as obscure as mine

I can send a few words of kindness across the globe right when they are most needed

I see the images of great photographers the day they are taken, and share my own with like-minded people globally.

I share ideas and work with a global audience.

I am equipped and empowered.

I have knowledge and skills at my finger tips –  to grout a mosaic, play the guitar, heal a wound

I can trade and operate a business without jumping on a plane

I can ask for and receive help and access my support network [almost] anywhere anytime

What frightens me is that after all these years the education system still fails to engage. Still fails to support the development of skills to enable critical, effective, creative users. Of course young people learn from their peers, they are comfortable connecting within walled gardens and private chat. But in my experience very few are equipped to use the internet as a learner and eventually, professional.

In his contribution Howard Rheingold – says

“Those people who do not gain fundamental literacies of attention, crap detection, participation, collaboration, and network awareness are in danger of all the pitfalls critics point out — shallowness, credulity, distraction, alienation, addiction. I worry about the billions of people who are gaining access to the Net without the slightest clue about how to find knowledge and verify it for accuracy, how to advocate and participate rather than passively consume, how to discipline and deploy attention in an always-on milieu, how and why to use those privacy protections that remain available in an increasingly intrusive environment.”

and Evgeny Morozov adds…

“Today we are facing the emergence of the “cyber-lumpenprolitariat”, of people who are being sucked into the digital whirlwind of gossip sites, trashy video games, populist and xenophobic blogs, and endless poking on social networking sites. The intellectual elites, on the other hand, continue thriving in the new digital environment, exploiting superb online tools for scientific research and collaboration, streaming art house films via Netflix, swapping their favorite books via e-readers, reconnecting with musical treasures of the bygone eras via iTunes, and, above all, perusing materials in the giant online libraries like the one that Google could soon unveil. ”

The cause and solution sit squarely on the shoulders of an schooling system that not only ignores the issues, but actively blocks access to the spaces that require explicit engagement and critical discussion. As I have mooted many time, it is a breach of their duty of care.

[CC FlickR image: Lee Carson]