Dynamic Guide for Facilitators

One of the core goals of #etmooc is the development of learning experiences that are situated somewhere between that of a “traditional” online course and a vibrant learning community. We hope to nurture learning conversations within a number of different environments – through the use of social networks, collaborative tools, shared hashtags, and in personally ‘owned’ spaces.

As we see conversations and activity as key to deep learning, we encourage facilitators of synchronous sessions to observe the following guidelines.

    1. Learning sessions should be “active” – that means we encourage you to integrate strategies that involve the participants in conversation, co-creation, collaboration, synthesis, and reflection. Place great emphasis on the participants’ explorations of their own meaning, attitudes and values about the content.
    2. When planning your session please consider the backward model for designing “instruction”. Begin your planning by answering the following question: What it is that you want the participants to be able to know/think/do/feel at the end of the session?
    3. Ensure that the session contains as many as possible of the following elements:
      • Facilitator introductions
      • A clearly articulated purpose or objective
      • Comprehensive and easy to understand directions
      • A feedback mechanism (e.g., backchannel)
      • Supporting resources (e.g., Google Doc, wiki, etc.)
      • Strategies that encourage, and opportunities for, active engagement/interaction with the content and with each other.

      “Learning results from what the student does and thinks and only from what the student does and thinks. The teacher can influence learning only by influencing what the student does to learn” (Herbert Simon)

Some General Blackboard Collaborate Tips

      • If you have not used Blackboard Collaborate before, spend some time becoming familiar with the interface and its functionality before your session begins
      • Your voice is critical to setting the tone of the session – be positive and passionate and let your enthusiasm show in your voice. Be sure to have your user profile with photo and contact information available for participants to view. Streaming video from your webcam is also an option.
      • Participant Engagement is key to a successful session – there should be frequent interaction with the participants in the session. Consider using an icebreaker (or other introductor activity) at the beginning and ask questions that require the participants to:
        • raise their hands
        • click an emoticon
        • respond with a green check or a red x or
        • type in the chat window

        Make sure you explain how these features work at the beginning of the session.

      • Create presentation slides and include multimedia and application sharing whenever possible, in order to help reinforce your content. Make sure that what you are planning to “cover” during your presentation will adhere to the time allocated for the session
      • Introduce the whiteboard early and use it often.
        • after typing on the whiteboard, resize your text window (and perhaps the text size) and move it around on the board. This leads to a much nicer looking result that is much better organized. Otherwise text is often in a box with scroll bar, cut off and can’t be seen…
        • just a note but although the whiteboard feels anonymous, it isn’t really so because anyone can check the properties of an item on the whiteboard to see who made it (and you get a little icon next to your name when writing on the whiteboard) but you do get the benefit of it feeling anonymous to participants anyway
        • you can also add images to the whiteboard easily with the screenshot tool which is fun and visual communication is so great!
      • Polls can be used for Collaborate activities – use the instant polling feature and publish the results to stimulate discussion
      • It’s good to ask people to set up their profile so that an avatar appears next to their name and so others can find out more of your contact info right in the room. This in itself would be a good part of a connecting activity. Also, you only have to do it once on a computer and next time it’s already there for you.
      • Make sure that there are a few “helpers” managing technical support questions or troubleshooting problems and managing the questions and comments in the live chat area. The organisers of #etmooc will be happy to help with this task – just ask!
      • Record the session so the participants can review the content and so that it can be available for anyone who missed the session.

Remember that interaction doesn’t always just happen – it is best to design and plan for it within your session.

Above all – have fun!