Making the Transition/Rationale

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In general this workshop is based on a view that ideas are emergent and co-constructed. How to facilitate or How to grow online Communities are not concepts that can be transmitted. There is not a lot of content in this workshop, but there are extensive links to people and pages out there on the internet. These workshops aspire to be a facilitated and supported encounter with some key ideas and experiences. It is set in the context of discussion themes and some associated activities.

We have found a one week on/one week off model works quite well. There is also a strong evaluation component. How do these tools, attitudes, ideas and approaches fit with MY context? What can they do to assist us in our mission and goals?

Participant Agreements

We have found that an online event will rarely take off without

  1. a minimum level of trust and comfortableness among the participants
  2. a certain level of engagement with the ideas and with each other
  3. some clear structure
  4. tons of freedom within the structure.

Even if you are working with quite a mature group in terms of online skills, we believe it is still worth taking the time at the beginning to make explicit a participation agreement. The one here has emerged from Nancy White’s online facilitation workshop, used with permission.

Ethics - guidelines: being online together

Adapted from Nancy White's Online Facilitation course (with contributions from Jeff Keefer)

Participant Agreement

  1. What is said here, stays here. Seek permission to quote, and keep group members information and stories private.
  2. Make your best effort to contribute. "Several posts, spread out over each week"
  3. Seek first to Understand ~ Stephen Covey. Seek to read with understanding, write with clarity - and be open to new ideas that challenge our perspectives and plant seeds for further learning.
  4. Have Fun. Enjoy learning with others.

In some respects, simplicity and brevity are the key.

LMS course design

You could decide to make a home base inside a course LMS such as Sakai or Moodle. This can be very very simple. The design of the course inside the LMS should reflect the course, which is built around conversations, activities and a sandbox. [1]

You could include these elements: Admin Overview Participant agreement Reflection Schedule Journals Forums Introduction/Café Notices Conversations Activities Sandbox Resources File sharing Knowledge base

Personal Reflection

We believe that participants will get much more out of any course of learning if they engage in some serious and focused reflection. Here are the notes used for one of the West Coast leadership workshops. In this context, each workshop participant had a personal learning journal which was open for comment by others. It was set up exactly like a blog, but was not public.

Our Statement on Personal Reflection Each of you has a personal learning journal. This is a personal reflection space. You will benefit from some reflection to help refine and focus your learning in this workshop. This is the place to reflect, to collect 'Aha's', to log a question we want to ponder on, or to use in any way that will help us make sense of what we are learning. We all can see everything in all the journals. While this is our own individual space, it is also open for others to drop by and visit. You can post a comment another's journal if you wish. Often someone else's reflection helps us to deepen our own, or to spark a new thought. When visiting each other’s journals, let's remember to respect and support each other. We all have different levels of comfort with self disclosure. We can help each other learn with comments and questions that make us think and stimulate more reflection, instead of simply trying to give answers to questions the other person may have raised. If someone puts a comment or question in your journal, do not feel that you must answer it. You may if you like - but the important thing is to think it over and to decide if and how you want to use what the other has offered.

Alternative structure. Distributed leadership style

There is another way that you could run this workshop. After a week of introduction and overview, you could take each theme and allocate it to a member of your workshop to manage as a facilitator. It could be a corporate activity to decide who does what theme – or it could be done completely randomly by drawing out of the hat - or it could be just first in first served, who’s interested in what theme. There are of course some risks in doing this but if you have enough people in your workshop, and the style and approach is reasonably different among these participants, then you should be ok. When we have run a workshop like this, we have set up another forum that is run by the workshop leaders/sponsors that is used for general reflection on the process as it unfolds, regular communication: all the meta-stuff. We have found that this has been a rich source of learning for all - especially if participants take the time to examine what is going on in their minds as they do their facilitation/leading. They can experience some quite deep and spontaneous insights.


We have put a lot of material and links into a knowledge base. This is a collection of categories, which includes snippets of web pages, articles, definitions and quotes and also has a place for comments. We could use Delicious or some other tagging option. We also coulod have created static pages somewhere. We have decided to provide an array of links as a starting point on which to build. You can add links to the collection as you wish or post new ideas and things you have found in any of the forums. This means that our resources start with something but we can expand as time goes on. We have chosen this approach to reflect the changing nature of the Internet.

There are further notes available to anyone who is interested. They give a little more of a behind the scenes look at actually running this course. Contact Derek(dot)chirnside(at)gmail(dot)com
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