Chapter 4: FLO Fundamentals

FLO Fundamentals

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Synopsis/Abstract

Title: Facilitating Learning Online (FLO) Fundamentals

Purpose: This course introduces participants to online facilitation strategies based on established adult learning concepts. Facilitators support participants as they practice facilitating through experiential activities and teamwork. By hosting this course for the people you support, you can build a supportive community of online educators and improve the online learning experience at your institution.

Mode: A facilitated online learning course that involves asynchronous and synchronous learning.

Length: Five consecutive weeks

Expectations – Facilitators: FLO facilitators provide ongoing guidance and support throughout the course to broaden awareness and understanding of online learning theories and pedagogical practices and to develop the online facilitation capabilities of each participant. However, we do recommend that you have some previous experience with online learning and facilitation.[1]

Time Requirements for Facilitators: The time commitment for facilitators varies widely. Facilitators can expect to spend anywhere from 15 to 25 hours per week during the preparation and implementation of this course. First-time hosts may require more time. Facilitators should expect to be available to the course on a daily basis.

Expectations – Participants: Participants are expected to participate actively and collaboratively throughout each week, exploring facilitation ideas and techniques and engaging in weekly activities. A key activity is to participate as a member of a team to facilitate a one-week online exercise and discussion.

Assessment: Throughout the course, participants reflect on learning through the use of learning journals and rubrics. Participants also provide constructive feedback on the team facilitation skills of others, and respond to feedback on their own team efforts.

Time Requirements for Participants: Participants should expect to spend 6 – 12 hours per week for online activities and course readings. More time will be required during the week the participant is facilitating the discussion with their team.

Primary Resource for Facilitators: All materials (introductory information, suggested readings, detailed discussion topics, etc.) for the course are included in the FLO Fundamentals OER from BCcampus, available for viewing or download. This guide is based on the 2019 version of the course.

What is FLO Fundamentals?

This is a mostly asynchronous online course, delivered over five sequential weeks. Two one-hour synchronous sessions are optional but recommended to facilitate community building and to provide valuable exposure to synchronous facilitation. Your primary role is to build and sustain the online community: pre-planning the course, communicating regularly with participants, providing supplementary materials, organizing and coaching teams, and supporting participants’ experimentation with a variety of online learning tools.

In a nutshell, the course works like this: in Week 1, you get everyone enrolled in the course, familiar with the layout, and introduced to each other. The FLO facilitators then start the discussion for Week 1’s assigned topic and guide participants to experience what it feels like to help build an active online community. By the end of Week 1, participants are organized into four teams: each team will be responsible for facilitating an assigned topic for one of the following weeks. During each of the following four weeks, you provide participants with readings and a discussion topic related to the readings. The team responsible for that week facilitates the discussion while the course facilitators provide support from the sidelines and are less visible in the discussion.

Keep in mind that in facilitating this first week’s discussion, you are demonstrating good facilitation skills and providing a model for how participant teams might facilitate a weekly activity when it’s their turn. Depending on your participants, you may wish to make this point more or less explicit.

FLO Fundamentals has proven to be an effective—and often transformative—learning experience. Our experience has shown that a class of 14 – 20 educators is a good size for this course and we highly recommend that you enlist a co-facilitator to support this group. You can expect to be involved in the course every day for a total of 15 – 25 hours per week (more if this is your first time) during the preparation and implementation of this course.

Learning outcomes

FLO Fundamentals develops key themes for successful online facilitation. At the end of this course, participants should be (better) able to:

Build and sustain online community

  • Reflect on the experience of an online learning community.
  • Explore the role of instructor presence in online learning.

Support diverse learners online

  • Identify ways to help diverse learners online.
  • Use facilitation strategies and tools to address the needs of adult learners.

Facilitate collaborative and individual learning

  • Facilitate collaborative group and individual activities online.
  • Explore group dynamics in online collaborative activities.

Provide constructive feedback and assessment

  • Demonstrate effective feedback and assessment.
  • Critically reflect on feedback and experience to self-evaluate work and learning.

Manage the online course environment

  • Explore effective strategies to manage the workload.
  • Improve the use of tools within an online learning environment.

Participants

A wide variety of educators benefit from FLO Fundamentals. Participants are often full- or part-time instructors at post-secondary educational institutions who are new to teaching online or have already been teaching online for some time but would like to develop stronger facilitation skills. Other participants may be familiar with traditional teaching practices but are seeking to develop experience and confidence with more learner-centric educational approaches.

FLO Fundamentals may be of interest to a wide variety of other educators, including instructional designers, educational developers, learning technologists and others who work in teaching and learning centres. It may also be useful for graduate students, consultants from the private sector, trainers employed by for-profit or non-profit organizations, and educational support providers.

Technology: Essential and Recommended

Facilitators and participants will need a reliable connection to the Internet. A variety of online tools can be used to host FLO Fundamentals. The necessary tools can usually be acquired through free, open source, or inexpensive means.

Essential

An online environment or collection of tools to enable:

  • Formation of a distinct group of participants, preferably with the option to restrict access (e.g. a learning management system or virtual learning environment such as Moodle, Blackboard Learn, Desire to Learn, Google Classrooms; or a content management system such as WordPress, Facebook groups, wiki-based groups).
  • Asynchronous interaction between participants, with the option to make such communication private within the group (e.g. an environment that supports forums, bulletin boards, discussion threads, etc.).
  • Synchronous group communication (e.g. Skype, Google Hangouts, Blackboard Collaborate, BigBlueButton, Adobe Connect).

Recommended

  • The Moodle learning management system provides additional benefits because a Moodle-installable version of FLO Fundamentals OER from BCcampus is available for modification and re-use.
  • A webcam and headset or earbuds (with microphone) for synchronous communication.

Course Content and Layout

FLO Fundamentals is a complete five-week workshop-style course with a comprehensive collection of information, activities, directions, assessments, and related resources. Within the Open Education Resources (OER) course, resources are organized into tabs, with one tab for each of the five weeks, plus one Hub tab with introductory and general information, and one tab to organize the work of the teams (see the image below for an example).

A screenshot of tabs listed on the FLO Fundamentals website
Figure 4.1

In the Hub tab, you will find:

  • A Course Handbook, describing for participants how the course works, what’s expected of them, learning outcomes, scheduling, etc.
  • A sample Schedule to help participants (and facilitators) stay on track.
  • Resources to help facilitators organize participant teams.
  • Sample forums to facilitate discussion:
    • An Open Forum for sharing general information (clarification, announcements, social-type sharing) not necessarily related to the weekly discussion about content. Both facilitators and participants can post and respond.
    • A Weekly Journal Share forum, for posting reflections on learning.
    • A forum to provide Feedback for participant teams.
  • A feedback form (Feel, Like, Improve, Feedback, or FLIF) to help participant teams reflect and receive feedback on their facilitation experience. (In the OER course, this feedback is structured using the Learning Management System’s quiz tool.)
  • Additional resources for facilitators to aid in coordination of the course (generally hidden from participants).

Tabs corresponding to each week’s activities include:

  • An overview of the topic for the week.
  • A forum to discuss the week’s topic (e.g. to respond to the questions posted by the facilitation team).
  • Other resources and/or activities specific to that week.

The tab for Facilitation Teams Workspace includes:

  • A detailed activity plan for each team.
  • A workspace forum (private, if you choose) for each team’s members to plan their facilitation strategies and tasks.

The topics discussed in this course are:

  • Week 1: Building Learning Community (facilitated by course facilitators).
  • Week 2: Diversity of Learners (facilitated by the orange team).
  • Week 3: Responsive Facilitation (facilitated by the blue team).
  • Week 4: Collaboration (facilitated by the yellow team).
  • Week 5: Reflective Practice (facilitated by the green team).

Course assessment strategies

This course is designed to be developmental; it is not a graded course in the traditional sense. Unless you decide otherwise, your participants will not be marked or assigned a formal grade on their performance. The course does include a number of activities to encourage self-reflection, as well as a comprehensive self-assessment rubric which could be used to assign a grade, if needed (see FLO Fundamentals Self-Assessment Rubric).

Facilitator Task List: What You Need to Do Before, During and After the Course

The successful hosting of FLO Fundamentals requires good planning, timing, and coordination. Over the years, we’ve developed a detailed, step-by-step Task List for course facilitators:

  • See FLO Fundamentals Task List for a concise, detailed list of facilitator tasks.
  • You could also use the following Task List Explanations alongside the Task List for more background information and ideas.

Task List Explanations

Several weeks (or months) before the course begins

  1. Access the OER course. The OER course Facilitating Learning Online – Fundamentals is currently offered as a Moodle course with guest access; you should be able to enter the course and view all content.
  2. Set up your own learning environment and copy content. Before you can offer FLO Fundamentals, you need a learning environment – a virtual place to host the course. At the very minimum, you need an online space (preferably private or securable) where facilitators and participants can conduct discussions and share facilitation discoveries and the results of experimentation. The course content must be added to the LMS or other learning space you have chosen:[2]
    1. If using Moodle: restore the latest version of this course into your LMS (you can download it using the link in the OER).
    2. If NOT using Moodle: establish and configure an online learning environment (LMS, CMS, wiki, etc.) into which you can copy all relevant content from FLO Fundamentals.
  3. If possible, find a colleague to assist you as a Co-Facilitator. Your ideal co-facilitator will be someone who can work with you to provide guidance and support to your participants, and can dedicate 15 to 25 hours per week to this task. Ideally, your co-facilitator will be familiar with online learning theories and practices, and with personal and technical skills to engage online participants. Not only do co-facilitators lessen the workload and enrich the facilitation process for you, they increase the facilitation expertise within your institution. It would help a great deal if your colleague has already taken FLO Fundamentals.
  4. Access your FLO Fundamentals learning environment to review content and tools. Prepare the course site or learning environment and (re)acquaint yourself with the facilitation tools you plan to use. Familiarize yourself with the course content, materials, philosophy, scheduling, flow, etc. of the course.
  5. Set up a web conferencing tool for online synchronous sessions and conversations. Depending on your institution, you may use any of a number of web conferencing applications: Blackboard Collaborate, Skype, Google Hangouts, BigBlueButton etc.
  6. Connect with your co-facilitator for detailed pre-planning. Develop a planning regime that you’re both comfortable with. Work together to develop a detailed list of tasks to be completed before, during, and after the course runs. You have a lot to do before the course begins:
    1. Ensure an easy-to-access place to store planning resources. Agree on planning tools and schedules.
    2. Customize this Facilitator Task List to fit your needs.
    3. Review the resources available in the OER and select some activities to try. You could also add your own ideas for icebreakers, discussion topics, resources, images, slides, etc.
    4. Develop rough agendas for your synchronous sessions.
    5. Prepare how-to resources for your participants to explain the features of the learning environments & tools.
  7. Practice using learning environment tools. If you’re already pretty comfortable with both synchronous and asynchronous online tools, try using something new. You want to be able to model for your participants an adventurous open mind when it comes to educational technology.
  8. Identify potential participants. Think about where you might find your course participants. Will you enlist from your institution only, or other institutions and organizations? Decide how far ahead you must start the recruitment process.
  9. Ensure your content is accurate. Once you have a potential learner audience in mind, re-visit the learning environment and carefully review all content (forum post topics, reading lists, directions, etc.). Make sure your content is accurate for your intended group of participants, up-to-date, and reflects the goals of your institution or program. Remember, the FLO courses have been developed as Open Educational Resources and are licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License so you’re free to modify whatever you like! The only requirement is that you provide attribution and don’t imply or suggest endorsement by the licensor.
  10. (If you haven’t done so already!) Choose a start date and promote your course to your target participants.

Your Technical Skills: The Least You Need to Know

Light bulb iconYour participants may dream up a variety of designs for their mini-session and, ideally, you and your co-facilitator will be comfortable setting up the tools they need. If you are working within an LMS, some commonly-used tools include:

  • Forums or discussion groups: LMS-based forums usually offer many different settings and you should be familiar with most of them. Learn to set up both open forums and team-based forums (if available) and explore other settings that can create new possibilities for structuring activities.
  • Polls or Choices: Many LMSs offer a tool for quickly polling participants — handy for any time you want people to indicate a preference (e.g. “what time should we meet for our synchronous session?”, or to vote on a single question.
  • Wikis: Wiki-based tools may be included in your LMS or used as stand-alone tools for learning. If using wikis, make sure you know how to edit, revise, revert, check the history or discussion about a page, etc. (A wiki that requires detailed knowledge of wiki markup language may not be the best choice).

One- to two weeks before the course begins

Once your FLO Fundamentals course is underway, you and your participants will be very busy indeed and you’ll want to have as much preparatory work out of the way as possible. How you set up the course site and engage the community will directly impact how the rest of the course flows; keep in mind that you are modelling good facilitation practices (a detailed list of Core FLO Facilitation Skills is included in Chapter 3 of this Guide).

  1. Complete recruitment and register participants. You may have begun the recruitment of participants weeks or even months ahead. Make sure you have a process in place to register your participants in accordance with your institution’s policies. If you are managing your own site (e.g. a WordPress site), you may be able to organize this on your own. During recruitment, be sure to:
    1. Communicate expectations around time and teamwork.
    2. Provide information to your participants about what they’ll need to do and where to find what they’ll need. Your goal is not to overwhelm your participants but to provide enough information so they can jump right in when the course begins.
What’s the right number of participants for this course? A small class of 10 or fewer participants will make it difficult to sustain rich online conversations. On the other hand, a large class of more than 25 may be more than 2 facilitators can handle. Our experience has shown that a class of 14 – 20 educators is a good size for this course.
  1. Meet with co-facilitator, finalize the week ahead. Now is the time to check the details and do final revisions of your first week’s activities & resources, including:
    1. Discussion topics, resources, images, slides, etc.
    2. Icebreaker activities.
    3. Your introductory welcome post.
    4. Agenda for the first synchronous session.
    5. Resource to explain the basic features of the synchronous environment & tools.
  2. Create or update co-facilitators’ profiles and contact information. Tell a little about yourself in a profile or short biography. Establish your contact information and set “office hours” (if appropriate).
  3. Decide which aspects of the course will be displayed when the course opens and which aspects will be hidden until needed. Many learning environments will let you hide or show specific activities until you’re ready for your participants to see them.
  4. Ensure sufficient starting information for participants. Your new participants will need detailed information about how to access the course and get started (e.g. if using Moodle, see the FLO Handbook or consider preparing a screencast).
  5. Finalize enrollment of participants, send out a Welcome email. Provide the participants with access to the course and/or information about accessing technical support, if necessary.
  6. Decide on your week’s start day and modify your directions to the participants and the learning environment settings accordingly (if necessary). This course is not self-paced; the work is organized around weeks. Will the first day of your course week begin on a Sunday, Monday, or some other day?
  7. Set a time for your first (Week 1) synchronous session. Prepare the synchronous environment as much as possible: upload slides, write/draw/embed a welcome message, etc.
  8. Set up a separate online workspace for each team. You will be dividing up your participants into 4 teams; each team will facilitate one of the weekly mini-sessions. A unique team workspace (e.g. a forum or wiki) with editing functions limited to team members should be sufficient. If possible, arrange read-only access to non-team members in the class.

Privacy and Confidentiality

Light bulb iconIn all FLO courses, our learning relies on the exchange of honest, constructive feedback, and we need to agree on rules that support this foundation of trust. Be aware of your institutional or organizational policies relating to privacy and confidentiality, determine how you will interpret these for your online learning environment, and decide how to communicate these rules to your participants. You can see an example of how privacy and confidentiality concerns are communicated in this page in the FLO Fundamentals Course Handbook. Some privacy and confidentiality rules you may wish to adopt:

  • Always seek permission to share content posted by participants.
  • When using social media and other online services to complete activities, ensure you are familiar with the levels of privacy available and how the information will be stored and shared. Communicate this information to the participants.
  • Let participants know who else has access to this course (e.g. participants, facilitators, assistants, website administrators, etc.).
  • You may wish to establish “Vegas rules,” i.e. what happens in the course, stays in the course.
  1. Decide which teams each co-facilitator will support during the course, and decide between yourselves what kind of support you will provide.
  2. Confirm technical support is available and adequate, if needed. If you are providing your own tech support, confirm that your site has been backed up and no significant technical issues (e.g. scheduled downtime) exist. If tech support personnel are available, confirm they are standing by and aware of your course start date and enrollments.
  3. Review the suggested assessment options for this course and select one (or more) to recommend for your participants. A self-assessment rubric can be adapted so the facilitator can assign a grade, if needed (see FLO Fundamentals Self-Assessment Rubric).

As time permits

  • Practice navigating your course site and other tools. If you are using the OER Moodle version of this course, you’ll find it’s a complex environment with lots of moving parts. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the course and revise it as you see fit. Move stuff around and explore different tools, modules, and plugins (if available). Consider (judiciously!) trying some new or less-used tools outside of your LMS or main learning environment.
  • Streamline or otherwise improve your course’s navigation tools. When you refer to another part of your course or learning environment, provide a direct link whenever possible. Consider including a navigation screencast showing step-by-step how to get around your learning environment or LMS.
  • Fine-tune your reading list. In such a fascinating and fast-moving field like online facilitation, it’s easy to get carried away with the list of readings you provide for participants. Consider making all readings optional but don’t be afraid to strongly recommend a resource you know is important. After all, this course is intended to be informed by research and theory.

The readings you’ll see contained in this course have been chosen carefully to be both high quality and of reasonable length. Nevertheless, encourage your FLO participants to research and recommend better or more up-to-date readings for their own facilitation week.

A few days before the course begins

  1. Connect with your participants. Make sure they’re able to access the learning environment, and communicate some basic information about the course, expectations around time, etc.
  2. Write your introductory welcome post (e.g. in a Welcome or Introductions forum within the course) in a friendly, informal, and enthusiastic style that sets a tone for your online community. Encourage participants to respond with their own introductions.

Your Welcome post doesn’t have to be just text…

icon

As a facilitator of FLO, you’ll want to set an example from the beginning of what good facilitation looks like. Take the time to craft a friendly, welcoming message to begin the process of online community building.

Some tips:

  • Your introductory post doesn’t need to be just text; you can be creative and adventurous with technology. Part of your job as facilitator is to model an attitude of fearless experimentation with communication technologies. What about a video introduction against a backdrop of where you live? Or a narrated slideshow? Of course, you don’t want to intimidate your participants if they’re fairly novice technology users, so be sure to offer choices.
  • What to include is up to you; this is your first impression. You might like to talk a bit about your teaching and other professional experience. You could share an anecdote or advice from your own online facilitation experience, or use an icebreaker-type format.
  • Make sure your post sets a good impression- establishes instructor presence, presents a clear message without being too long or too short.
  • Be sure your introductory post ends with an invitation for your participants to share their introductions in a similar way.

Figure 4.2 (NOT a playable video) illustrates how a side-by-side video was developed as a Week 1 welcome. The video introduces both facilitators and lets them share the task of briefly introducing the week and the course. Don’t forget to provide an alternative version of the information shared during the intro video—keep accessibility in mind!

A screenshot of a YouTube video showing a split screen with two facilitators
Figure 4.2
  1. Post the week’s overview post, emphasizing for participants:
    1. Activities, etc. they must complete this week.
    2. Tips on how to navigate the site.
    3. The need to plan and schedule time to work on the course. Remind participants that a valuable learning experience cannot be achieved using a side-of-the-desk approach.
Even with your explicit messages about the amount of time needed, participants may still expect to be able to slide their FLO work in on the weekends or in little bits and pieces between other daily tasks. This can leave people feeling they are always working on the course, even though their time on task may be quite short. Remind your participants to book time for the course and repeat that advice early and often. Encourage them to book time to work with their facilitation team partners (and you, if they wish) well in advance.
  1. Finalize your questions for Week 1’s forum “Building Online Community.” The following are SAMPLE QUESTIONS only (you may have other questions to engage participants on this topic):
    1. What experiences have you had with online learning communities?
    2. What can an instructor (or facilitator) do to develop and maintain a sense of community in an online learning environment?
    3. What do you know about the Community of Inquiry model? How does it relate to building a sense of online community?
  2. Organize participants into facilitation teams and post this information for all participants. You may decide to organize teams randomly or according to certain criteria. Decide how and when participants can switch teams (preferably only within a short time period at the start of the course) if they wish.

Week 1: Building Online Community

A drawing of shaking hands
Figure 4.3

Throughout Week 1, your role is to establish a strong facilitator presence and effectively demonstrate what good online facilitation looks like. Aim to do this as transparently as possible; think out loud to your participants to show them how you plan and facilitate the various activities. This is a good opportunity to incorporate other collaboration tools, such as wikis or other co-authoring platforms, to show how it is possible to communicate outside of a forum (which tends to be the default discussion tool).

Participants may feel overwhelmed during the first week. Offer brief explanations, clarifications and practical tips in an informal and friendly way. Sometimes posting in a place that participants can choose to visit (i.e. where they are not automatically subscribed or copied on all messages) can alleviate some of the email overwhelm.

Here’s an example of a blog post used in a past course:

Post Example

A picture of a stream with the words "Finding the FLO"
Figure 4.4

Managing your workload while teaching and learning online is a journey. You have a unique opportunity in FLO to think about workload management from two perspectives: participant and facilitator.You experience the demands of the course as a participant – trying to “find your feet” to understand what’s expected, what you have to do each week.

You experience the demands as a facilitator – trying to plan and coordinate with your team members, organizing the tasks for the week for yourself, for your team, and for your participants.

What I’d like to focus on is the benefit of learning the tools – finding the Moodle tools (the learning management system in which FLO activities take place) that can make managing your workload (in both roles – participant and facilitator) a bit easier.

Channeling the FLO – some suggestions

During your first week’s activities, you may have noticed that you seem to be deluged by a constant stream of emails from the course.

  • Suggestion 1: Set up a filter on your email
  • Suggestion 2: Don’t unsubscribe; try a digest version instead
  • Suggestion 3: Check what’s happened

(Note: each suggestion is linked to an illustrated process, a brief explanation or a screencast.)

Week 1, Day 1 (the first day of the week):

  1. Morning: Post facilitators’ personal intros to the Introductory Forum.
  2. Morning: Begin the Building Online Community forum activity. Post your questions to launch and guide the discussion.

Find ways to allow participants to share their prior knowledge and experience. You can use this introductory activity to make the positive and negative perceptions of online learning visible by asking each participant to contribute words and an image that reflects their perception of online community.

Here is an example collected in Powerpoint slides and shared through a hidden YouTube video:

A screenshot of a video titled "Online Learning Communities"
Figure 4.5
  1. Evening: Finalize details for the first synchronous session in your agenda and/or slidedeck, including:
    1. How to use the synchronous environment.
    2. Icebreaker: quick intros of participants.
    3. Review of the agenda – invite additional ideas.
    4. Highlight course structure (and flow): roles, expectations, team facilitation, reflective practice, self-assessment.
    5. Explain the purpose of the Facilitation Team Workspace with an activity plan and planning forum.
    6. Highlight the importance of feedback, journaling, reflection, time management tips.

Week 1 Day 2

  1. Earlier in day: Remind participants about the synchronous session a few hours before the session begins. (Reiterate that this session is not required although it is highly recommended.) Your reminder may be a forum post, LMS message, email, etc. Re-post session time, access information, and link to technical support, if needed.
  2. Morning: Introduce the Learning Journal (perhaps as a post to the Open Forum). In your post:
    1. Explain the concept and the value of maintaining a record of what participants are learning and want to remember.
    2. Remind them to regularly pause, reflect, assess and synthesize their learning.
    3. Recommend they document these thoughts in a personal learning journal using paper-based, audio/video, or electronic means.
    4. Encourage participants to share nuggets (insights) in a Learning Journal.
      The Learning Journal is explained in more detail in the Course Handbook.
  3.  Later: Host first synchronous session. Keep in mind this is your opportunity to connect with your participants both aurally and visually, and to demonstrate the value that a synchronous collaboration tool can bring to an online learning experience. If possible:
    1. Ensure you have technical support people (or your co-facilitator) standing by to assist with access problems.
    2. Enter the synchronous session at least a half-hour early to greet early arrivals and troubleshoot navigation problems within the synchronous environment.
    3. Remember to notify participants that the session will be recorded (if this is possible) and hit the record button as your session begins.
    4. Check in with participants about their comfort level navigating the site during the session and address any confusions.
    If it doesn’t come up spontaneously in the conversation: mention that the first week of an online course is often overwhelming (for both participants and facilitators), that it will get better, and that you will do what you can to mitigate start-up stresses.

    Sometimes the topic of feeling overwhelmed does come up naturally. The following is an example of one participant’s experience (from the participant’s Weekly Journal Share Forum for Week 1):

    Time management, reflection and empathy: one participant’s experience:

    icon“I have a deep empathy for my students now on the first week experience. I think when we “know the material” we forget what it feels like to “not know.” As a student in my first online course, I now know how it feels to be in that place and will be more understanding of my students.”

    “Well, this week was hard. In taking time for reflection I realize that the commitment of this course while I am taking on a new role at work, in conjunction with my current full-time job and a side contract, is a lot. Time management has been a reoccurring issue for me as I never feel like I have enough time.”

    “I copied this sentence from the week 1 reading materials: ‘When a person is feeling anxious, the likelihood that they will interpret things negatively increases.’ I need to have this on a sticky note on my computer. I really valued the comments from others in the course about feeling overwhelmed. Online learning requires time to get used to the new ways of doing learning.”

    1. Evening: Post a brief follow-up report about the synchronous session. Talk up the value of the session and encourage participants to attend the next synchronous session (mention the date and time). If the session was recorded, let participants know when a recording may be available.

    Week 1 Day 3

    1. Connect with members of the first participant facilitation team. Post a message in the team planning forum for Diversity of Learners to encourage this team to get underway.
    2. Remind participants to use Schedule and begin Learning Journal. Use a post in the Open Forum to remind participants to begin their Learning Journal and to use the FLO Fundamentals Schedule to keep on track. More information about the Learning Journal and FLO Fundamentals Schedule is available in the OER course. Make sure you revise the schedule to fit your own situation.
    3. Post the recording (if available) of the synchronous session. Use a post in the Open Forum to provide a link to the recording and to highlight any key or outstanding topics.

    Week 1 Day 4

    1. Connect with missing or inactive participants who have not yet logged into the course and with those who haven’t posted in any forum. Participants who are relatively new to online learning may not realize that this is NOT a self-paced course. Review participation in the Building Community forum and encourage more participation, especially among less active participants.
    2. Remind participants to engage in reflective activities. Encourage them to assess their own participation using the self-assessment rubric (also available directly in the FLO Fundamentals OER). Remind them that at the end of each week, they will be asked to share a few nuggets (questions, aha moments, and ideas that grow from their experiences each week) in the Learning Journal forum. Don’t forget to maintain your own Learning Journal and be ready to share your reflections, ideas, and examples at the end of the week.

    Week 1 Day 5

    1. Post a summary of the Building Online Community discussion activity. When composing the summary, keep in mind that you are demonstrating for participants what will be expected of the facilitation teams in the weeks to come. Inform (or remind) participants that, although you won’t be asking for their feedback on this activity (due to time constraints), you will be asking them for their feedback in following weeks.
    While participants are not required to submit feedback for every activity, it’s important to remind them that you welcome their feedback or questions throughout the course. Make sure participants know how to contact you privately (via email?) if they prefer.
    1. Check in with the team facilitating Week 2’s activities. Post a message in the planning forum for the Diversity of Learners team to encourage them to get started (if they haven’t done so already).

    End of Week 1

    1. Connect with your co-facilitator about the work for the week ahead and divide the labour. Keep in mind that one of you will need to write the upcoming week’s Introductory post, with an overview of the theme topic and an outline of the work ahead for participants.
    2. Launch week 1’s Weekly Journal Share forum thread with a starter post for facilitator and participant nuggets. Then, add your own post with your reflective thoughts, nuggets, and examples related to Facilitation Skills and Strategies. Invite participants to contribute nuggets from their Learning Journals as well as self-assessment thoughts (including any conclusions or comments from their self-assessment rubrics.)Here’s an example of a nuggets starter post:

    Post Example: Week 1 Journal Share

    By Sylvia Riessner – Friday, 2 October 2015, 6:53 AM

    This is a nuggets starter post for everyone’s journal share for Week 1.

    Please reply to this thread when posting your journal share for this week. This will have the effect of collecting all the posts each week.

    A quick reminder from the Handbook:

    “…each week, review your journal and extract an aha moment. This could be a quotation from a reading or forum that made something clear or made you smile. Also, share some insights you gleaned from self-assessing your participation each week (using the FLO Rubric).”

    … and here’s an example of a reflective nugget that a previous facilitator shared:

    Post Example: Facilitators’ Weekly Journal Share

    By Leonne Beebe – Sunday, 2 October 2016, 5:12 PM

    Week 1 of any course, especially an online course, is exciting and challenging. Seeing the FLO online community beginning to develop and learning of participants helping each other is motivating and rewarding. However, one of my “imaginary facilitator friends” known as Anxious Annie has a habit of showing up in Week 1 and hanging around. She keeps asking me, “What about those who haven’t posted by the suggested timeline? What about those who haven’t started working on their week’s planning yet? What about those who haven’t posted their journal yet?” Then, I remember facilitating is not about me; it’s about helping the participants as they need and ask for help. There is a saying that RRU folks often refer to called “Trust the process.” As I gain more experience and confidence with facilitating, the more I am able to trust the process and ignore Annie. Besides, it’s only 5:00 Sunday afternoon. There is lots of time left…

    A question that faced me this week was, “What do you do when a team member leaves the team/course (for whatever reason)?” and “How do you best support the team member who is left to facilitate that week’s activities?”

    Out of confusion comes clarity,

    Leonne

    1. Ensure the Diversity of Learners team is ready for the week ahead. If team members haven’t yet responded to your post in their planning forum, you may need to contact them more directly. Let them know how and when you will be available to help them.

    Your shifting role: from Facilitator to Guide

    iconWeeks 2 through 5 follow a relatively similar pattern: as co-facilitators, you will post a message at the beginning to welcome participants to this week’s topic and work, and you will post a summary to close the week. Throughout the week, you will monitor discussions and join in as appropriate. Although your guidance may be more hands-on in Weeks 1 and 2, by Weeks 4 and 5 you should find yourself pulling back and encouraging this week’s facilitation team to manage the discussion. Ideally, your participation will always be supportive — but not overwhelming — as you strive to scaffold your participants towards developing good facilitation skills.

    Week 2: Diversity of Learners

    diversity
    Figure 4.6

    Evening before the week begins

    1. Ensure that this week’s facilitation team has posted an introductory message. The message should introduce the facilitators and the topic. The team should also provide instructions for the week’s activities and a recommended schedule for completion.
    2. Post the week’s overview post (in Open Forum) with a description of activities, etc. to be completed this week.

     

 

 

 

 

Your overview post or weekly bulletin is an excellent way to remind participants about what’s happening this week and who’s facilitating what topic. You can mention any key deadlines or other events (e.g. a long weekend) that might impact the flow of the course. You can also use this opportunity to highlight things that went well, or to give credit to someone who shared a great resource or moved a discussion forward in a skillful way.

Here’s an example of an overview post that focuses on regrouping and encouraging participants to dig in to the course again:

Post Example: Post-Thanksgiving Weekend

By Sylvia Currie – Tuesday, 14 October 2014, 7:56 AM

A thanksgiving dinner photo
Figure 4.7

Anybody feeling a little out of sorts after a  l o o o o n g weekend?

It isn’t unusual for the steady rhythm in an online course to take some effort to get back on track. We all know why this happens, but what do you do about it as a facilitator?

  1. Celebrate those who take initiative and are resourceful. Some of us have jumped in to the Week 3 readings and started conversations. Applause! Note: The actual post included a link directly to the conversations in the Week 3 forum.
  2. Support those who might be struggling. Your facilitation team for this week has been preparing behind the scenes, but is needing a little extra time to launch the activity. (Just know we’re all rootin’ for you, Week 3 facilitation team!)
  3. Suggest something to focus on. How about this? Kelly Warnock from Thompson Rivers University created a Digital Toolbox Wiki to compile tools. What have you used successfully that would you add to the list? Pop your ideas into the forum (linked), and/or edit Kelly’s wiki directly.
  4. Make any necessary adjustments to the plan. This should be an ongoing practice anyway. It’s easy to get too ambitious, especially when plans involve working in teams. What would you add to this list?

By mid-week

  1. Connect with the team facilitating the following week’s activities. Post a message in the planning forum for the team to encourage them to get started (if they haven’t done so already). Let them know how and when you will be available to help them.
  2. Survey/poll participants to determine an optimal time for Week 3’s synchronous session. If possible, schedule the synchronous session so a maximum number can participate.

Ongoing throughout the week

  1. Provide support for this week’s facilitation team as necessary. The co-facilitator responsible for supporting this team should check in regularly.
  2. Monitor and participate in discussions and activities. Check the Open Forum regularly.

Later in the week

Finalize planning for Week 3’s synchronous session. Post the date and time in both the Open Forum and the Schedule.

End of the week

  1. Connect with Week 2’s facilitation team, debrief and thank them for facilitating.
    Assist the team in wrapping up their facilitation work. Team members should review and respond to feedback from classmates.

Post Example: How a Facilitating Team Gets Feedback in FLO

This short video describes how one facilitator ensures that facilitation team members get comprehensive feedback, without being heavy-handed or overly directive. A transcript is also provided below.

Transcript

There are several ways that a facilitating team gets feedback for their facilitation of their activity in FLO. These are before the activity, during the activity, just after the activity, and then in response to their FLIF. Now, before the activity, as their FLO facilitator being assigned to support their team, I try to let them know what they are supposed to be doing, but I try not to be too heavy-handed in how to do it or all of the minute details of what they’re going to be up to and how they’re going to share their roles. So, I let them know I’m a support to them, but I try not to direct too much what they’re going to be doing.

After they launch their activity, I watch how things are going throughout the week as their support facilitator, and sometimes I’ll post in their planning forum to ask some open-ended questions about how they think things are going, and maybe if they think something else needs to be done by them in order to prompt the group or to spur the group on to participate a little bit more in the activity. Again, I try not to be too heavy-handed here, but I do watch and try to ask questions to help the team facilitate behind the scenes as we go along.

Now the facilitation team always asks for feedback at the end of the week from the rest of the group, and they do this through the feedback structures that we’ve provided in FLO. We’ve tried to use different structures every week, so we can show the class just how to use different feedback structures. So, the team, or one of us as FLO facilitators, will ask the rest of the group to provide feedback to that team. The team needs this feedback in order to complete their FLIF reflection activity. So we always really want to encourage the rest of the class to do this and provide meaningful feedback to the facilitating team.

The last way the team gets feedback on their facilitation is individually through the FLIF reflection tool. So, after each person on that team has had a chance to complete the FLIF, then I as their support facilitator will go in, individually, and respond to those pieces in the FLIF. Again, I try to be positive here, but I do try to bring up things that maybe they could have done differently or suggest alternatives. It almost becomes like a little conversation in the FLIF about how things could have gone if they had done something different, and also giving them kudos for what they did that I saw that was going really well. I always invite the person, individually, to contact me after they’ve seen my comments in their FLIF to get even more feedback if they want to talk about something that I’ve said.

So, those are some ways that a team gets feedback in FLO, and I wish you luck in supporting them to have that. Bye!

Explain the FLIF process (Feel, Like, Improve, Feedback) to the team and detail how FLIF can help them structure their reflection. Emphasize the value of completing the FLIF while the facilitation experience is still fresh in their minds. Provide rich, constructive feedback in a timely way. (See The FLIF Facilitation Process in Chapter 3.)

You can use a a semi-structured survey tool to collect participant responses to FLIF. This could be a quiz within the LMS, an external online survey, etc.

  1. Connect with your co-facilitator about the week’s work and divide the labour. One of you will need to write the past week’s summary post, harvesting highlights to which you want to draw attention. And one of you will need to write the upcoming week’s introductory post, with an overview of the theme topic and an outline of the work ahead for participants.
  2. Post a summary of Week 2 in Open Forum. Highlight any issues, surprises, what went well, etc.
  3. Launch this week’s nuggets in the Weekly Journal Share forum. Post a starter thread for this week’s nuggets and add your own reflections, aha moments and other nuggets.
  4. Post weekend reminders for participants in Open Forum. Participants should:
    1. Provide feedback to this week’s team facilitators.
    2. Review their Learning Journals and post their nuggets to the Weekly Journal Share forum.

Week 3: Responsive Facilitation

responsive facilitation
Figure 4.8

Evening before the week begins

  1. Ensure that this week’s facilitation team has posted an introductory message. The message should introduce the facilitators and the topic. The team should also provide instructions for the week’s activities and a recommended schedule for completion.
  2. Post the week’s overview post with description of activities, etc. to be completed this week.

Here’s an example of an overview post:

Example Post: Week 3 gets going!

Week 3 gets going! by Beth Cougler Blom – Monday, 18 April 2016, 8:54 AM

Hi everyone,

It’s the start of Week 3 and we have the Blue Team – Daniel, Lindsay and Stephanie – at the reins this week as they support the class through our Responsive Facilitation activity. When you click on your Week 3 tab – voila! – after the Week 3 overview information you’ll see a video from Daniel welcoming you to this activity. There is a case to read and the text has been modified in the forum to give you everything you need to start. You will be working on a team so do check in today to see what you need to begin.

Also coming up this week we have a synchronous Collaborate session at 7pm on Thursday night Pacific time. Sylvia and I will be co-facilitating that session and we’d like to invite you to do two small things in preparation for it:

  • Think about your answer to this question: “What opportunities do you see to make changes to or begin your facilitation practice, as a result of what you’ve learned in this course so far?”
  • What facilitation-related questions do you have cropping up for you that you haven’t gotten answered yet?

This is an optional but recommended session and it will be interactive (we’re going to try a Liberating Structure) so try to show up a little early to check your technology so we can get going on time. Thank you!

Lastly, thanks to everyone who gave feedback to the Orange team for last week’s facilitation. This feedback from you to the facilitating team each week is imperative for them to be able to reflect well on their facilitation, fill out their FLIF and of course enhance their facilitation practice overall.

Looking forward to our discussions this week!

Beth and Sylvia

Early in the week

  1. Notify participants about Week 3’s synchronous session. Your message should include the session time, access information, and a link to technical support. Re-post a reminder about the session a few hours before it begins.
  2. Later (on the agreed day): Host the synchronous session. Post a brief follow-up report. Post the recording of the session if/when it’s available.
  3. Co-facilitator reviews and responds to Week 2 team’s FLIFs. The co-facilitator responsible for supporting the Week 2 facilitation team adds comments and feedback within each participant’s FLIF and notifies them when it’s complete.

By mid-week

Connect with the team facilitating Week 4’s activities. Post a message in the planning forum for the team to encourage them to get started (if they haven’t done so already). Let them know how and when you will be available to help them.

Ongoing throughout the week

  1. Provide support for this week’s facilitation team as necessary. The co-facilitator responsible for supporting this team should check in regularly.
  2. Monitor and participate in discussions and activities. Check the Open Forum regularly.
Are some participants not as engaged as you expect? Although full participation is ideal, the reality is that people have work, family, and other responsibilities that can cause disruptions in their ability to participate. Do what you can to assist individuals in these circumstances. Offer the opportunity to complete the work before or immediately after an absence, or suggest an alternate assignment or activity.

End of the week

  1. Connect with Week 3’s facilitation team, debrief and thank them for facilitating.
    Assist the team in wrapping up their facilitation work. Team members should review and respond to feedback from classmates. Remind team members to complete their FLIF reflection
  2. Connect with your co-facilitator about the week’s work and divide the labour. One of you will need to write the past week’s summary post, harvesting highlights to which you want to draw attention. And one of you will need to write the upcoming week’s introductory post, with an overview of the theme topic and an outline of the work ahead for participants.
  3. Post your (co-facilitator’s) summary of Week 3 in Open Forum. Highlight any issues, surprises, what went well, etc.
  4. Launch this week’s nuggets in the Weekly Journal Share forum. As in previous weeks, post a starter thread for this week’s nuggets and add your own.
You can encourage richer, deeper reflection by sharing your own reflections on experience, and also some examples of how you’ve experienced facilitation during this session. Such examples can make the process of facilitation more visible to your participants — but be careful not to compromise the confidentiality of your participants.
  1. Post week-end reminders for participants in Open Forum. Participants should:
    1. Provide feedback to this week’s team facilitators.
    2. Review their Learning Journals and post their nuggets to the Weekly Journal Share forum.

Week 4: Collaboration

A group of people sitting around a table working together
Figure 4.9

Evening before the week begins

  1. Ensure that this week’s facilitation team has posted an introductory message. The message should introduce the facilitators and the topic. The team should also provide instructions for the week’s activities and a recommended schedule for completion.
  2. Post the week’s overview post with a description of activities, etc. to be completed this week.

Early in the week

Co-facilitator reviews and responds to Week 3 team’s FLIFs. The co-facilitator responsible for supporting the Week 2 facilitation team adds comments and feedback within each participant’s FLIF and notifies them when it’s complete.

By mid-week

  1. Connect with the team facilitating Week 5’s activities. Post a message in the planning forum for the team to encourage them to get started (if they haven’t done so already). Let them know how and when you will be available to help them.
  2. Connect with the co-facilitator and decide on a course wrap-up event. You may decide to use a synchronous or asynchronous format to wrap up the course.
  3. If you are hosting a synchronous session in Week 5: Survey/poll the participants to determine an optimal time for Week 5’s synchronous session. If possible, schedule the synchronous session so a maximum number can participate.

Ongoing throughout the week

  1. Provide support for this week’s facilitation team as necessary. The co-facilitator responsible for supporting this team should check in regularly.
  2. Monitor and participate in discussions and activities. Check the Open Forum regularly.

Later in the week

Finalize planning for Week 5’s wrap-up event. If you will be hosting a synchronous session in Week 5, post the date and time in the Open Forum.

End of the week

  1. Connect with Week 4’s facilitation team and debrief, thank them for facilitating.
    1. Assist the team in wrapping up their facilitation work. Team members should review and respond to feedback from classmates.
    2. Remind team members to complete their FLIF reflection.
  2. Connect with your co-facilitator about the week’s work and divide the labour. One of you will need to write the past week’s summary post, harvesting highlights to which you want to draw attention. And one of you will need to write the upcoming week’s introductory post, with an overview of the theme topic and an outline of the work ahead for participants.
  3. Post your (co-facilitator’s) summary of Week 4 in Open Forum. Highlight any issues, surprises, what went well, etc.
  4. Launch this week’s nuggets in the Weekly Journal Share forum. Post a starter thread for this week’s nuggets and add your own reflections as in previous weeks.
  5. Post week-end reminders for participants in Open Forum. Participants should:
    1. Provide feedback to this week’s team facilitators.
    2. Review their Learning Journals and post their nuggets to the Weekly Journal Share forum.

Week 5: Reflective Practice

reflective practice
Figure 4.10

Evening before the week begins

  1. Ensure that this week’s facilitation team has posted an introductory message. The message should introduce the facilitators and the topic. The team should also provide instructions for the week’s activities and a recommended schedule for completion.
  2. Post the week’s overview post with a description of the activities, etc. they need to complete this week.

Early in the week

  1. Co-facilitator reviews and responds to Week 4 team’s FLIFs. The co-facilitator responsible for supporting the Week 4 facilitation team responds to Week 4 team participants in a message or email.
  2. If you are hosting a synchronous session in Week 5: Notify participants about this week’s synchronous session. Your message should include the session time, access information, and link to technical support. Re-post a reminder about the session a few hours before it begins.
  3. Later (on the agreed day): Host synchronous session. Post a brief follow-up report. Post the recording of the session if/when it’s available.

Ongoing throughout the week

  1. Provide support for this week’s facilitation team as necessary. The co-facilitator responsible for supporting this team should check in regularly.
  2. Monitor and participate in discussions and activities. Check the Open Forum regularly.

Later in the week

Conduct course wrap-up event. Use an asynchronous or synchronous tool to summarize and celebrate the participants and participation. Provide information about follow-up courses (including OER courses in the FLO “family”).

End of the week

  1. Connect with Week 5’s facilitation team, debrief and thank them for facilitating.
    1. Assist the team in wrapping up their facilitation work. Team members should review and respond to feedback from classmates.
    2. Remind team members to complete their FLIF reflection.
  2. Connect with your co-facilitator about wrapping up the course and divide the labour. One of you will need to write the past week’s summary post, harvesting highlights to which you want to draw attention.
  3. Post co-facilitators’ wrap-up post in Open Forum. Provide a summary of Week 5, highlighting issues, surprises, what went well, etc. Add a wrap-up summary of the course. There are many different ways you can draw the course and community to a close. The example below shows how a facilitator used a mind mapping tool to acknowledge participants’ contributions and recognize the learning that took place. Read the forum post and view the mind map; you may wish to try Coggle yourself!

Post Example: Closing our Community – Thank you all!

By Beth Cougler Blom – Friday, 6 May 2016, 4:20 PMEveryone, it has been such a pleasure for Sylvia and me and Leonne to work with you all over the last five weeks. What a group! This has been a rich experience for all of us, and we hope that it has been for you as well.

Some final details:

Thanks to all of you who have posted your Looking Back Looking Forward reflections and artifacts. (It’s not too late if you haven’t had a chance to contribute something.)

…….

And one last thing…Sylvia Riessner and I have worked over the past day to encapsulate some of our group’s many varied and wonderful thoughts and quotes on facilitation, that you’ve shared throughout the course. We present them back to you here in a Coggle – enjoy!

A collection of quotes from the course organized in a web-like structure
Figure 4.11
  1. Launch this week’s nuggets in the Weekly Journal Share forum. Post a starter thread for this week’s nuggets and add your own as in previous weeks.
  2. Post end-of-course reminders for participants in Open Forum. Participants should:
    1. Provide feedback to this week’s team facilitators.
    2. Review their Learning Journals and post their nuggets to the Weekly Journal Share forum.
  3. Thank participants and request final feedback. If you are using a survey and/or final course evaluation, emphasize the value of participant feedback, provide explicit directions about where to find the feedback forms and how to submit them.

See Appendix 3: Generalized Course Evaluation Survey for a sample course evaluation survey that you can modify for your specific course and evaluation needs.

After the course

  1. Review the survey and/or course evaluation feedback. Now is the time to make a note of any confusing directions, outdated resources, or ineffective activities and ensure this information is available before you host the course again.
  2. Conduct a debrief session for all involved: co-facilitators, support personnel and others. Share the feedback from course evaluations and surveys, and celebrate successes. Use this information to note changes you’d like to make when you offer this course again.
  3. Devise a strategy to keep in touch with participants. Ensure you at least have email addresses so you can share news about additional FLO courses and other, related professional development offerings. If possible, engage past participants in a community of practice or network of shared resources and practitioners to encourage ongoing professional growth.

 


  1. Ideally, FLO facilitators will have already experienced FLO as a participant (although this is not required). You may wish to preview the FLO Fundamentals course, available as an Open Educational Resource (OER) from BCcampus.
  2. In your institution, an LMS Administrator, IT support, or Instructional Designer may help with this step.

License

Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

FLO Facilitation Guide by Sylvia Currie, Sylvia Riessner, Gina Bennett, and Beth Cougler Blom is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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