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CogDogBlog with photo sampled from Farhang.

A lesson I learned from a mentor a long time ago is that as a facilitator, an organizer, our prime role is nothing more than to create a reasons for people to come together. Once they are there, great things can happen. CCBy: CogDogBlog with photo sampled from Farhang.

Facilitating Online Communities has come to an end for the year.

When the course started in July, we had a flattering 84 expressions of interest for participation from a wide range of countries:

  1. Solomon Islands
  2. Philippines
  3. Spain
  4. Switzerland
  5. Argentina
  6. Poland
  7. Israel
  8. Portugal
  9. Norway
  10. Nigeria
  11. Brazil
  12. Australia
  13. United States of America
  14. India
  15. Pakistan
  16. Canada
  17. United Kingdom
  18. New Zealand
  19. Mauritius

As expected, a little over 15% of those initial expressions of interest saw the course through to the end. In some ways I found the open course was a little like busking. A crowd attracted a crowd, most people were passers by who were willing to show support for the effort. Very few stayed around for the full show, and understandably fewer were interested in paying a fee for formal services such as personal support, assessment and certified recognition. I’m now rethinking the financial model for the course, and am interested to see if I can work out a way to make it entirely free.

In the end we had around 6 formally enrolled people complete the course and receive certified recognition for their efforts, and we had at least 9 informal participants complete the course and who could receive certified recognition in the future should they ever be in a position to pay a fee for the assessment, and should they ever consider it to be beneficial to them. A certificate of participation is on offer to those people, and so far one person from Pakistan has nominated themselves to receive that. The certificate of participation will be helpful to them should they opt for formal certification in the future as it will show the assessors in the future that they completed the course. If I can work out a way to offer the course for free, non of this administration and assessment process need be such a concern.

Since the 2008 course has finished, we have had 2 expressions of interest from the USA for formal participation in the 2009 course. As the 2009 course will not start until July, these 2 people will start the course self directed, and take advantage of the socially constructed learning interactions come July. It may well turn out that they will complete before July, that being the case they will simply require assessment and certified recognition for their completed efforts.

In the future, I hope to negotiate partnership with other institutions where if people from countries other than New Zealand participate in the course, they will be able to obtain formal certification from the partnering Institution in their own country. It could be that a new financial model exists in partnering institutions being able to offer our course in their advertised services…

As the facilitator of the course, I spent 110 hours over the 17 week course and the 5 weeks preparation – total being 110 hours over 22 weeks, averaging out to be 5 hours a week. This is an estimate and the exact number of hours will be known in mid January. At least one participant felt that my time with the course was too little. I feel that 17 weeks is too long for the course, and too many topics were put into that length of time. I also think that it could be possible for my facilitation time to be made less time each week, without adversely affecting the progress and support levels for participants. At least I think I should test it.

The combination of length of time, pace of the course and intensity of communication at various points, were key factors contributing to drop off in participation and increase in facilitation workload. I think it will be possible to reduce the number of topics without compromising the quality of the course, and minimise inefficiencies through smarter design of activities and combination of topics.

For example, the start of the course was a hellish workload for everyone as the first couple of weeks relied on the use of an email forum to coordinate and communicate. The initial number of interested people overwhelmed the email forum with technical preparations and introductions, as well as repetitive questions and some off topic or inappropriate suggestions (innappropriate considering the wide range of experience levels among the participants). Next time I will design a buffer period at the start of the course so as to absorb most of this initial flurry and spread it in a way that creates less noise and stress to people entirely new to the technology. Rather than centralising communications in an email forum at the start, my thoughts are to decentralise and make it appear as though its a very quiet and individual start, but slowly bring it together through activities over the following weeks (and eventually to an email forum if required). This could more successfully demonstrate the idea of networked communications. This approach should allow people to focus on tasks as they attempt to master fundamental tools like their blogs. This buffer period would need to involve unique and interesting activities so that technically experienced people are presented with an engaging enough start that will occupy their enthusiasm in a more helpful and constructive way for the people with less experience. I’m considering the use of Youtube for initial introductions from everyone in video forum mode… as suggested by Craig Hansen. Using Youtube in this way is commonly perceived as a technically difficult task, but is in fact a simple process – probably resulting in a confidence boost for many participants.

A successful activity in the course was the course miniconference. The measure of success is not in terms of numbers of participants, but in the clarity of learning outcomes evident in the blog posts of those who took part in it, such as Elaine. This activity seemed to greatly benefit a number of people’s understanding of key theoretical points discussed in the course. Without this activity, we are sure that such understanding would not have developed. Kay Lewis suggested that a dummy run of the online conference earlier in the course would have helped develop understanding sooner and thus given her the opportunity for deeper learning once the proper mini conference took place. I’m still thinking about how to work two conference activities into the course without loosing other important topics, but and tending to think that given the overview nature of the course, I’m not sure if anything beyond an ah-ha moment is needed… hopefully that moment would be enough to motivate the participants to go out and seek their own opportunities and test new ideas for themselves once the course is over.

Over all the course was a success both in terms of learning outcomes for participants, feedback obtained so far, and my own learning while developing and testing this new models and the techniques needed to facilitate it. There is still some work needed to be done with the administrators of the course to make sure they understand how it is run (very differently to the Blackboard they are used to), what they need to do to support the course, and discussion on how we can accomodate the internationalisation better. Thankfully they have been quite open to the developments so far.

Thanks to all those people who took part and helped carry FOC08 through to the end.

iBoy Daniel

Two Phones - CC By: iBoy Daniel

Participants in the Facilitating Online Communties course have come together to coordinate an online mini conference. Below are the range of events scheduled so far. Keep an eye on the conference wiki for up to the minute details. See you there!

A mini conference for Facilitating Online

From Facilitating online communities

Date: 2 – 9 November 2008

2-9Nov Community Leadership Development

Title: Community Leadership Development – review and feedback
Date: online discussion
Duration: throughout the conference period
Facilitators: Valerie Taylor with guests and friends
Venue: blog posts, discussion page threads


Community Leadership Development – online, open education and skills development for individuals and groups working with community-based organizations to provide leadership training, needs assessment and planning, coordination and management of projects to benefit the community.

As Community Leadership Development is a new course modeled on FOC08 and CCK08, participants in the FOC08 Mini Conferences are uniquely qualified to provide input, feedback and suggestions.

Throughout the Mini Conference, questions about the content and the process for the course will be posted for review and comment. Summaries and links to contributions will be posted each day.

Questions, offers of collaboration welcome.

2-9Nov Managing Multimembership in Social Networks

Title: SCoPE seminar discussion: Managing Multimembership in Social Networks: Oct 27-Nov 9, 2008

Facilitators: Bronwyn Stuckey, Jeffrey Keefer, Sue Wolff, Sylvia Currie

Description: How do you track and keep up with blog conversations? How do you manage your time as you engage in social networks? What are our limits as we integrate social learning into our work environments? When you do find yourself becoming disconnected from your networks and organized activities, how do you return to the fray? As facilitators how do you manage multimembership for your participants?

Many of us confess to fumbling along and we engage in multiple networks. Yet, many networks are essential for the projects, sectors and people that we work with, and for staying abreast of hot issues. Multi-membership and multi-platform overload is becoming a BIG challenge!

During this 2-week discussion we invite you to share tips for managing participation in social networks. This seminar is organized as part of the Facilitating Online Communities course mini-conference. There are many ways to participate! Take our survey, leave a Voice Thread, and join the asynchronous discussion.

Venue: SCoPE is an open, online community supported by BCcampus and hosted by Simon Fraser University. Membership is free and open to the public and our discussions are facilitated by volunteers. Access the seminar discussion directly.

Planning for the event: A record of our planning steps is on a subsequent wiki page: /multimembership

5Nov-7pm The Role of an Online Facilitator

Date: 7pm on Wednesday 5th November UTC (8am on Thursday 6th NovemberNZ DST) Check the time in your zone.
Duration: approximately 1 hour
Facilitator: Vida Thompson
Venue: Skype (contact skype user: vidathompson in advance to join this session)
Description I recorded an interview with a Community Facilitator here in Alexandra, Central Otago, New Zealand. For the mini conference I would like participants to listen to the inteview and then discuss their perception of the role of an online facilitator and how that compares to the role of a face to-face community facilitator. This discussion will be held on skype on Wednesday 5th November at 7pm UTC. (Contact skype user: vidathompson in advance to join this session).

All interested people are welcome to attend. It would be good if participants could listen to the interview before the event. Note: The interview does take a while to start as I edited the beginning out.

Please contact Vida Thompson in skype prior to the event so you can be included in the event when it starts (contact skype user: vidathompson or by e-mail There is a limit of 9 participants who can talk but no limit to the chat contributions.

5Nov 9pm Interview About Second Life in Second Life

Title: About Second Life
Date: Wednesday 05 Nov UTC at 9.00pm (Thursday 06 Nov 10.00 am New Zealand Time)
Duration: 30 Minutes
Facilitator: Grant Comber (aka Avatar: Clinty Inglewood)
Venue: Explorer Island in Second Life
How to get there? Click on this SLurl Link and then click on the Teleport Now button to zoom to Explorer Island. The Second Life Grid coordinates for the Venue are 195,208,22 (PG) Your Host Clinty Inglewood will meet you.
Reminder: Min computer specs – RAM: 500mb (preferably 1 Gig) Chip speed: 800 MHz Pentium III or better, Screen 1024×768 pixels Internet Connection: Cable/DSL Microphone/headset needed for Chatting

Description:An interview between newbie Grant Comber (Clinty Inglewood) and seasoned Second Life user Harold Atkinson (Hat Carter). General questions on the use of Second Life and sharing of unique experiences. Opportunity for all avatars in FOC to gain some insight into using Second Life especially those who are newbies like Grant!

So if you want to philosophize, go didactic on us or just talk some technical turkey issues please pop in for this casual interview.

My thanks to our guest Harold Atkinson who is a fellow teaching colleague of mine with much Second Life experience. See you there! Signing Off: Clinty Inglewood

6Nov-8am Stigmergic Collaboration: The Evolution of Group Work

Facilitated by: Daryl Cook with guest Dr. Mark Elliott.

Mark completed a PhD in 2007 that developed theoretical frameworks for collective activity and mass collaboration in conjunction with a number of real-world projects and now runs a consultancy that provides services surrounding online collaboration and social media / web2.0. In our meeting, Mark will assist us to explore:

  • Stigmergic collaboration as a means of explaining how co-ordination is achieved in ad hoc, massively scaled collaborative contexts (i.e. Wikis)
  • How we can, as facilitators, use Wikis to collaborate, share and learn
  • His experiences from the Future Melbourne project — the world’s first, wiki-based, collaborative city plan.

The one hour session, will include a very brief presentation, but will mostly be informal and conversational. Definitely no Powerpoint.

Please join us!

DATE: Thursday 6th November 2008 at 7PM EST or check the time in your time zone.

VENUE: Join this online event at the Elluminate Meeting Room

Beforehand, please ensure that you computer is ready to use the web conferencing software (Elluminate).


ENQUIRIES: For any enquiries and/or for any assistance with Elluminate, do not hesitate to contact me.

6 Nov-10pm International Online Collaboration Group meets FOC08

Title International Online Collaboration Group

  • Date and Duration – UTC Thursday 6 November 10pm-11pm UTC (Friday 7 November 9am – 10am East Australia time)
  • Facilitators: Kerry Trabinger (CIT Australia) and Leigh
  • Description

This is a FANTASTIC opportunity for the group to meet with teachers who are currently completing a subject called Facilitating Learning Online in Australia. Come and discuss your experiences. Topics will include: – Introductions (where are you from and what area are you teaching in) – Virtual Classrooms – Do you like this platform? Will you use it with your students? Why or Why not? Any tips on using these platforms. – Time Management – How does your Institute allocate time for online delivery? Is it the same as for face to face? – Marketing – how can you get students or participants to join in an online dicussion or virtual classroom session? PLUS you have a chance to try a different virtual classroom platform.

  • Venue – VET VIRTUAL (a virtual classroom used in Australia VET Sector –

6Nov-1030pm TLC (Think, Learn & Create) Using Mind Maps

Title: TLC Using Mind Maps (TLC – Think, Learn & Create) – Online Discussion, followed by Presentation, – Friday 7 Nov 2008 11.30 am – 12noon NZ DST (10.30 pm – 11 pm Thursday 6 Nov UTC)

Facilitators: Kay Lewis and Elaine Dittert


  • Have you had difficulty keeping up with the ‘overload of information’ during this course?
  • Got confused or lost by trying to view all the discussion threads?
  • Have you jotted down some thoughts and ideas you’ve read and heard but by the time you’re ready to go over your notes they make no sense?

If this sounds like you, this 30 minute session may be just what you need. It is designed to give you some pointers to help you gather and organise large amounts of data and provide a clear overview, analyse your thoughts, identify problem solving ideas and generate more ideas with clarity, efficiency and accuracy.

We plan to have one special guest speaker:

  • Jennifer Goddard, BBus (Admin), Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Master Trainer in Buzan Advanced Learning Techniques, inspirational Director of the Buzan Centre in Australia and New Zealand and co-founder of Mindwerx International. OR
  • Jennie Vickers, Buzan Licensed Instructor (senior advanced coach), Masters of Management, Diploma in Business Administration (University of Auckland), BA Law (Honours). Jennie is also an Alumni of the Leadership NZ Programme.

Venue: From your feedback in the discussion here [1], we will use 24/7 Meeting Room (Elluminate) or Skype to host the presentation.

7Nov-4PM EST Storytelling

Title: Storytelling

Date: November 7, 2008 at 4PM EST or check the time in your time zone.

Duration: 60 minutes ?




  • Do you think of stories when you look at a photo, a video, or listen to music? Does the topic interest you as a tool for instruction and learning or are you just curious? In any case, for whatever reason you may have, you are invited to join this storytelling mini conference.
  • We will have a live storytelling event on WiZiQ or Elluminate. Please refer to the main page of Connecting Online for further discussions on the topic.

Further Information

8Nov-Midnight Heart2Heart Online

Title: Heart2Heart Online
Date: Tentatively Saturday, November 8, 2008 00:00 UTC Time
Duration: 90 minutes
Venue: TBA (Skype, Elluminate Meeting Room or WiZiQ)
Group Size: Maximum of 8 people
Facilitator: Greg Barcelon assisted by partner Ivy (guest)
A place where we can simply be ourselves… sharing ourselves at a deeper level without the fear of condemnation, unsolicited advice, interruption or being judged.

Traditionally we got this deep level of connectedness with our true selves, and assist others in doing the same, from our families. But, with many people experiencing difficulties in their family life today, we need communities that can become “Schola Amoris,” a School of Love, in which all learn to first of all accept themselves as they are, and then in a greater way accept others unconditionally – the greatest yearning we collectively have.
More about it here.

8Nov-7AM Connecting Online in Developing Countries

Title: 8 Nov-7AM GMT – Connecting Online in Developing Countries

Date: 7AM GMT, Saturday November 8, 2008. Check your time here.

Duration: 60 min?

Faciliatator: Joy Zhao & guest speakers

Venue: Wiziq

Description: We are connected online and forming various online communities. Do you know what problems people living in developing countries meet when they try to join in online communities and maintain the connection? What is the situation of online communities in developing countries? Our guest speakers are all very experienced and skilled in this topic. Come and share your thoughts and you will get more information than you expected.

Posted By Leigh Blackall to Facilitating Online Communities at 11/05/2008 10:08:00 AM

I met Minhaaj through the Wikieducator project. Later we started skyping about this and that until one night (for me – day for him in Pakistan) we started talking about Islam. Minhaaj is a religious person following Islam, and I am a person interested in that. Moreover,  Minhaaj is a very competent Linux user (in my eyes) and knowledgeable with insight on social media.

Minhaaj is participating in the Facilitating Online Communities, and I think his post for the question What is an online community – is a moving account of the great potential in online communication and communal-ism. The idea that online communities somehow transcend prejudice. So far, of all great posts from the participants in the course, I think Minhaaj gives us an authentic insight into something unique, something deeper and in need of consideration regarding online communities.

10 days to the start of the free and open online course: Facilitating Online Communities.

About once a week in the lead up to the start of the course I check the course wiki discussion page to see if anyone new has added their names to the ‘I wanna be involved list‘. Each week I am nicely surprised to see not only new names, but people with experience and genuine interest! Its actually a little intimidating to be honest! There are people joining the course with more experience than I have! but I’m confident that the topic range and resources will be useful for just about anyone, and as many have said – they’re joining to fill in some gaps. I think we’ll be fine 🙂

As yet I haven’t heard from any formal participants. I don’t know if the sponsoring institution who is responsible for the traditional promotions and formal enrollments has been directing people to the course wiki or not (I sure hope they aren’t persisting with their Blackboard process – it will only confuse people). Perhaps for a formal and newbie, the idea of making an introduction to a group of experienced and highly motivated participants so far is intimidating them.. I hope not, I sort of wish I had of included a join by email button (I need to look into that feature on Wikied). Ignoring that factor though, the group we have in there already will be a valuable resource to any newbie to all this. They’d be really letting themselves down if they  opted out on account of feeling intimidated.. I must remember to quiz people to see if this was at all a factor once we get started.

In any case, I am really relieved that we have a good number of interested informal participants. They will help to carry the motivation of the formally enrolled, and will no doubt offer help with the course in general. I’m confident that some of them will turn into fee paying participants if they want assessment and certification, but its certainly not a requirement.

I’m looking forward to getting started on it come the 28th, even though I’ll be facilitating all by my lonesome, I don’t intend to allow my workload to go over 6 hours a week on average. We’ll see, famous last words…

Chat Room - A photo by iBoy Daniel

That course we ran last year is coming up again. I’ve tweaked it quite a bit – free at last from the learning management system it was locked up inside, running in a wiki schedule, backed up by blogs and an email forum.

This course has been developed by staff in the Educational Development Centre of Otago Polytechnic and is designed to help both formal and informal learners access and interpret models, research and professional dialog in the facilitation of online communities. After completing this course people should be confident in facilitating online and/or be able to critique and offer advice to other people in the facilitation of online communities.

The next facilitated course starts 28 July 2008.

Participation in this course is open. You will need to have regular access the Internet and be comfortable with independently completing tasks. To join simply introduce yourself to the discussion page and include an email address that can be use to add you to an email forum for the course.

In formal learning terms this is a level 7 course registered on the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. Formal learning participants engage in this course for a period of 10 weeks with an indicative time commitment of at least 6 hours per week. Formal learners will receive concentrated learning support throughout this period, and assessment services and formal recognition at the completion of the course. Some people may prefer to engage in this course informally and to set their own pace through the work using the schedule as a guide. Informal engagement is welcome and arrangements can be made for formal assessment and recognition at any time with the course facilitator.



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