Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Reflecting on a session where the facilitator learned more than anyone

The following blogpost has been written as a form of reflection for myself and and as an example for others on why you should have a back up plan for anything that may go wrong when you are facilitating an online session, because if something can go wrong it probably will go wrong .... then also have a back up plan for that back up plan.

WizIQ session 12th Oct 2010 'FO2010 Evaluation Strategies'

The WizIQ session for week 11 ended up being a really great session, there was a lot of learning done, particularly on my part as the facilitator, lots of troubleshooting.

The overriding theme for the whole experience was to ... have a back up plan.

I had nominated myself to facilitate our Week 11 class in WizIQ which the group had never used before, this was an exciting challenge and I had seen a session in WizIQ facilitated by Nellie Deutsch who coincidentally was our guest speaker for the session, so I was very confident in Nellie's skills in using the tool.

I had sent an email to the group with details of times which was also on the course schedule on the wiki. One thing I did not include was the link to World clock to allow participants to easily check the time of the session in their timezone. As a result one of the participants had miscalculated the time and missed most of the session. Definitely a lesson learned on my part to avoid participant frustrations and dissapointment, simple things like the world clock allow participants to be prepared and show up to the session at the correct time, and as a facilitator one thing you need is ...'participants or learners'.

As the class had not used WizIQ (as a class) Sarah and I decided to have a practice session. During this practice there was terrible audio feedback on my part which caused the conversaton to be really disjointed. I was determined to do all that I could to make the session run as smoothly as possible so I investigated further on WizIQ.

As a result of the problems we encountered in the practice session I realised I had to learn more about WizIQ so I sat in on a Tutorial in WizIQ led by Shivani Vadehra titled 'WizIQ rules for teachers', just a 20 min session giving a brief rundown using WizIQto it's best. From this session I published a blogpost on FO2010 blog to give participants a brief on what was needed for the session. Feedback indicated that this info was helpful in preparing for the session.

The information provided in the rules for teachers tutorial indicated that Wi FI internet access really causes audio problems, so I knew that I had to use a cable to access the internet on the day of the session. The plan was to plug into a port in our downstairs office. This also solved the problem of having screaming children in the background. I would be in a quiet environment with no interruptions for the hour of the session.

Internet access is a very neccessary part of any online facilitation. The internet access that I normally have is fairly reliable however as our family are changing internet service providers the change over was to happen on the day that I was facilitating the session so that meant that my old provider was disconnecting me and my new modem had not yet arrived. We managed to connect tot he internet the night prior to the session by using the old modem accessing via a temp method whith the new provider, it was working fine the night before so I breathed a sigh of relief and went to bed for a 6:30 wake up with a 7am session start time. Of course the next morning the access I had enjoyed the night before was ... no longer!

The next back up plan was put into action. I have a good friend who lives close by and has internet access, I had called her the night before just in case something went wrong and asked if I could use her internet access, on the day it was a mad dash with my netbook over to her place. I was in a bit of a panic as I was not sure if the session would commence without me having launched the class and then participants would perhaps think the session was not on.

I knocked on the door, her son had just woken up, so had she but she kindly set me up in her office and brought me a cup of tea, so I was connected to the internet. I logged into WizIQ a few minutes late for the session to find that participants had access to the class and were chatting using the chatroll function. I started to talk but participants indicated in the chatroll tha my mic audio (speaking) was patchy and really not good at all. I was able to hand over audio, video and write access to Nellie Deutsch who was our very gracious guest speaker for the day.

There were several comments in the chatroll to indicate that everyone could hear Nellie very clearly, they were impressed that the audio quality was much better than that of Elluminate. My audio (listening) was still very patchy and I needed Nellie to type instructions of what I should do to fix i t as I could not make out what she was sad that saying. Nellie suggested that I log out of WizIQ then log back in, but I was concerned that this might end the session as I was the moderator. I was easily able to log out of WizIQ and back in and the audio was perfect.

Nellie gave us details about the tools that she uses to obtain feedback and evaluation methods.

The chatroll is the first form of feedback that Nellie uses, she explained that this is how she gauges participants responses to what she is saying, because she is unable to see our faces. Nellie encourages participants to detail their responses into the chatbox.

Google docs offer templates for producing surveys which is what Nellie often uses to obtain feedback from her participants.

Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter are also networks that allow Nellie to receive feedback and also via email.

The group had an opportunity to write questions or comments on the whiteboard which did cause some frustration as the whiteboard can be scrolled when everyone has write access and as a result people were trying to write but losing their spot, perhaps this is something to note for future sessions that when a group are writing on whiteboard to limit to the top left to ensure no scrolling, maybe this would work.

Gloria provided a good example of providing constructive/critical feedback to a facilitator/presenter at a session she attended however the presenter did not take the feedback on rather they made excuses for themselves. This prompted a discussion about the importance of accepting feedback & how our responses to feedback as facilitators is very important.

The above reflection does not a completely cover all the discussion during the session so if you would like to listen to the recording click here.

Nellie is a really calm and relaxed presenter and as a result the session (with all it's hiccups) was a very easy learning experience. General feedback on the session indicated that participants did learn about evaluation and feedback.

WizIQ is a great tool for conducting online learning/classes, I would highly recommend it. But as with ANY technology remember to have a backup plan and hope that you never have to use it.

For all the stresses that I experienced in preparing for the session I was on such a high at the conclusion of the hour. Sarah wanted to catch up for a debrief which I was unable to do, as I had to let my friend get to work. I found that I needed to go home and record my thoughts and feelings about the whole experience which resulted in this blogpost.


  1. Hi Kim

    I thought you did a great job considering it was clear your internet service was not too hot. You appeared to be calm and knowledgeable, which was a big ask considering this was a completely new technology for you. I do not have any feedback apart from "well done". But I will note that it is difficult to be a facilitator when you have less than ideal audio.

    Great work! Thank you, Sarah
    PS: I will be doing a lot of online work over the weekend, so feel free to ping me when you see me online

  2. Hi Kim - my heart was with you having personally experienced connection problems while trying to facilitate. I'm observing how I shifted in my perception of what was happening since hearing your story. I had vaguely wondered why you were late - had you slept in, car problems.. whatever? Not that I had any judgements; but if I had they would have dissolved through understanding your challenges - which leads me to believe it is important to share openly with participants to avoid misinterpretations.

    Thank you for all your pre and post work on this event - it certainly added to my learning.

  3. Thank you for a wonderful session, Kim. I found the title of this blog post interesting because I also learned a lot. How do we measure how much each of us learned from the event? Maybe, the presenter learned the most.

  4. Hi Kim,

    I have enjoyed reading your reflection. My view was that you were more like duck than a blue-bottom fly, on top much was serene.Now reading what issues you were dealing with and how you backed up your plans I am in awe, very clever and thank you for such attention to detail, we all benefited.

    I too really enjoyed this session, there was so much to enjoy too, not only Nellie's approach but also the highly competent way she moves around her tools, I aspire to that level of ability and confidence.

    I guess the big high for me was WizIQ which I found really easy to use and seemed to nudge Elluminate out the way. As WizIQ is free I guess it have the upper hand for the likes of me, along with Moodle and Skype.

  5. Expecting more such posts from your blog as I will be attending for the latest govt jobs and stuff like this may appear in the exams for the jobs.