Friday, 5 December 2008

Wks 15_16: Evaluate the facilitation of an online event

This week we reflect on the experience and make note of the things that happened and what we learned from it all

1. Preparation:

The preparation of the practice was a bit rushing for me. Thanks for the online conference I attended with Leigh and Nellie (yes, only three of us for that online meeting) and Nellie would like to help me with the topic of “Connecting Online in Developing Countries”. Leigh started sending emails to several potential guest speakers for my session. Thanks Leigh for your help ^_^

Although it was quite hard for me to organize the session while I was in China for one month holiday, you can imagine I was soooo busy in visiting families, relatives, dining with friends, shopping and dealing with all sorts of things. And I had no computer at that moment and had to go to the Internet café checking my emails and contacting with my guest speakers. With the help from Leigh and Nellie I started the preparation of the online session.

With emails send and received quite a few times between me and my guest speakers - Nellie, Minhaaj and other people. We discussed and determined the session time and decided to run an online session on WiZiQ.

Meanwhile I posted all the original thoughts on my topic and the preparation material into my blog, then into course mini-conference page, advertising the upcoming online session and invite others coming to the session. A public session is organized on WiZiQ and we posted our advertising information on WiZiQ too. And I am happy we successfully attracted more than 10 people (except me and guest speakers) attend the session. And most of them are come from developing countries, India, China, Pakistan, Mexico, etc.

When we decided to use WiZiQ as our session tool, I was not quite confident with using it – I never heard of it before. Thanks to Minhaaj and Nellie, we had a simulated meeting on WiZiQ so that I got some rough ideas on how to use it. Staff from the WiZiQ held a tutorial online for me on the day before the session started. Been trained and knowing that Nellie would work as a moderator on that session helped me a bit confident when the session started.

2. Facilitating

Nellie is very experienced and quickly finding several of us cannot talk using microphone. But still we encountered several online drop offs and a few microphones didn’t work. Even for my guest speaker – Minhaaj, his microphone didn’t work at that moment. That’s quite a bit stressful. Luckily his typing skill is excellent and he typed what he prepared in the chatting text box.

Start the session

At the beginning of the session I introduced myself and my guest speakers, briefly introduced what is going to be discussed during the session. I was happy to know many attendants were from developing countries. We started with the experience and barriers we encountered while connecting online in developing countries.

Although we met with different problems from individual computers, the start was going smoothly; people would like to share their experience. But I believe that part is a bit longer than expected. But in the session time I didn’t realize it. I was busy in listening (quite hard thou, English is not my first language, so there’s a time delay translating what I heard in English into Chinese in my mind, no matter how long or fast this period of time is), thinking of what questions or comments I should give, reading text message from chatting area… Didn’t notice time went that fast.

Move forward

Another speaker, Nalin didn’t attend the session but he asked Nellie present his notes. It’s a succeed presentation and he gave several issues currently exit in developing countries for connecting online. Many of us seemed experienced the issues more or less mentioned in Nalin’s note.

I did research the topic before we started the online session but still not as familiar with the topic as my guest speakers were. Most of the time I stepped back focused on asking questions or making comments on participants’ response. I think I was doing the facilitator’s job, although I am not satisfied with my efforts on conducting the session.

Time was not very well monitored in this session. I didn’t realize time went that fast. Nellie helped a lot to move the session forward. I am not satisfied with my questions; some of them didn’t help to conduct the session. One of the questions I asked was: “is there anybody would like to share any more information with us?” It should be more specific. I should write down the possible questions as much as I can before the session started. That might help me to ask proper questions and move the session forwards.

We met several technical problems, e.g. problems with microphone, getting offline in a sudden, etc. When I asked Minhaaj to talk as a guest speaker, he told me his microphone didn’t work at the time. But I thought he was the guest speaker and should give us more information on our topic. So I asked him to type the information. He did and I was glad to see his typing was very fast. So I read out his typing, instead of himself presenting his thoughts.

I’ve got at least two very active students. WrXianxian wanted to talk all the time and he was given several chances, but for some reason we could not hear him. Jimmy was very active in both talking and chatting with others. I shouldn’t pay too much attention to the active students while ignored other quiet ones.

Overall the participants were very keen to share their views. When we start to discuss using mobile connecting online in developing countries, everyone is willing to give their own ideas, listing the advantages and disadvantages, mainly through chatting area – everyone had the control of using chatting box, while to ensure voice quality only one person can talk at a time.

Round Up:

Thanks Nellie she knows WiZiQ quite well and she allowed everyone to access whiteboard by using their pens to write on it. It was the most exciting part of the session, people wrote down their thoughts of current issues and the possible solutions. But because I didn’t timing very well so the conclusion part for our course is a bit rushing and Nellie added extra ten minutes to complete the session.

I guess Nellie knew I was a new user to WiZiQ, so she told all the participants how to access the record of the session afterwards, which supposed to be done by me. Having an expert as Nellie was so helpful in my session J

3. Review

What was done well

I think the part that I read out Minhaaj’s typing was good. Minhaaj was supposed to present as my guest speaker, but his microphone didn’t work that day. So I asked him to type out and I read out.

For some students, e.g. Wrxianxian who were really keen to speak, I tried several times to give him chances but maybe due to technical reasons we could not hear him. But I think the effort that tried to bring him in was good.

During the session, several participants came a bit late and I briefly repeated what the session about. I found a bit tricky letting late comers know what we were doing. It could be good, but if it’s too much it could be a disruption of the session too.

Needs improve:

In the whole session I was busy listening people talking, monitoring chatting content, checking new comers and greeting them, thinking what I should do next. I was too busy in these things. And the timing was not very good so we didn't cover all the topics. I think if I get another chance to facilitate an online session, maybe I will have a list or agenda besides my, listing all the topics and questions supposed to ask, just remind me keeping on track, timing effectively and focus on all our topics. As Chase (2003)suggested ‘Constant reference to the agenda will help you concentrate on what tasks the group should be working on’

Unexpected faults happened during the session, e.g. dropping offline, microphone didn't work, etc. I should have a back up plan, like Kay and Elaine did, to deal with any unexpected situation.
There was not enough communication between me and my moderator - Nellie. I emailed her about my thoughts, I would like to start with report several interviews I’ve done in China about the topic. Probably she misunderstood what I tried to say. So at the beginning of the session while Sauvinder (WiZiQ support staff, from India) came to the class, she urged me to have an interview with him, which changed my original plan. I think it was caused by lack of communication, or maybe because of my English, still not good enough L

I am glad to have such an experience. Many things I thought I could do for granted, e.g. I thought I could multi-tasks during the session; imagine facilitating wouldn't be too hard, but I was wrong. Anyway, I learned quite a lot from the practice, and I think after more practice and review, all of us will do better as a facilitator in an online session.


Chase, P., O’Rourke, S., Smith, L., Sutton, C., Timperley, T., & Wallace, C. (2003) Effective business communication in New Zealand (3rd ed.) Auckland, New Zealand: Pearson Education. ch. 20. Meetings.


Elaine Dittert said...

Hi Joy
What a great report on your mini conference. For some reason I still can't access it but it sounds like it was both scary (for you) and very interesting having such a wide range of people there and contributing from all over the world!
The perception that we were prepared (but really weren't!) I think comes from our teaching background. We are used to lesson plans and structure in our classes, and although we often have to deal with situations that come up unexpectedly in the classroom we normally know how to deal with those - but when it comes to technology breaking down or a similar occurance (and in an area we are unfamiliar with), you realise that the preparations we made didn't even come close to making us ready for the event!
I think the best thing about this paper is that it has really opened our eyes up to a whole new world of thinking about how we can develop online courses and the range of media at our disposal to do it.
Hope you have a great holiday. See you next year!

Leigh Blackall said...

Nice report Joy. I watched the recording of your session soon after.. (can you get the link in here? From memory Nellie put up a video recording of it on and I thought you did a wonderful job. I did think Nellie controlled too much of your session, but you get that, and I thought you maintained your role very well considering. You were confronted with a great many technical issues with WizIQ and its users. I hate to admit it, but I don't use WizIQ because of this.. Elluminate has just as many issues, but the difference is that generally speaking, if anyone has an issue with Elluminate it results in them not being able to even join the session.. so in that way, at least the session does run relatively smoothly compared to a session where anyone can easily access, but not everyone can easily use.

I hope you will keep practicing these sorts of events. You have great ideas for topics to investigate, and the good thing about WizIQ is that its freely available. You could keep using it to bring together people about what ever topics you think are of interest, and use those events to master your skills. You could keep these practice events just between close friends, so the risks and issues are minimal for you.

Anyway, well done. It was a difficult session, you did very well under the circumstances, and this report is great.

Joy said...

Thanks Leigh. I did learn a lot from this paper and tried to get into different kinds of communities required for this course. Thanks for bring us to a new fields and guiding us through them. I love the new 'toys', e.g. WiZiQ and LinkedIn:-) I will play with my 'toys' and am sure they will be very helpful for communicating with others and be a member of communities ^_^