During two long-term studies, which looked at learners who had personal connected devices or were using a powerful online learning community, we found that many users struggled to operate the basic tools. Those who were more active users, rather than somehow miraculously working it all out for themselves, in fact belonged to groups of active users among both friends and families. It seems that learning to be a competent user of technology is a social and cultural experience. However, even where the learners were competent users of the device or service, they were not naturally effective learners using technology. Simple things like arranging their work so they could find it again was a challenge and there was no evidence of working iteratively, incorporating feedback from teachers or fellow learners. Searching skills were pretty rudimentary. They did enjoy drill and practice exercises and referred to these as “games” which they “played”.The minority who did use their devices more did also revisit work they had done earlier, including a few who referred back to relevant work in primary school following transfer to secondary. Being able to create, save , share and rediscover their work via a personal device was a game changer for the few who found out how to do these things – but they were a minority and they had help from home and friends, which made the difference. Not much evidence of the “digital native”.
This is the last of four pieces reflecting on the experiences of Emilio, a subject matter expert who was tasked with converting his successful F2F training into an elearning offering. This one focuses on the lessons learned from the pilot and we are pulling in Cheryl Frankiewicz, the project manager. You can find the context in part 1 , part 2 and part 3. (Disclaimer: I was an adviser to the project and my condition of participation was the ability to do this series of blog posts, because there is really useful knowledge to share, both within the colleague’s organization and more widely. So I said I’d add the blog reflections – without pay – if I could share them.)
Nancy: Emilio and Cheryl, what is your advice for someone else embarking on this process?
Emilio: Solve the prep work for the launch. Pay a lot of attention to the very important thing you do in every single project, no matter what it is. Getting the process of getting the people there. The enrollment, selecting a good partner and being on top of your partner so that nothing goes wrong in this introduction process. The key thing is to get the people there at the start of your course. That has to go flawless. If it starts flawless, it is almost a piece of cake to do a good learning course. Then everything flows easily.
Cheryl: I would encourage others who embark on this process to start by revisiting their objectives and making sure that they measure the most important learning outcomes. Once the objectives are clear, focused and measurable, it’s much easier to make wise choices about which content and activities to include in the course design. Interaction is just as important in elearning as in F2F learning, but that doesn’t mean that all the interaction that takes place in the face-to-face environment should be transferred to the online environment. Attention spans are more limited and the demands on learners’ time are greater in an online environment, so you have to be careful not to include so much interaction that it becomes overwhelming to learners.
If you haven’t facilitated online before, take an elearning facilitation course before you deliver for the first time. I took one before I delivered my first online training and it was worth every penny I paid. Not only did I get useful tips on how to manage participation in a virtual environment, but I also had the opportunity to practice them before going “live”. The big surprise for me was how much I depended on participants’ body language for feedback in a F2F environment, and how lost I felt online without it. The course helped me identify other strategies for gathering and giving feedback online. Emilio wanted to take one of these courses but his travel schedule didn’t allow it.
One other recommendation I’d make is to plan for regular communication with learners. In a F2F setting, facilitators don’t have to think about how this will happen because they are in constant contact with learners, but in an elearning environment, extra effort has to be made to design and time communication in a way that helps keep participants on track and motivated to participate. Regular bulletins from the facilitator that remind participants what is happening in a given week or unit are a valuable tool for accomplishing this. These bulletins can also highlight key lessons learned or insightful contributions from participants during the previous week. The review can help re-engage those that have fallen behind, and the recognition can help motivate quality participation in the future.
Nancy: Emilio, I have done quite a bit of work with your organization around learning, facilitating and elearning. As you think about your experiences and the experiences you’ve learned from other colleagues doing elearning in FAO, what capacity is needed to do this sort of work in an organization like yours?
Emilio: We have our own elearning team at FAO doing their own projects for specific groups. Their services are relatively expensive. If I were to do with them the same thing I did with MEDA I would have likely paid more. And they have a limited number of people. They don’t have enough capacity to be service providers to the rest of the organization. We have so many different units. Our organization is structured so that we have to provide services to each other and we have to pay for them.
Nancy: I know there is a lot of talent spread through the organization, but it is not clear that they are aware of each other, talk to each other, learn and support each other.
Emilio: You are right. I have a colleague doing a training. She decided to work with Unitar. She is thrilled with the experience. Then she started talking about her very different needs and experiences. From what she tells me I would not be inclined to use that model. I would have to have something different. It is hard at the end of the day to come up with a corporate, very well coordinated approach to this elearning, to cultivate that knowledge among all of FAO’s staff, or at least expand it as much as possible.
But you are right, the result is we don’t leverage, learn from each other, from a very valuable experience a colleague is having and have to go through painful process of learning myself.
Cheryl, how about you? What is your advice?
Cheryl: Don’t aim for the moon in your beta test. Aim to learn. As Emilio mentioned, only 41% of those who registered for the course actually completed it. But 100% of those who completed it said they would recommend it to their colleagues. Learning happened, and more learning will happen the next time around because Emilio and his team are observant, open to learning, and patient with themselves and the process.
Make sure you bring together a good team of people who can cover all the bases that need to be covered when converting a F2F training into an elearning offering. Don’t expect that any one person is going to be your subject matter expert, instructional designer, programmer, learning strategist, platform troubleshooter and project manager all in one. Ultimately, a team of six people contributed to this conversion, none of us working on it full time, but all of us contributing expertise in a particular area. Make sure that someone on the team takes responsibility for organizing the work and keeping your timeline on track. And avoid the temptation to outsource everything because you’ll miss the opportunity to learn how to do it yourself. Emilio’s probably not ready to develop his next course entirely in-house, but he and Milica have built the capacity to maintain and adapt the courses that now exist.
Speaking of adaptation, one last piece of advice is to take advantage of the opportunities that elearning provides to monitor how participants are learning as they are learning and make adjustments to the course design as you go along. Emilio mentioned earlier that the feedback he received in the office hours helped him adjust the course materials, but our analysis of the quiz, final exam and evaluation results also helped us identify which concepts could be better explained, and which objectives could be better supported. We monitored how, when and where learners engaged (and did not engage) and this is helping Emilio to improve his next offering of the course. For example, we learned that participants who did not complete the course tended to follow one of two patterns: approximately one-third logged in only once or twice and did not finish even the first module; the other two-thirds participated fairly regularly and completed module 2, but then dropped out. With this information, and with feedback from participants who completed the course, Emilio is revising the design of the Module 2 group work, and he and Milica are planning to follow up more quickly with inactive participants during the first module of the course to identify if there are any barriers to participation that they might help learners address.
Here’s mine (Nancy)…
I’m really glad the decision was made to have a beta test which helps us sharpen the content, process, assessment and technology. The example of understanding how the exam was graded shows that there are always technical things to learn, and the careful attention to assessment as it relates to learning objectives helped us learn a lot.
We learned some things about the process of having a marketing partner, the importance of lead time and a very real need to do some pre-course orientation for the learners about the technology and course expectations. We have talked about developing some short videos and having a short “week 0” prior to the actual start of the course to ensure the tech is working for learners before we dive so quickly into content and community building.
We need to get the participation rate higher because I’m convinced that is key to successful completion – look at the people who participated in the office hours — they stayed engaged and completed! I think this starts with a clearer ramp up and explicit expectations (including pre-course communications), regular emails during the course and refinement of our pre-course learner survey that would help the facilitator understand the learners a bit before the course.
That said, there were SO many things to pay attention to, it was easy to spend less time on the social aspects of learning: initial engagement with the learners, building a learning community (which is difficult in three weeks and limited expectation of learner hours), and helping learners contextualize the content to their contexts. I had warned Emilio beforehand that facilitating online learning is a bit different than teaching face to face. The learning management system delivers a lot of the content. The real role is connecting learners to the content and to each other.
Thanks to Emilio, Cheryl, FAO and MEDA for supporting these four blog reflections!
Last Friday was a GAS! I spent the day at Sketching in Practice, an amazing offering from Simon Fraser University and led by the incredible Jason Toal. In my next post I’ll recap more of the event as a whole, but I had an amazing time offering a one hour experimental session in the afternoon exploring the impact of the arrangement of space, offering of media and provision of (or not) of task constraints in how a group works together using visual practices. This is part of my preparation for the workshop Michelle Laurie and I are offering this September in Rossland, BC, My Pens, Our Pens: engagement through participatory visualization. More and more I want more than the visual harvest of graphic recording. I want to really dig into the practices that use collaborative and shared visuals for doing real learning and work. So this was a great opportunity.
Here was the description of the session along with my initial planning sketch:
Session title: What if? An experiment to explore if/how structure, format and media influences our interactions
Session overview: Are you ready to be the principle investigator and subject for a short experiment? Join us in this hands on, fingers dirty, experiment on the impact of structure, format and media influences on our interactions with each other. You will be assigned a cohort upon entering the room, with some degree of instruction and materials. You will participate for 20 minutes with that cohort. Then we’ll do a gallery walk and debrief of the experience. Magic or mayhem? Or both? Let’s explore.
As people entered the room (about 35) I assigned them a number. The stations were preset around the room with a number showing on a card. I gave the briefest of brief introductions, as I wanted this to be about the experience, not explanations. The teams dispersed and upon “go” they turned over their cards which provided a brief set of directions (or lack thereof.) The teams then had 20 minutes. The stations included:
- Station 1: On the floor, a rich assortment of media, and task of simply drawing with no talking allowed. Media included regular markers, pan pastels and crayon markers.
- Station 2: On a table, no specified task and use only the media provided (dark and light chocolate bars in a bag!)
- Station 3: On table, provided media (regular markers and crayon markers), no task specified, team can only communicate by singing
- Station 4: On table, plan a trip from Vancouver BC to Seattle using only images/no words (but you can talk) with regular markers
- Station 5: Chairs in a circle, flip chart and pens nearby, task to identify a peer’s challenge and offer peer consultation.
- Station 6: On table, no directions or other constraints.
It was fascinating to watch. The table with just singing as the team communication directions quickly became a pretty frustrated set of people. One person made an effort at singing, but no one else joined in. The table paper became covered with words and images of frustration, along with some comments on their appreciation of the squishy markers that go on like lipstick. The trip planning team talked about their task. When one person put down the latitude demarcation, the whole flow just burst forward and everyone started drawing. The chocolate coloring folks, after a few moments of disbelief, jumped in and we all smelled the chocolate. (I have to admit, after a while the bars looked less like chocolate than some other substance…) The no directions team started out slow but got into the swing of things with a fairly broad and abstract image. The peer consultation group did not pull in the flip chart until I mentioned it halfway through but they appeared to be deep in conversation.
After the 20 minutes, teams had a few minutes to identify their key insights, then we did a gallery walk to each station to share insights. It was really interesting.
- Station 1: People for the most part stuck with the area of paper they started with, and did beautiful, amazing images. One participant worked bigger and provided some marks that offered opportunities for connecting the individual areas. The team felt that if they had more time, this integration direction would have really kicked in. There were some comments about how yummy the richness of media were. (PAN PASTELS!!)
- Station 2: The chocolate team had really dirty fingers! Despite the early disbelief, they embraced their medium. I think they also ate a bit of the chocolate, which seemed like a smart thing for me! Again, the initial marks by one member provided the start, role modeling that “embracing.” As we walked from station to station, this sense of the role of the “first person to make a move” proved very strong.
- Station 3: The singing only table had a fascinating discussion about the fear of singing in public and we contrasted that with the fear of drawing in public. We realized that the fear of singing made the fear of drawing seem less intense, so maybe moving people WAAAAY beyond their initial comfort zones (to singing), then stepping back (to drawing) might be a way to frame and reflect on our fears. That said, there were some lovely individual marks on the paper. AND a lot more text than I’ve seen when I’ve done this exercise before.
- Station 4: The trip planners said they really bonded as a team. They were worried they were going to be broken up to other teams and did not like that idea. Of all the teams, there was the greatest sense of “team!”
- Station 5: The consultation team had to pull in some additional chairs which were higher than the initial comfy chairs, raising the observation about power as manifest in the set up – the higher chair people felt they had to lean in more, and the lower chairs were perhaps more quiet. That said, they had a productive peer consultation. Visuals appeared to be a minimal part of their experience. It made me wonder about how explicit we need to be with both the provision of visual tools and suggestions for use. They don’t appear to be a default.
- Station 6: One tweet out of the no directions group cracked me up – something to the effect of “this is my favorite kind of direction!” They noted that there was some sense of wanting direction or leadership, but after one person made some marks, again, things flowed. However, they wanted chocolate, so they traded some markers with the chocolate folks.
My sense is that most of the people enjoyed the experience in the end, even if they experienced frustration or remorse that they were not in a particular group. There was a lot of interest in both the dynamics of the space/constraint/media question, but the new element that came up for me was the role of the first mark, who makes it, and how they make it. This sets the tone.
If this intrigues you, consider joining us for the workshop My Pens, Our Pens: engagement through participatory visualization.
Here is the photo set on Flickr:
For the last 6 years we (Michelle and Nancy) have been leading introductory workshops on graphic facilitation, the use of visuals in group process. We’ve grounded the workshops in basic drawing “liberation” (I CAN DRAW), dipped into graphic recording and finished with examples of visual practices in group process. Last year Michelle took that on solo and will lead RosViz 16 again. If you are looking for a great entry point into graphic facilitation, JUMP AT THIS OFFERING for September 19-20, 2016 in Rossland BC. Add a few days and enjoy the stupendous beauty of the area!
I am grateful Michelle took RosViz on, because in true restless Nancy form, I was ready to do something new, to push my own boundaries a bit further. Often that means WITH YOU! So I wanted to share our individual and collective offerings, this year in September in Rossland on September 16 and 17. Michelle has all the details on her blog about both offerings. And I want to add to my American friends, with the Canadian rate exchange, this is a good deal!
Now, the new offering, which maybe is a workshop, but I also think it is a do-shop, a think-shop and a play-shop!
September 16-17, 2016, Rossland, BC, Canada
This year we are ready to push ourselves into some new territory from our practices and from the inspirations of other practitioners we follow and admire. We invite you to join us in this exploration.
For 2 days we will explore, share and practice participatory visualization practices which support group process. From templates pioneered by leaders in the graphic practitioner fields to ones we create on the spot, from visual exercises designed to promote relationship, thinking and sensemaking, to collaborative and collective visual harvest practices designed both for sensemaking and knowledge sharing.
We’ll start out in familiar territory getting comfortable drawing – but this year we’ll go beyond drawing on walls, and experiment with shared visualization on smaller scale paper and even, if you want, on tablets and ipads. Then we’ll progress through a series of exercises and experiments alternating with reflection and harvest. At the end of the 2 days you will have experienced, experimented, facilitated, reflected and made sense of how visuals can be part of participatory and engaging processes in your work.
This is not your traditional workshop. We are looking to push our boundaries (and yours) in terms of the role of visuals in design and facilitation. We will ask hard questions about who captures content and what is its use? Can visual methods help in developmental evaluation and results communication be more meaningful? What is the role of metaphor? It’s constraints? Where are there visual opportunities in process design? When does it make sense to use visuals and where does it detract from the process? What is the process of participatory capture and harvest of content? What are the power dynamics? How do we use visuals with approaches such as Liberating Structures?
Here are some of the themes we are exploring:
- The Influences of Different Modalities and Constraints on group interaction: opening possibilities
- Metaphor: friend and foe
- Visual Practices for Strategy/ Assessment / Evaluation: engaged and effective
- Visual Reflective Practice: personal and group
- Visually Communicating With Our Teams: shared language and attention
- Building a Visually Grounded Facilitation Practice (tools, resources, etc.): stuff you can use right away
To ground us, we’ll send you some readings and maybe an exercise or two in advance to jump start our time together. I have been curating some very cool stuff! Because this is an exploration, we want to look inward AND outwards, so we’ll actively share out to the world what we learn.
Who is this for? We invite everyone, from beginners, to RosViz alumni, to seasoned practitioners to join us. You are welcome to bring favorite drawing materials and electronic devices. We will provide with a drawing journal, a set of marker pens, a sketchnote pen and 2 different colors of pan pastels with a sponge. You will have access to loads more materials to play with and use throughout the workshop. If you know us, you know there will also be healthy snacks and chocolate. We also host a very active online community of practitioners to support your practice and learning after the workshop.
Visual novices or those wanting to brush up on their drawing skills will be invited to an optional pre-session of our more traditional “drawing on walls” the day before. There is an additional fee and it includes an additional set of chalk pastels. However, this is not required and will only be offered if we have 4 or more interested people.
Dates: Sept 16, 8-5 & Sept 17 – 8-3
(Please arrive the night before if flying in. We end at 3pm on Sept 17 so people can catch flights home)
*Getting started drawing on walls optional ‘pre-day’ is Sept 15, 2- 6pm
Price: $950 CAD + GST (Intro to Drawing on Walls + $300 CAD)
*Early bird discount $800 CAD + GST (register and paid by July 15th)
*Bonus: Three or more from one organization, 4th comes free!
Location: Prestige Hotel Ballroom, beautiful Rossland, BC
Meals: All meals on your own. Rossland has several beautiful cafes and restaurants to enjoy. Healthy snacks, chocolate and drinks are provided throughout.
About your hosts:
“I am a learner, mom, gramma and chocoholic. I founded Full Circle Associates to help organizations connect through online and offline strategies. My practices are diverse, including online interaction designer, facilitator and coach for distributed communities of practice, online learning, distributed teams and online communities, doodler and visual practitioner. I have a special interest in the NGO/NPO sector and the emerging practice of using communities and networks for work and learning. I blog at http://www.fullcirc.com/, teach, present and write on online facilitation and interaction, social architecture, social media and visual practices. I am co-author with Etienne Wenger and John Smith of Digital Habitats: stewarding technology for communities. Lately not only do I like to draw on walls (graphic facilitation), but I spend a lot of time playing with my granddaughters!!! For more about my visual practice see http://www.fullcirc.com/about/visual-and-graphic-work/.”
“Despite being an analytical person, I have found that visuals have brought new meaning to my practice as a facilitator and communicator. Typically I explore the interface of environment and development via strategic planning, assessments, facilitation and engagement. Lately my work has focused on supporting organizations to transform their ideas for positive change into realities on the ground. I incorporate visuals wherever I can particularly with the use of participatory graphics, templates, animation and reporting. I also use visuals in my personal life for planning weddings, family activities and travels! I am an associate with the International Institute for Sustainable Development, a member of the International Association of Facilitators, the Canadian Evaluation Society and IUCN’s Commission on Education and Communication. I will be your main contact for workshop logistics.”
To register you must email michelle.k.laurie(@)gmail.com to confirm your participation, provide your contact details and submit payment.
– Email transfer – michelle.k.laurie(@)gmail.com
– Paypal transfer – paypal.me/MichelleLaurie (If you prefer to pay in USD, contact NANCY)
– Cheque by snail mail to: Michelle Laurie, PO Box 1063, Rossland, BC, V0G 1Y0, Canada
Many of you know I’ve been using Liberating Structures a lot in my facilitation work. One of the “leaps forward” for me in the last year has been my ability to string various structures into a coherent agenda. The leap has come from learning about other practitioners’ strings, and batting ideas back and forth with them about my strings both visually and in text. (The visuals really help me!) This “thinking together” helps me consider my plan and improvisational options so I stay fully present AND flexible when I facilitate. The strings also help me be transparent both with my clients and participants, and I can easily encourage them to learn, use and take ownership of their own meetings. (I am insisting more and more on every gathering being, among other things, a way to up our collective practice/intelligence on working/playing/thinking together.)
I’ve been thinking about those of us working on strings together as “string beings!”
I was thrilled when Keith McCandless made the most recent LS News & Updates about Rhapsody for Strings 🎻🎼 The newsletter shares a set of strings along with very short narratives of each string. The strings of Tim Jasko-Fisher and Fisher Qua, layering structures over each other were particularly enlightening. (Images below) I asked Keith if it was ok to republish here to spread the news even more widely and have included it below, along with some of the fabulous strings that our group shared.
Here is a string I shared:
I’m also interested in how to easily share and work on strings together (see this reflection on some tool testing we did.) I am getting more and more questions directed to me individually, and I think it would be more useful and efficient to do this as a community. For one thing, each person would have access to a wider repertoire of experience and strings. And two, there is great learning in the process, so why not share it. So maybe you want to become a String Being too. Read to the bottom of the newsletter for how to join us…
Here is the newsletter text:
- Building Financial Literacy with High School Students
- Liberating Learning Together: Using LS in Our Work
- Leadership Retreat: High Dive Into Collective Strategy-Making
- Tap the Founder’s Story To Uplift Next Level Innovation
- Management Meeting: In Charge But Not In Control
- Get Over Yourself, NOW! Prepare To Go Deeper with Your Customers
- Cross-Sector Community Groups Catalyzing Learning + Action
- Catalyzing Nursing Knowledge for BIG Data Science
- Strategic Planning to Tactical Plans in Three Fractal Movements