Friday, August 15, 2008

FOC08 Starter Notes

I'm starting this blog in response to an online course called Facilitating Online Communities. This blog is named for the tag that all of the participants are using on their blog posts - FOC08. I actually began posting on my other blog Artie's World but may move everything with this course to this blog.

I may do an evaluation of this course. The facilitator is Leigh Blackall. First off, I expected that "Leigh" was a woman! Well, OK. I can go with this. :) I like the approach in many respects. There are clearly defined objectives which were posted from the start:

  • Define an online community
  • Define online learning
  • Develop facilitation skills
  • Apply facilitation skills within an online learning community
  • Evaluate the facilitation of an online learning community
I notice that this outline was flexible, yet focused enough to stimulate some thinking instead of confusion.

I did all* of the first weeks projects which included attending a "meeting" with Nellie. I don't know if I could call it a meeting. I would call the whole course a "discussion" because it adheres to some temporal and ordinal structures but I can't call the "meeting" a real meeting for several reasons. First, there seems to be no limit on the number of participants. At this time, there are about 60 people in the course and it could be 100 or even more since there is no cap. A reasonable number would be about 10 to 15.

* Almost all. I didn't introduce myself in the start of the course because I am committed as an observer. Besides, I object to random posting with unlimited numbers of "members". I would prefer a small group of 10-15 qualified members posting in ordinal form. However, I see after reviewing the course assignments that the projects require that there be enough members to participate. (Still, I'm going to come back to this point again later)

Then there is no order to the speaking or posting so I can't even call the meeting a "discussion" although I will extend the term "discussion" to the course itself. Something like 15 or 20 people attended the "meeting" and hardly anyone spoke. A meeting requires ordinal form. I would expect at the least a circle form where people not only have a right but a responsibility to speak, even if it's just to post to let people know that you are in attendance.

I like a lot about this course but I think that those who wish to be better organizers on the web should leave off this idea that you can post randomly with unlimited numbers of posters and create a community. A community is much, much more than that.

Another thing, I noticed somewhere, maybe in some person's blog, that people are already speaking of this course (FOC08) as a "community". I would extend that term only if by the end of the course, the community has scheduled the next course and assigned some roles. Then it would be an ongoing effort energized by the community itself, and I hope that this is the route some of the participants will travel because such a community is desperately needed.

Something else that I didn't get was that there seemed to be two independent meetings going on. There was the one that could be heard and then another that was appearing in a text format in the chatbox. They were talking about some other issue in the chatbox. It seemed that the two "meetings" or "discussions" had two separate memberships in attendance.

Now, I understand the idea of autonomy and people are going to do whatever they want but it is not proper democratic form. Proper democratic form would give me the better listening experience. Random posting allows everyone to have their say as much as they want and as often as they like it. But democratic form allows everyone equal say.

I am getting a bit more familiar with the course outline and it is well structured. This promises to be quite an event!

Leigh did some excellent preparation and I feel confident that this is can be groundbreaking. From the course schedule down to the assignments, it's all very well planned. The three course assignments themselves are realistic objectives and we are given plenty of time to complete them. The choice of assignments is also commendable, particularly the evaluation of a facilitated online event. This is something that we can sink our teeth into. Kudos to Leigh for this fine preparation.

Browsing the blog posts has already helped me become acquainted with people's personal philosophies about community. The participant's blogs page is a great gateway to information and has been valuable to me in my orientation for this course. I found many tips on getting started with a blog and setting up Google Reader. Issues have already been raised about community of practice, privacy, and for some, a rethinking about fundamentals.

I feel challenged by this course and that's a very good sign.:)

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The ordinal discussion arts lead us into coherent group building and groups become the building blocks of communities.

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