Friday, December 8, 2017

Sharing design stories in the FLO-Design course

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

At BCcampus we're currently offering the 4-week Facilitating Learning Online (FLO)-Design course for the first time since running the pilot in January/February of this year.

During the first round, the course designer and facilitator, Sylvia Riessner, invited a group of Facilitator Development Online (FDO) alumni to join in a 'splainers activity where we each shared design stories, online, in 7 minutes. We also shared written outlines, and were available afterwards for a Q&A in the forum. The 'splainers were Bonnie Nicholas, Beth Cougler Blom, and Stephanie Boychuk. Sylvia Riessner also shared a story.

Preparation for this session was almost as much work as PechaKucha! As 'splained by Lee LeFever of Common Craft, "explainers don't simply explain ideas, they bring focus and attention to making an idea easy to understand. Their communication is intentional and goal oriented." So we needed to be concise, zone in on important details, and keep it to 7 minutes. 

I really enjoyed the activity, and feedback from the course participants showed that they found it valuable. From one participant: 

The Explainers, with the attached forum, was very useful. They made "Design" real and applicable. 
During this offering of FLO-Design Sylvia Riessner and Emma Bourassa shared a couple of the stories from the past session. (I don't think they could fit the full 'splainers activity in this round because we have almost double the number of registrants.) This got me thinking about FLO and the challenges of open practices.

With FLO workshops, we are always playing with this tension of closed versus open learning spaces. It's a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately as I imagine the future of FLO courses and the facilitator community.

'Splainers is an example of an activity that would benefit faculty and learning designers outside of the course. Why put in the effort when such a small number of people (15) benefit?

For many reasons, this activity rightly belonged in a closed space. For one, the individuals who were listening and engaging in the stories were strongly relating to their purpose -- at that moment these people were living and breathing course design. It wasn't an activity that someone could happen upon and make sense of without adequate context. A second reason is that, despite best efforts for anonymity, some stories that were shared contained details that might be recognized by design clients or university faculty.

This experience stands out for me because, as someone who has felt challenged by moving from facilitating in the open to working in password-protected cohort-based learning spaces, I am appreciating more and more how difficult moving in the other direction can be -- from closed to open. We need to consider the trade-offs, and not feel pressured to adopt open practices. Open does not mean better.

I shared the story of SCoPE seminars, a series spanning 10 years and came to a close in 2015. This was uncomplicated because those activities were all designed to be open from the start. This is the outline I worked from.



SCoPE - an open, emergent, sharing community

I’m part of the professional learning team at BCcampus. My focus these days is mostly on supporting all things related to Facilitating Learning Online workshops.


I designed this as a coordinator, moderator, and facilitator, in collaboration with participants.

Purpose of Design

I wanted to provide flexible, open opportunities for educators to learn together about topics relevant to their work as teachers, educational technologists, administrators, and researchers. I also wanted to engage educators in the design process.

The “problem” I was trying to address was the limited number of authentic and emergent learning opportunities for educational practitioners. For example, face-to-face “training” to learn how to teach online was/is commonplace.

Scope and Delivery Mode

The format was informal, open enrolment, and non-credit. However, many of the design principles can be applied to credit courses.

This was more like an online series than a course, spanning 10 years! It has been described as one of the first, and an extra long, MOOC. We called it a seminar series. Although the home base for these (almost) monthly, topic-based, events was an LMS (Moodle,) the access was completely open. We also experimented wildly (not a typo :) ) with other tools and platforms. An account and login were required to contribute to forum discussions and manage participation settings, but otherwise anyone could read along, download resources, etc.

SCoPE Seminars in a Nutshell

  • Monthly (almost) asynchronous discussions and other learning activities
  • Facilitated by volunteers, ranging from novice to expert 
  • Free and open to the public, no registration required
  • No obligations to "actively" participate

Design Considerations

  • Participation on the periphery
  • Attention to history
  • Rhythm and variety, build anticipation
  • Focus on people and dialogue, not content
  • Focus on structure, not what to "cover"
  • Ideas for activities ermerge through participation
  • Mutual exchange of services / collaboration
  • Different modes and levels of engagement

Number of Learners

The seminars were designed for busy professionals, and it was expected that learners would come and go according to their own schedule and interests. As such, the numbers varied from one seminar to the next, but also seemed to self-regulate. In other words, we were never overwhelmed with numbers despite the large number of accounts (+5000)

How often the course/workshop design has been tested?

The basic format was repeated each month, for 10 years.

Unique, Innovative, Interesting, Challenging?

This model relied completely on volunteer involvement, and keeping a pulse on the conversations to see what topics might be suitable for future seminars, and who was developing as a potential facilitator. While the structure of scheduled, facilitated discussions was carried throughout, there was a great deal of flexibility, experimentation, and risk. Not only did the topics for discussion emerge, so did decisions about design. In other words, we designed for redesign.

Outcomes? Intentions?

  • Build a community with the common goal of learning together
  • Sustain with limited administrative overhead, governance, and cost 
  • Share resources, practices, ideas across institutions / borders
  • Identify over time: Immediate value, potential value, applied value, realized value, reframing value (see Wenger et al resource below)

What did you learn about your design approach?

  • Build in ongoing and scheduled conversations about design
  • Trust that things will work out (For example, don’t design for worst case scenarios; we never had to delete posts!)
  • Don’t base the success of your design on what you see in front of you in the moment. Impact can show up later and elsewhere.
  • I keep these design elements in mind always: Open, flexible, emergent, experimental. And I never use the word “delivery” when talking about learning :)


SCoPE Seminar Discussions

Wenger, E., Trayner, B., and de Laat, M. (2011) Promoting and assessing value creation in communities and networks: a conceptual framework. Rapport 18, Ruud de Moor Centrum, Open University of the Netherlands.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Governance by Enthusiasm

The Facilitating Learning Online project is guided by a group called FLO Enthusiasts. This includes educators who have followed the path to becoming a FLO facilitator. We define ourselves as:

A group that exists to guide FLO open educational resources through the process of widespread adoption while maintaining integrity of the program

In June, 2017 this group gathered together to envision the next steps for FLO. The session objectives were emergent, however the following goals and intended outcomes informed our work for the day:


  • Strengthen/lengthen Facilitator Development (facilitators of FLO courses)
  • Encourage institutions to adopt FLO, and to share opportunities and resources with each other - sharing agreements?
  • Provide a centralized location to:
    • Submit and advertise all institutions’ offerings
    • Find a facilitator to facilitate a FLO course, or provide mentorship for the process
  • Support the Facilitator Development Community of Practice (FD-CoP)

Intended Outcomes

  • Define the min specs of FLO to be clear about what makes it unique and what needs to stay intact in order to be called “FLO”
  • Decide where the master copy of FLO should sit and if one entity should maintain its resources, including FDO
  • Determine concrete ways to support institutions to adopt FLO to help spread it
  • Find a way to track revisions to FLO
  • Initially explore sharing across institutions

Beth Cougler Blom, Sylvia Riessner, and I (aka SylviaC) were the facilitators of the facilitators :) and used a variety of facilitation techniques (purpose to practice, low-tech social network, cover story, min specs). Twelve enthusiasts contributed to the process and outcomes for the day, resulting in a set of recommendations. See Sylvia Riessner's excellent Flexing Facilitation Muscles article that summarizes each step.


BCcampus will provide infrastructure and support in the following ways:

  • Maintain and host course open resources
  • Establish and coordinate a 2-year revision cycle, with minor revisions tracked in the CoP
  • Make courses and outcome resources available for download
  • Work with FLO facilitators to publish case studies (using templates) that explain proposed changes to FLO content and facilitation
  • Prepare and mentor FLO facilitators
    • Continue the Facilitator Development Online course
    • Host and steward the Facilitator Development CoP
  • Coordinate schedules and resources across institutions
    • List available facilitators and mentors
    • Maintain a centralized calendar of courses
    • Report on status of offerings, development and facilitation by institutions
  • Create and publish FLO information packages
    • Adoption Guide
    • Facilitation Guide
    • Promotional materials
  • Design and produce FLO logos, branding, course graphic collections
  • Market FLO
    • Through mailing lists, social media channels
    • Through direct communication to VP Academics
  • Enable FLO Enthusiasts to continue by exploring support options such as
    • Release time for institutional representative
    • Funds for annual gathering
  • Discontinue offering FLO courses and focus on facilitator support and adoption

BC Post-Secondary Institutions/Organizations will:

  • Host and implement FLO family courses
  • Designate a “FLO Enthusiast”
  • Indicate whether registration is available to individuals outside the institution
FLO Enthusiasts will:

  • Plan and participate in Facilitator Development Community of Practice activities
  • Assist with research and reporting on FLO activities
  • Promote FLO within their institutions
  • Facilitate and mentor future facilitators
  • Assist with coordination of course implementation at home institutions
  • Act as a gatekeeper - maintain integrity of FLO across iterations at own institution
  • Commit to updating a centralized calendar of offerings

The Facilitator Development CoP “enthusiast group” will:

  • Decide how to move forward/coordinate
  • Organize scheduled meet ups and learning events
  • Share responsibilities for the CoP space

Anyone is welcome to use and modify the FLO courses. However, in order to remain part of the FLO project, the course design and implementation will:

  • Be evidence based
  • Include a reflective practice component
  • Engage all participants in the experience of facilitating an activity
  • Offer instructor and peer feedback on each learner’s facilitation
  • Provide a safe and encouraging learning environment
  • Continue to be openly licensed

Additional qualities and actions are identified as ideal, but not essential. The course design and implementation will:

  • Create opportunities to experience working in teams
  • Encourage exploration of a variety of online tools
  • Issue certificates of completion
  • Courses remain available to learners / or takeaway processes are implemented
  • Integrate a mentorship model for preparing facilitators
This list is comprehensive and a more than a little bit intimidating! As a community of enthusiasts with limited time and funds available, we promise to do our best to carry out these recommendations. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Facilitating Learning Online - info sheet

I recently put together the content for a 1-page info sheet to pass around at the ETUG Spring workshop, and, thank to the BCcampus Marcomm folks, to make it available as a download (PDF). It was also posted to the BCcampus blog. Hopefully this captures what FLO is all about, and makes it easier for people to learn, and to spread the word, about the FLO family of workshops and growing community of FLO facilitators.

FLO (Facilitating Learning Online) is a growing collection of two to five week online courses available to post-secondary faculty and staff, designed to enhance skills required to confidently and effectively facilitate learning online.

What makes FLO courses unique?

  • Designed and developed by experienced learning designers and educators, incorporating ongoing feedback and suggestions from alumni
  • Experience the role of the learner, while learning about and experiencing the role of the facilitator
  • Learn about the implementation of collaborative team work while doing it
  • Experiment with a variety of tools, techniques, and strategies
  • Participate fully in activities and discussions throughout the entire courses; these workshops are a commitment!
  • Practice, seek advice and feedback, and share learning in a small, supportive community of supportive peers; this is not a MOOC!
  • Learn together with colleagues from across the province and a variety of academic disciplines
  • Course spaces belong to the learners; they remain open after the course is completed
  • Licensed CC-BY, meaning you can copy, remix, transform, and build upon the work, and we hope you will!

How can you get involved?

  • Enroll in a FLO course
  • Help to promote FLO courses at your institution
  • Provide feedback and suggestions to improve FLO courses
  • Browse the courses online
  • Download the workshops (in Moodle format) or copy any parts of course content
  • Share your experiences applying what you learned in FLO
  • Learn how to facilitate a FLO course
  • Practice your FLO facilitation skills by volunteering in a support role
  • Facilitate a FLO course
  • Mentor a future FLO facilitator
  • Propose or design a workshop to add to the FLO family of courses

FLO online courses

FLO – Fundamentals

Foundation Course – FLO – Fundamentals, one of the foundation courses, is a five-week introduction to research based adult and online learning concepts, principles, and strategies to make learning engaging and effective. Participants alternate between learner and facilitator roles to implement a series of short learning activities (referred to as a “mini-session”).
Next scheduled course: Fall 2017


Foundation Course – The four-week FLO-Design course begins with a review of theories of learning, widely used approaches to instructional and learning design, and principles of online course design. Participants are introduced to new approaches to instructional and learning design and encouraged to explore various ways to engage learners and support learning online.
Next scheduled course: September 18, 2017 – October 13, 2017

FLO – Synchronous

Going Deeper Course – FLO – Synchronous is a three-week immersion into to planning and facilitating live learning sessions. Participants are introduced to best practice strategies, learn from examples of synchronous online facilitation, and practice in a safe environment. There are two role choices (“tracks”) in this workshop — Reviewing Participant and Practicing Facilitator — allowing for flexibility in learning outcomes.
Next scheduled course: October 23, 2017 – November 10, 2017

Facilitator Development

Facilitator Development is a two-week workshop to prepare individuals interested in facilitating FLO workshops. In a community of supportive peers, participants explore the architecture of the FLO from a facilitator’s perspective and learn about the “behind the scenes” work and preparation required. Everyone leaves with ready-to-use artifacts and resources.
Next scheduled workshop: Fall 2017

Path to becoming a FLO Facilitator

To date, 47 individuals representing 16 B.C. institutions have participated in the Facilitator Development Online course to prepare them to facilitate FLO courses.
Of course, anyone is welcome to adopt and facilitate FLO workshops, but following this path will help with successful implementation.
  1. Complete FLO – Fundamentals, and any or all of the other FLO courses.
  2. Complete the Facilitator Development Online course
  3. Help to facilitate a FLO course (Mentorship program). For example:
    • Take on facilitation tasks according to your availability and interests
    • Be a guest speaker
    • Support a mini-session team
    • Monitor the contributions to weekly journals
  1. Co-facilitate a course with an experienced facilitator (Mentorship program) to become more fully immersed in that role.
  2. Participate in the Facilitator Development Community of Practice to share and advance workshop experiences and curriculum. For example:
    • Provide input to FLO course design and development ideas
    • Help to promote FLO at your institution
    • Share experiences implementing FLO
    • Participate in FLO events

Adopting FLO courses

Ultimately, the goal of designing and hosting FLO courses at BCcampus and preparing future facilitators is so others can successfully implement a high quality experience for faculty and staff. All FLO courses are openly licensed and available for institutions to implement in-house. Several B.C. institutions are actively exploring options for FLO adoption. Will yours be next?
Contact us ( about how we can help with FLO adoption at your B.C. institution.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Facilitating Learning Online (FLO) - more than just a collection of workshops

'Graphic Recording by @GiuliaForsythe' by Nancy White
Facilitating Learning Online (FLO) workshops are unique. They provide you with a participatory and learner-centred experience to enhance the skills needed to facilitate your own online courses and workshops. In addition, FLO workshops provide a safe environment to mentor future FLO facilitators.

For example, Rachel Loganberg from College of the Rockies volunteered her time and expertise by taking on an "observer" role in the FLO-Design pilot as a way to provide feedback on the design of the workshop based on observations of how learners were engaging. Rachel was also keen to go under the hood of the 5-week FLO-Fundamentals workshop offered this spring, and volunteered to co-facilitate that so she will be ready to take the lead on a future FLO workshop. She then went on to co-facilitate the 2-week Facilitator Development Online workshop that just wrapped up. Needless to say, Rachel is now very well equipped to mentor future FLO facilitators! This is a terrific example of a mutual exchange model -- learn and practice while giving back to the FLO community.

To date, 47 individuals from 16 institutions have participated in the Facilitator Development Workshop, an intensive 2-week program to prepare you to facilitate FLO workshops. This free workshop experience embraces important elements of a vibrant community of practice and open educational practices:
  • There is no cost to enrol, only a polite ask for commitment.
  • The course remains open to participants after the completion date. After all, the workshop experience is really all about what the learners contribute -- rich discussions, and artefacts they plan to re-use in their own facilitation. 
  • Participants are invited to return to participate or assist in future workshops, also at no cost.
  • The learning experience relies on the distributed expertise of the members.
  • The workshop facilitators take on the typical tasks: welcome, model, clarify, support, advance dialogue, etc. However, the to-become-facilitators share that role, and are invited practice.
  • During the workshop we often reach out to engage groups and individuals outside the workshop
  • Past FDO alumni are encouraged to share back -- new ideas, experiences with implementation,
  • The workshop space is available to registrants only. However, everyone is encouraged to share out using social media.
  • There is no pressure to "complete" -- the learner decides when the outcomes have been met.
  • Discussions about how to improve the workshop experience are encouraged and ongoing
  • It's all about what individuals are willing to invest. The opportunity to take facilitation to the next level is always there!
Following FDO participants are invited to join the Facilitator Development Community of Practice (CoP) where we continue to connect, share, work on projects, and solve problems together. We believe that a workshop is a shared effort; the openly licensed content and design continues to be improved by the community. And the rich contributions from participants become part of the history. 

Ultimately, the goal of designing and hosting FLO workshops at BCcampus, and preparing future facilitators, is so others can successfully implement a high quality experience for faculty and staff. Our hope is that there will be many, many facilitators ready to adopt FLO workshops to implement in-house.

All FLO workshops are available for browsing, copying, and download.  If you're looking for outstanding support to help you with this task, look no further than our Facilitator Development Community.

Contact me (Sylvia Currie for information about becoming a FLO facilitator for the workshops we develop together.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Introducing FLO - Design

* Register for the next FLO - Design workshop September 18 - October 13, 2017 *

In January, 2017 we ran a workshop pilot at BCCampus called Facilitating Learning Online (FLO) - Design. The outcome is yet another fine-tuned, brand new workshop to include in the Facilitating Learning Online family of offerings. 

The idea for this workshop emerged through participation in the FLO – Fundamentals, an intensive 5-week workshop which engages learners in both participant and facilitator roles and they learn about key themes related to effective planning and online facilitation. There was a fairly hefty design component inFLO - Fundamentals, and after several iterations we began to notice that the design piece (and actually, also the tools piece) was becoming too much of a focus in a workshop intended to be about facilitating learning.

The FLO Stewardship Group identified a need for a separate workshop to help prepare education practitioners for design work. In addition, this required scaling back the FLO - Fundamentals workshop, and reports are that the new version is MUCH more manageable.

The new workshop, FLO – Design,  was designed and developed by Sylvia Riessner, an experienced facilitator and learning designer who has been involved in course design and faculty support for many years. Sylvia also has a keen interest in helping instructors to explore open educational practices -- perhaps another workshop to add to the family? :)

For this pilot we repeated the format of inviting 'Observers' to join the workshop. Observers, all Facilitator Development Online workshop alumni, notice and keep track of how others are experiencing the course, then participate in a debrief and assist by recommending revisions.  The Observers in this pilot were:
In addition to ongoing Observer feedback, the pilot evaluation included a post workshop anonymous questionnaire, and a Reflections and Horizons activity.

Survey Results

5 respondents: faculty, learning designers, instructional designers, instructors

(Quality) How would you rate the quality of this learning/professional development experience?
 -  High quality:   5 (100.00 %)
 -  Fair: 0
 -  Low quality: 0
(Time) How much time did you spend on the course activities?
-  Less than 6 hours per week:  1 (20.00 %)
-  6-8 hours per week:  2 (40.00 %)
-  More than 8 hours per week:  2 (40.00 %)
(Satisfaction) Overall, how satisfied were you with the FLO-Design workshop?
-  Very satisfied:  5 (100.00 %)
-  Satisfied:  0
-  Not Satisfied:  0

Selected comments

The feedback provided by participants was very thorough and helpful. Here is a selection of comments:
  • The pre-workshop orientation was a good review.
  • Sylvia R is AWESOME!! Her support and feedback was amazing, I really appreciate the time she spent posting and interacting with each person in the group.
  • I liked the checklists - they were critical to my success to help keep me motivated, on task and grounded.
  • Having us choose our own learning direction creates ownership and enthusiasm for the activities.
  • Working in small groups really helped with relationships, accountability, community and chunking down the workload.
  • There was a great sense of community
  • The design and facilitation of this course allowed opportunities for the self directed learner to really dig into their own learning objectives - well done.
  • I really got what I needed from this experience (and more). I wasn't anticipating the new relationships that are going to last long after the course is done!
  • I thought the design project was crucial to understanding the concepts of the course. I like the visual focus.
  • FLO workshops are safe, supportive and structured to provide a positive learning experience that continues long after the workshop is over.

What's Next?

Following the pilot the workshop was tweaked based on participant and observer feedback. The next 4-week FLO - Design workshop begins September 18, 2017 and will be facilitated once again by Sylvia Riessner. Also, in keeping with FLO tradition, Sylvia will be mentoring individuals who wish to gain experience facilitating the workshop. Hope to see you there, and please spread the word to your colleagues!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Introductory posts in online courses

We're heading into a 2-week Facilitator Development Online (FDO) workshop so I've spent the last few days getting the course space organized and reviewing the activities. These workshops can be a mouthful to explain because they're super extra meta. FDO is about learning how to (co)facilitate the FLO (Facilitating Learning Online) workshops, which are workshops about learning how to facilitate online learning more effectively.

Many of the activities in FDO are intended to both provide an opportunity to experience good facilitation, and also give you a head start when it comes time to facilitating your own FLO workshop. For example, there are two separate introductions:

1. As your entry into the FDO learning community. The instructions include prompts:
  • a bit about yourself, and why you are taking FDO
  • what, specifically, you are hoping to learn in the FDO
  • one (or more) things about your FLO participant experience that you really enjoyed, and one (or more) things you did not enjoy.
2. As if you are facilitating FLO right now -- how would you introduce yourself? The idea is to end up with a draft that is ready to go. And additional step in the FLO intro activity is to provide constructive feedback to peers, considering the following questions. So it's also an exercise in giving good feedback.
  • Does the post help establish instructor presence?
  • Is it clear? too long? or too short? just right?
  • Is the quality "good enough" (these need not be oscar winning presentations, but the quality shouldn't interfere with the message, e.g., lots of background noise, too light or too dark images, etc)
  • As a viewer, what is the impression you are left with?
  • Is there something else that you (as an imaginary FLO participant) would have liked to know about them, as a facilitator?
In both introductory posts, participants are encouraged to be adventurous with format and use of multimedia, and to model an "attitude of fearless experimentation". This is your "first impression".

While I do believe multimedia can help so much in this getting-to-know-you effort, I've noticed mixed results with this approach. Some participants spend too long fiddling with new tools and become frustrated. Have you ever sat down to prepare presentation slides in PowerPoint and found that an hour later you're still searching for the perfect theme and in colour combinations? This can happen with just about every new tool we try out.

It's also interesting to watch how much the first post, especially if it's the instructor's post, will influence how others chime in. Given we want the introductions to occur right at the beginning of the workshop, perhaps we should lighten up on the expectations and model something less embellished. Ideally we want to raise the bar from a straight text and also ensure we don't intimidate other learners.

With this in mind, in the November, 2016 FDO I made an effort to keep the multimedia part of my FDO intro very low tech, but changed up the format from a typical "about me" post to something more interactive. It was well received, so I'm planning to reuse it for the May 2017 FDO. (Tip: reuse is always a good thing!)

Here's my original FDO introductory post:

I participated in a fun "intro" exercise in a recent workshop. Rather than tell others about our own work and life as a way of introduction, we shared images. Then we took turns asking questions based on what we saw in the photos and drawings. I realize I'm not directly answering the guiding questions for this FDO Introductions activity -- I'll try to weave that in later! (And let this serve as an example of how some people don't follow instructions, for whatever reason!)

What are your experiences with introductory posts?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Course Congruence: What’s so Important about Ducks?

Earlier this year Beth Cougler Blom mentioned a conversation she had with Suzanne Flannigan, a faculty member in the School of Education and Technology at Royal Roads University.

Suzanne has done some fascinating work around cultural congruence. I suggested to her that you two should speak!
I was intrigued by the topic and how it might fit with our Facilitating Learning Online series, and I had already witnessed Suzanne in action as an active and exemplary participant in those workshops. I knew it would be enlightening! I connected with Suzanne to find out more.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Suzanne told a story about "losing a window" at the beginning of a course, then struggling later to find ways to reintroduce herself. She went on to explain group formation and how it is impacted by both the course design, and the facilitation right from the get-go. I scribbled notes and kept thinking wow, this is important. And complex. How can we learn more?

I invited Suzanne to share her research and ideas, and engage us in some thinking around cultural congruence in our upcoming Facilitator Development Workshop (FDO) May 1 - 12, 2017. Despite being crazy busy with her own teaching, she agreed.


“Ducks” by Jam Smooth is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Course Congruence: What’s so Important about Ducks? 

When: Tuesday, May 2,  12:00 - 1:00
Facilitator: Suzanne Flannigan (bio)

We’ll discuss the cultural congruence of a course, why it is important and what you can do to increase congruence in your own courses. 

a. In what ways does the design of your course reinforce the learning outcomes of your course? 
b. What are the five most common written words used in your course (not including articles or prepositions)?

This web conference is hosted by the Educational Technology Users Group and the FLO Facilitator Development Community.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Working from home

I started my educational consulting business almost 20 years ago, and between those Webbed Feat contracts, a faculty position at Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (50 km commute) and a management/teaching/stewardship "telecommuting" job at BCcampus, I've been mostly working from my home office.
Telecommuting :: to work at home by the use of an electronic linkup with a central office
Merriam Webster 
This definition doesn't really fit how I work. My BCcampus colleagues work primarily from an office in Victoria. There is another office is in Vancouver, but when people talk about "the office" you can bet they mean Victoria. And then there's me. I think I'm the only BCcampus employee left working completely from a home office -- very different from the early days -- and what I do day to day certainly doesn't involve some big pipe into the main (real) place of work. Rather, my communication channels go in all directions, across the post secondary education system.

I've been working at BCcampus for 9 years, surpassing my 5-yr limit in any one job. However, my job titles have changed enough that I think I can cheat on that rule. In any case, I decided to jot down my observations and reflections on working from home, with some hints on how it has changed over time.

My office door is always open. Some people complain that mobile devices mean they can never separate work from home life. I say it allows me to be way more responsive and flexible than ever. And if I get pinged for a quick meeting, I can just turn down the burner under the pot of soup and go back to work.

Speaking of soup, I can make my husband lunch every day. He'll tell you that I don't, but I could!

I live in the mountains, on a lake, in a house I designed, with lots of natural light and spectacular views, surrounded by art work done by my family. In office buildings it's hard to find a window that even opens. But the restaurants. Yeah, I miss going out for lunch.

The mute button is my friend. When we built our house I planned for my office to be in a loft. Sound travels up. That includes burping, coffee grinding, dogs barking, TV... I'm now on the main floor in a room with a door, but I still have to use my mute button all the time.

Neighbours don't usually get what I'm doing inside my house. You're at home, how can you be working?

I can access wireless internet from many outdoor locations. It cuts out just short of the dock, unfortunately.

The idea of setting 9-5 hours is very foreign to me. If someone asks 'what time to you start work?' I immediately know we view the world very differently.

I get my best ideas while floating on the lake in the summer. I should be tracking those hours :)

I can start my work day at 5a.m., or whenever. But usually it is way before the sun rises.

It's 6 kilometres round trip to my mailbox. Courier packages are delivered to depots about 30 kilometres away. We have no garbage/recycle collection. I really do prefer electronic communication.

I cut my work at BCcampus back to half time, and needed to keep better track of my hours. This is when I realized that I used to work A LOT. But that doesn't bother me. I worked hard and enjoyed myself. But to get a half time salary and work more than that? That bothers me. Weird how that works, and it strikes me this is very related to working at home. If I showed up for 4 hours to an office every morning I think expectations (self-imposed of course) would be different. But set hours ain't gonna happen at home. If I need to go full tilt for 8 hours on Monday into the night, I'll adjust on Tuesday, and so on... Convince me this is a bad work habit.

Hours working at work are spent working. When I sit down at my desk I hit the Toggl timer. When my sister calls I turn it off. When I go outside to get some fresh air and stretch I turn it off. When I write blog posts like this on a Sunday evening that aren't directly related to my work, my timer isn't running. Those emails I deal with on mobile? Much of it is on my own time but hey, I'm wandering along a creek with my dogs. In contrast, many hours at a workplace are spent paying attention to a lot of things that have nothing to do with you, and socializing.

I'm sometimes envious of my retired husband who watches movies in the middle of the day.

People have asked me how I get any work done trying to work from a home office: "There are so many distractions!" My struggle is more about getting away from the work. I barely notice that I'm surrounded by a household 'to do' list as well. Just look at the pile of laundry half way down the stairs to the basement.

I've fallen asleep with my head on the desk and nobody knew about it. Until now.

My dress code is pretty relaxed. I usually bust outside early morning, again at some point during the daylight hours, and I live almost 1300 metres above sea level so it's always chilly. This means I suffer from perpetual hat head. I also keep a wood stove going and entertain my dogs frequently, so my clothes tend to be covered with debris and paw marks. During my virtual meetings people mostly see my head and shoulders. So my go-to attire is a hat to cover my hat head, and something that doesn't look like a lumberjack shirt.

I probably get more vitamin D than many of my colleagues.

In the past year I actually took some sick days. I don't think I've ever done that before, but it was pointed out to me that when I'm sick, I should just be sick. Not surprisingly, I still worked a bit on those sick days.

I work on snow days. As I watch the news about university closures around the province, I wonder if I should take a few steps over to my recliner chair and read a good book. Actually, I can just turn off the Toggl timer and go read a book any time. So why am I even wondering about this?

My yoga mat is just a few steps away. There's no need to ever roll it up. My anti-gravity napping chair serves its purpose well.

I'm often not considered in plans about what goes on in "the office". My co-workers talk about connecting the Victoria board room to the Vancouver office. Meanwhile, I'm a dot on the map a few hundred miles wondering how I fit in. I find emphasis on place in conversations about connecting people odd. This got me thinking about blended learning models, and how individuals participating online often feel like an add-on to what's really happening.

As much as I would love to hang out more with my colleagues, I wouldn't trade my home office for anything. I could make more of an effort to connect with everyone, but I don't. I used to. Hmmm.

Working at home is ideal for introverts.

I miss out on conversations in the hallways. I used to love that aspect of working at NVIT. These conversations, often around a fireplace in the centre of the building, were how we came to know what our work was -- what was important, what needed our attention that day. It's hard to replicate that, although we've come pretty close.

Having said that, since we started using Rocket Chat in the past year at BCcampus I do have a better sense of what's going on in "the office". Like what people ate at the Christmas party.

This year it reminded me that I should have my own Christmas party, and I did!

At home I have access to an endless supply of excellent tea made with actual boiling water, and coffee without those disposable what's-its.

My stand up work desk is a kitchen counter. Complete with snacks!

I can take my dogs to work with me every day.

What are your days like working from home? Like this? :)

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Introducing FLO-Synchronous

*Register for the next FLO - Synchronous February 27 - March 17*

In December, 2016 we ran a workshop pilot at BCcampus called Facilitating Learning Online (FLO) - Synchronous. The outcome is a fine-tuned, brand new workshop to include in the Facilitating Learning Online family of offerings.

The idea for this workshop emerged through participation in the FLO - Fundamentals, an intensive 5-week workshop which engages faculty and staff in both participant and facilitator roles and they learn about key themes related to effective planning and online facilitation. There is a synchronous component in that workshop, but it's not enough to dig into the best practice strategies to plan and facilitate learning in real time. The FLO Stewardship Group identified a need for a 'going deeper' workshop to help prepare education practitioners.

FLO - Synchronous  was designed and developed by Beth Cougler Blom, a facilitator and learning designer who has been involved in FLO from early days. Beth used a very innovative approach for this design -- participants choose how they want to engage.
  1. Reviewing Participants review and provide feedback to Practicing Facilitators
  2. Practicing Facilitators complete a facilitation of a synchronous online session, and benefit from the feedback of Reviewing Participants
By setting up these tracks, individuals begin the workshop knowing they will be within their comfort level based on prior experience, expertise, and willingness to jump in to practice. Everyone leaves knowing what their next steps will be, which, for Reviewing Participants, might include returning to the workshop to try their hand at facilitating a session and being reviewed by their peers. And so on.

For this pilot we introduced yet another new role: Observer. As with the first run of any workshop, there is a lot to notice and keep track of. For the designer/facilitator, it's difficult to stand back far enough to really get a feel for how others are experiencing the course. And feedback from participants may not be thorough enough. The Observers in this pilot, Rachel Logenberg, Sylvia Riessner, and Sylvia Currie, watched from the sidelines and provided recommendations on any tweaks to the content and design. (We're repeating this Observer process with another new pilot -- FLO - Design)

In addition to ongoing Observer feedback, the pilot evaluation included a post workshop anonymous questionnaire, and two synchronous reflections/debriefs, one with all participants and the next with Beth and the 'observer' team.

Survey results (7 respondents - Faculty, learning designers, instructional designers, instructors):

How would you rate the quality of this learning/professional development experience?
-  High quality:
  6 (85.71 %)
-  Fair:
  1 (14.29 %)
-  Low quality:

 How much time did you spend on the course activities?
-  Less than 6 hours per week:

-  6-8 hours per week:

-  More than 8 hours per week:

Overall, how satisfied were you with the FLO-Synchronous workshop?
-  Very satisfied:
  6 (85.71 %)
-  Satisfied:
  1 (14.29 %)
-  Not Satisfied:
2  0

Selected comments

The feedback comments provided by participants were very thorough and helpful. There are too many to list, so here is a fairly random selection.
  • Awesome, I challenged myself to use the different tools in different ways so that I could learn different aspects. 
  • Make it longer than three weeks. It seems a bit rush with different activities each week.
  • Allowing students to host and facilitate sessions was good idea. Also giving students the choice of facilitation or reviewing was a good idea. 
  • Although I believe the course was designed for people with at least some asynchro online experience, it was very informative for a complete newbie, without any online experience.
  • My objective was to learn about synchronous facilitation in order to put some of our own courses online. It was a perfect experience for that.
  • Course was well laid out and easy to follow. 
  • I wonder if instead of looking for co-facilitators, would it be more effective to pair the reviewing participant with the participating facilitator. 
  • I missed not having the reflective journal at the end of each week as in FLO Fundamentals.
  • ...need a bit more on "how to", not just "what to do". 
  • The learning outcomes were valid and workable, I wouldn't change them. 
  • Excellent experience, even if you are new to online facilitation!

The participant reflection/debrief

These screen shots are from the final synchronous session. Beth used 3 main methods to gather feedback:

  1. A dotmocracy where participants were asked to circle the topics and activities they thought were key, and X where they could have used more of;
  2. Six adjectives to describe their experience;
  3. Open Mic to offer further feedback and ideas. 

What's next?

The newly revised FLO - Synchronous workshop has already been scheduled! Beth Cougler Blom will again be facilitating along with Myra Rhodes who is using this opportunity to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes as a FLO - Synchronous facilitator.

Register soon and spread the word to your colleagues!