3 Tips For Working With A Facilitator - An eLearning Instructor's Perspective

How To Working With A Facilitator - An eLearning Instructor's Perspective

This post is dedicated to Shayna Carney, facilitator extraordinaire at the National Conservation Training Center. Thank you for showing me how amazing the facilitator-instructor relationship can be. I’ve been conducting webinars since 2009, badly. I understood that in theory a webinar was supposed to be interactive. And my way of making that happen was to say, “what do you guys think about that?” Because open-ended questions work so well in the vacuum of cyberspace (said no one, ever). At exactly the same time I was mastering the art of group facilitation in live classroom settings, I was failing miserable at online interactivity, so much so that I stopped delivering webinars for about a year and experimented with new models of online course delivery. I still like the short video methodology. Coupled with screen capture and a workbook, a series of short videos can make an excellent self-study course. But it is a lot of work to create, especially for a solo entrepreneur. And it doesn’t replace the live webinar; it only supplements it.

How Do eLearning Instructors Create an Interactive Experience in a Live Webinar Environment?

The answer: a brilliant facilitator. I will never again attempt a webinar without one. My facilitator and I meet two days before our sessions to conduct a dress rehearsal for the webinar. I walk through the presentation, and she makes notes indicating where I veer off from the PowerPoint into a reading example, a whiteboard, a breakout room, a poll, etc., If we incorporate a screen share or a video, we practice it to see how it looks and sounds for the participants. She has two computers on her end, one as a host and one as a participant. Together we decide which parts of the screen to share, where to enlarge or magnify, and where to stop or start videos as well as how to adjust the sound. She also makes a note of what advice to give to our participants so they can best optimize their experience while viewing. And I tweak my PowerPoints, adding or subtracting screens to indicate movement into or out of discussions and changing animation to flow more smoothly with the webinar platform. For eLearning instructors who are just starting out, here are a few tips that I’ve learned from working with my facilitator:

  1. SWAT rules!
    Before meeting with your facilitator, your lesson plan should be complete. For me, that means I have a PowerPoint presentation, a handout with exercises, and possibly reading examples. That begins and ends with a statement of objectives in the form of Students Will be Able To - SWAT. Great objectives start with action verbs. Understand is not an action verb. Here are some of the words that I use as a writing instructor:

    • choose
    • differentiate
    • place
    • analyze
    • capture
    • search
    • select
    • establish
    • determine
    • read
    • interview
    • organize
    • use
    • write
    • construct
    • question
    • arrange
    • craft
  2. Step into the Golden Circle
    Simon Sinek posited the concept of the Golden Circle in his first book, Start with Why. Sinek suggested that successful companies have a visionary CEO who can succinctly state the reason for a company’s existence. A COO is then able to articulate the how, in other words to put the vision into practice. Employees and customers then amplify the brand, completing the Golden Circle.You the instructor are the visionary. You understand why students need these skills at both a macro and a micro level. Keep your eye on the prize, the why of the class. Let your facilitator determine the how.I walk into our dress rehearsals (metaphorically, of course) and say, “I’d like our students in small group discussion to define each of 6 terms in the Fish and Wildlife mission statement. Then I’d like us to come back together and agree as a class on the definitions.”My facilitator figures out how we do that. Whether it’s chat rooms, audio-bridged breakout rooms, or a whiteboard, with one caveat - great facilitators are enchanted by the bright shiny object. So each week, you’ll be presented with a dazzling array of new possibilities for yourself and your students.Whether you use those is a decision you have to align with your SWAT. Does this enable my students to meet their objectives? If the answer is no, then the technology has no place in the webinar.
  3. Clean up after yourself
    In Carol Saller Fisher’s great book about copyediting, she draws an analogy between a hotel housekeeping service and a writer that I think is relevant here as well. Fisher says that just because you’re staying in a hotel with a housekeeping service, you don’t have the right to make a mess. A writer with a copyeditor has no excuse to litter the manuscript with grammatical mistakes. And an instructor with a facilitator should still know how to run the webinar.I don’t know how to put people in audio-bridged breakout rooms. But I do know how to move us into the next layout, so I don’t have to call my facilitator out if she’s having an off day. God knows, she spends her whole week discovering best practices so that my students can get the most out of their experience. Why on earth would I throw her under the bus?

Do you have experience running a webinar yourself or using a facilitator? What has the difference been like for you? Share your comments here. And be sure to let us know what your favorite facilitator does that makes him or her your favorite.

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