Facilitating e-learning courses and moderating online learning communities: two different skills

I have just finished the facilitation of another of my 5-week e-facilitation workshop and I am already missing the buzz. A full house with 25 participants from 13 different countries. I must have trained close to one thousand people in this regular eWorkshop now (I run 3 to 5 per year) and I still enjoy it tremendously.

From next week I will be facilitating a 4-week moderation eWorkshop for “Barza ambassadors”. They are African individuals, most of whom are radio broadcasters, who work actively to engage other radio broadcasters in Barza – the social networking site for African radio broadcasters.

The two workshops are very different because the skills required for facilitating and moderating online are not the same. Yet, the two terms are often used interchangeably in our sector.

We facilitate online events that are structured, for example a course. Our eWorkshops are structured and they need good e-facilitators to be successful. The facilitator steers the work and the communication flow, motivates and encourages, ensure all voices are heard and the conversations vibrant, useful and interesting. The facilitator enables a safe environment in which deep learning can take place. This is about guiding learners on their learning journey and helping them to achieve milestones. It’s process-oriented.

We moderate online spaces that are unstructured, for example a community of practice. Moderation is more focused on managing a space where sharing information is the focus. It’s is not process-oriented. A moderator monitors the information flow, keep conversations organised, and makes summaries and digests. A moderator promotes participation in a much less “in-your-face” way than a facilitator would do – it is a much more “detached” way of guiding. A community of practice typically has a small core group of people and a large periphery. We can’t “facilitate” such a space and if we try, we’re bound to be really frustrated.

The online voice and strategy used in moderation and facilitation are very different. It’s useful to know where we are, what we’re trying to do and what that implies in terms of the skills we need to take on these tasks.

Can we develop e-learning that respects adult learning principles?
Writing for the ear


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