What’s a facilitator to do?

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A training manager has been frustrated with the quality of communication among trainees in his face-to-face training sessions and wants to try something new. With his supervisor’s permission, the trainer plans to convert all current training modules to a blended learning format, which would provide trainees and trainers the opportunity to interact with each other and learn the material in both a face-to-face and online environment. In addition, he is considering putting all of his training materials on a server so that the trainees have access to resources and assignments at all times.


The training manager’s observation that the quality of communication among his trainees is lacking indicates that he is evaluating whether his sessions succeed or not, and he has noticed a weakness in the design of his face to face class. This is a good sign! Discussing a process that the trainer, I’ll call him Ernest, should follow will help ensure that all parties end up with a product that meets the objective of delivering training that encourages authentic interaction among the trainees, but that also achieves the training goals and objectives as well.

Ernest needs to start his planning with the student in mind at the very beginning of any distance education design (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). A helpful tool for determining how to proceed would be to use a Needs Analysis of the training to clarify what the objectives are, what will translate well into a blended environment, and which objectives will need to be redesigned to include tools that will better convey the content in an online environment.  As part of the Facilitator’s Guide I developed, I included a table so Ernest can list his activities and tools and determine what needs to be included in the training and how it will need to be adapted.

The next step would be to make sure the sequence of the class would make sense in an online environment; which activities need to be done in a synchronous setting and which would work well in an asynchronous setting. Just using the original activities may not work as they might not be designed for the online environment. Simonson and Schlosser (1999) use the Equivalency Theory which indicates that if the distance course is carefully designed and the activities are equivalent to the face to face course, than the learners reach the course objectives (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012).  If the activities are inappropriate and boring, the results of superficial interaction will be no different than what Ernest is experiencing in his current training. Dr. Piskurich comments that the emphasis should be on the activity not on the content. If Ernest takes time to talk to an SME on the matter, it could help save time as he/she may know an activity that Ernest might not have thought of before (Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer), n.d.). Once Ernest has planned the activities he will adapt and use, he will also have to prepare himself to facilitate in an online setting. It will not require the same technique as a face to face classroom, and he will need to learn how to keep in constant contact with the learners in an online setting (Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer), n.d.). I also included a facilitator’s checklist for what needs to be done, so Ernest can keep track of time.

Once Ernest is prepared, another important concern will be technical support and technical considerations. The students will need to be equipped to use the technology and as a facilitator, not only will Ernest have to learn to use the tech tools, but he will need to be able to have some backup plans if the technology fails. Ernest will need time to practice using the synchronous software and managing a CMS if he hasn’t before.  Ernest needs to keep so many aspects of the changing training in mind so it works the way he wants. A facilitator’s guide may be just the thing he needs to keep himself organized.

Facilitator’s Guide

References

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Facilitating online learning. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Marsh, G., McFadden, A., & Price, B. (2003). Blended instruction: Adapting conventional instruction for large classes. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 6(4). Retrieved from http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/winter64/marsh64.htm

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Definitions, history, and theories of distance education. In Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education (5th ed., pp. 32–62). Boston: Pearson.

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