Managing Communities of LearningThe Impact and Role of Facilitators                          Martin Rehm, Anna Galazka, Wi...
Communities of Learning (CoL)• defined as groups of people who meet  online to engage in “collaborative learning  and refl...
The Role of Facilitators in CoLfacilitator activity is one of the key processesinvolved in participant interaction(Cho, St...
The Role of Facilitators in CoL                               vs“Guide on the side”                 “Cheerleader”(Mazzolin...
Hypothesis 1 - General• too much instruction may reduce interaction  (e.g. Mazzolini & Maddison, 2003)• limited facilitato...
Hypothesis 2 - Social• facilitators should compensate for limited audio-  visual cues  (Stacey, 2002)• facilitators can po...
Hypothesis 3 - Content• facilitator assistance encourages participants to  engage into in-depth discussions  (Iorio, Taylo...
Setting• online training program of a large  international organization• 14 weeks of online learning• 16 CoL  – 149 partic...
Instruments• Activity Levels  – user statistics from discussion forums   (Zembylas & Vrasidas, 2007)• Content Analysis  – ...
Average # of Messages                                Participants   Facilitators                   Total Messages         ...
A detailed investigation of task-related sub-categoriesrevealed a significant correlation betweenparticipants’ Own Experie...
Discussion• hypotheses (largely) build upon studies  from higher education  findings cannot easily be transferred across  ...
anna.milena.galazka@gmail.comrehm@merit.unu.edu
Managing Communities of Learning: The Impact and Role of Facilitators
Managing Communities of Learning: The Impact and Role of Facilitators
Managing Communities of Learning: The Impact and Role of Facilitators
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Managing Communities of Learning: The Impact and Role of Facilitators

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Communities of Learning (CoL) have become a popular methodology for organizational training initiatives (Rehm, 2009). While such communities allow employees to collaboratively upgrade their knowledge and skills, they also enable participants to get in touch with colleagues from all over the world (de Bruyn, 2004). Nonetheless, in order to become an effective educational resource, they also need to be cherished and protected (Paloff & Pratt, 2003). Yet, previous research has largely neglected the impact of facilitators on CoL for working professionals. The present study addresses this lacuna by conducting an exploratory examination on the role of facilitators in CoL of a global training program for an international organization. Our results indicate that working professionals generally do not seem to require much stimulation from facilitators to participate in discussions. Moreover, we find evidence that participants consider the input of facilitators as an added-value to the discussions, rather than a replacement for their own contributions. By addressing these issues, our study can serve as a springboard for facilitators to design and implement an effective teaching strategy for similar CoL in the future, thereby contributing to the overall quality of participants’ learning experience.

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Managing Communities of Learning: The Impact and Role of Facilitators

  1. 1. Managing Communities of LearningThe Impact and Role of Facilitators Martin Rehm, Anna Galazka, Wim Gijselaers, Mien Segers EDiNEB 2012, Haarlem May 2012
  2. 2. Communities of Learning (CoL)• defined as groups of people who meet online to engage in “collaborative learning and reflective practice involved in transformative learning” (Paloff & Pratt, 2003, p. 17)• co-construction of knowledge through the combined effect of reflection and interaction (Sengupta, 2001)
  3. 3. The Role of Facilitators in CoLfacilitator activity is one of the key processesinvolved in participant interaction(Cho, Stefanone, & Gay, 2002)
  4. 4. The Role of Facilitators in CoL vs“Guide on the side” “Cheerleader”(Mazzolini & Maddison, 2003) Paloff and Pratt (1999)
  5. 5. Hypothesis 1 - General• too much instruction may reduce interaction (e.g. Mazzolini & Maddison, 2003)• limited facilitator activity can reduce quality of learning & social dynamics (Jones & Issroff, 2005) H1 - The level of facilitator activity is positively related to the level of participant activity within CoL
  6. 6. Hypothesis 2 - Social• facilitators should compensate for limited audio- visual cues (Stacey, 2002)• facilitators can positively influence participants’ activity levels by developing rapport and cultivating a sense of belonging (Iorio, Taylor, & Sturts-Dossick, 2011) H2 -The number of facilitators’ social messages is positively related to participants overall level of activity
  7. 7. Hypothesis 3 - Content• facilitator assistance encourages participants to engage into in-depth discussions (Iorio, Taylor, & Sturts-Dossick, 2011)• facilitators should abstain from giving content- related feedback which provides quick answers to questions asked (Vonderwell, 2003) H3 – The number of facilitators’ content-related messages is negatively related to participants’ level of content
  8. 8. Setting• online training program of a large international organization• 14 weeks of online learning• 16 CoL – 149 participants +/- 12 participants per CoL – 2 facilitators per CoL• asynchronous discussions forums: – Café-Talk – Content-Related (real-life tasks)
  9. 9. Instruments• Activity Levels – user statistics from discussion forums (Zembylas & Vrasidas, 2007)• Content Analysis – coding instrument (Veerman & Veldhuis-Diermanse, 2001 Schellens & Valcke, 2005) – unit of analysis: unit of meaning (Gunawardena, Lowe, & Anderson, 1997) – inter-rater reliability: Cronbach alpha ( )& Cohen’s kappa ( )
  10. 10. Average # of Messages Participants Facilitators Total Messages 14.81 30.85General Non-Task-Related 4.62 26.08 Task-Related 10.19 4.78 “Planning” 1.68 9.58 “Technical” .19 .60Non-Task-Related “Social” 2.59 14.45 “Nonsense” .16 1.45 “New Facts” 1.18 .35 “Own Experience and Opinions” .70 .38Task-Related “New Theoretical Ideas” .05 .33 “Explicitation” 7.19 3.03 “Evaluation” 1.06 .70 = 0.92; = 0.73 (p < 0.01)
  11. 11. A detailed investigation of task-related sub-categoriesrevealed a significant correlation betweenparticipants’ Own Experience and Opinions andfacilitators’ Evaluation messages.
  12. 12. Discussion• hypotheses (largely) build upon studies from higher education findings cannot easily be transferred across target groups• working professionals – do not need to be “taken by the hand” – seem to enjoy the challenge of partaking in high-level discussions
  13. 13. anna.milena.galazka@gmail.comrehm@merit.unu.edu

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