My path to facilitating online

Mary asked on my last post if I was experienced in the face-to-face world before I came into online facilitation. As I started to reply in a comment I thought this was such a juicy topic it might be more fitting as a new post.

For me online facilitation was a matter of discovering myself; discovering within myself skills and an identity waiting to be tapped. I originally trained as a primary (elementary) school teacher and really loved the years I spent doing that. I then moved into curriculum development, distance education, instructional design and teacher training.  So my whole adult life I have been teaching and the last 20 years of that with technology.  More than 80% of this work was face-to-face teaching or leading. I found I admired people in some very early online communities like the amazing BJ Berquist in Tapped In and Christina Preston in MirandaNet. But I had never explicitly considered myself a facilitator or what I did as facilitation until a lucky chance led me to take Nancy White‘s Online Facilitation Course. Somewhere there, in the shadow of the master, a light turned on for me and I felt a new sense of identity and a hunger to learn. I aggressively sought out events and courses wherever I could volunteer to do online facilitation work and start to feel like I had found a niche.

So in answer to Mary – do you have to have been a facilitator F2F before online – in my case I think no. Although I was a teacher I found this new facilitation role freed me from much of what constrained me in teaching. The online environment really opened up new areas, new networks, new freedoms and new realizations about myself. I also found the online communication made being an Aussie in a global learning space no handicap and through putting myslef out there I have been able to engage in global projects and facilitate along side some of the most exciting people in the community field – Nancy White, Etienne Wenger, Cliff Figallo, Beverley Trayner,  Jenny Ambrozek, Sasha Barab etc.

But the learning is ongoing and there is much to keep up with as new tools and strategies become part of the scene. Still the love of learning and being online has in no way lost its lustre and room for discovery about myself  😉

What about for others? Did you come to facilitate online from a similar background/role in F2F?



  1. Robyn Honeman said,

    August 3, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    What amazing experience. I began teaching part time at TAFE 13 years ago in Business Administration….typing aaa fff afaf…. I quickly evolved and continued my education and soon was teaching introduction to computers, onto advanced excel, databases, wordprocessing, DTP, and into digital photography.

    My interest like others was a matter of personal growth in learning about all new things and web 2.0 was similar. My present role in Learning technologies came about due to that interest. I have facilitated staff in lots of methods of training including web conferencing and video conferencing and possibilities of using technologies for delivery. I have learnt how to use and administer an LMS and its restrictions and encouraged open source technologies for staff.

    I agree, learning is ongoing and in this field always changing. Being online and connecting with communities across the world is exciting.

  2. August 7, 2008 at 10:00 am

    I guess for me I was doing some activities that eventually I came to see had some sort of facilitation angle. You were part of this journey in some respects. 1) won a study award 2) what issues and challenges do I face 3) an Community of practice approach could benefit 4) Foundations workshop started – where I met you guys.

    I think I do not primarily see myself as a facilitator. Not primarily. But on the other hand I’m not exactly sure what identity I hold to. Leigh may shudder at this, but it probably is closest to teacher with a facilitative slant, core, focus, approach.

    You said: Although I was a teacher I found this new facilitation role freed me from much of what constrained me in teaching. I relate to this.

    I warmed to the Keller approach, individualised instruction, small group work, student centred, adult ed style ever since March 1977 when I first spent time in a classroom as a teacher. I have often thought about Carl Rogers: eg the comments in the infed site:

    The strength of Rogers’ approach lies in part in his focus on relationship. As he once wrote, ‘The facilitation of significant learning rests upon certain attitudinal qualities that exist in the personal relationship between facilitator and learner’

    And yes, I started offline, and still like to be offline regularly. – Derek

  3. August 7, 2008 at 10:28 am

    […] Bron talked about where we started (F2F initially or some other path?) and said Although I was a teacher I found this new facilitation […]

  4. dreig said,

    August 7, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    I came from F2F facilitation, frequently trying to teach new things to low-level on the topics groups. My interest on the matter starts there: Could i apply the same principles to Online communities?
    I think there are many differences. Online communities are freer than face to face ones. And that´s the main point to me, the principal thing to explore.

  5. vcautin said,

    August 8, 2008 at 4:20 am

    The more blogposts I read, the more I want to dive into e-learning.
    Up to know I have been looking into technologies that I could integrate in the class to aid learning. Now I want a career change into e-learning!
    Thanks for these inspiring posts.

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