Facilitator Skills: The Spectrum of Facilitation Personas
In this 3 part series, we’re exploring the key questions to address to ensure the highest level of engagement from your learners in their online learning experiences.We believe in the concept of “facilitation,” the process of supporting and guiding learners as they develop and apply new skills and behaviors. In part one, we explored 4 questions to get started with your facilitation plan. Now it’s time to explore what happens when your experience is live.
Facilitation Blog Series: Part 2 – You’re Live!
You’ve made a great facilitation plan, trained your facilitators, and defined your success metrics. Your course is live! Now you have to actually facilitate, but what does that mean?
If your course is a multi-week cohort-based learning experience with teams and projects or a lighter and shorter self-paced course, basic facilitation is a requirement, not an option. Depending on your team’s time availability and size, your ability to facilitate a course may be limited. However, we’ve seen from our own experimentation in our LXD course, that greater time investment in facilitation results in a higher completion rate and Net Promoter Score (NPS) from participants.
So, whether you only have a couple hours to spare or you’ve hired a full-time facilitator, below are four key facilitator personas we’ve found to result in fantastic learner experiences – ranging from the low involvement “Train Conductor,” to the high involvement “Coach.” Which one will you be for your next facilitation opportunity?
Persona 1: Train Conductor (2 hours total time investment)
Like a Train Conductor, this facilitator’s main responsibility is to get the learning experience in motion and help make the ride smooth by laying a clear path forward (like a track). At the simplest level of facilitation, a Train Conductor can set up learners for success by investing some time before the course launches to build a framework that support success.
How do you do this?
1. Automate your communications
Use the “set it and forget it” approach to create a sense of support by pushing your learners with automated communications. Let them know what is expected once they begin, including time commitment, ultimate learning outcomes, and due dates.
2. Send intervention emails
Along with these automated messages, be sure to also include great intervention emails. These sorts of emails can be programmed to target specific learners at given times to ensure there are continual reminders to re-engage in an encouraging way.
If you have more than a few hours to devote to facilitation and want to kick it up a notch, you can channel your inner Tour Guide by adding a couple of additional actions to the Train Conductor Persona.
Persona 2: Tour Guide (1-2 hours per week)
If you’ve traveled to an unfamiliar place, you know the joys of having a knowledgeable, funny, and welcoming tour guide. They don’t have to be funny, but it’s better when they are. They keep you engaged in the experience, point out key landmarks, and help you gain a better understanding of your surroundings.
Becoming a great Tour Guide is an easy way to take your online facilitation skills to the next level. In addition to the automated and intervention communications of the Train Conductor, you can also incorporate:
1. Craft reflective emails
Instead of simply keeping learners on track, dive deeper and really engage with participants. One way to do this is to publicly shout out great activity (discussion responses, assignment submissions etc.) from the learners to keep everyone motivated. You can see an excerpt of one of these emails below:
2. Answer learner questions promptly
A great Tour Guide answers questions as they come, ready and waiting to provide support. In an online learning experience, participants should have a direct line to an expert to help them. Setting up a support email address or a frequently monitored discussion board ensures that learners have a lifeline if they need it.
And while a Tour Guide can provide a better experience than a Train Conductor, both of these facilitators can struggle to create the best sense of community. That is why it’s time to explore our next facilitator persona:
Persona 3: The Camp Counselor (4 hours per week)
Have you been to summer camp? Do you remember being motivated to play a game, sing a silly song, or run around with a bunch of other kids you didn’t even know? You likely wouldn’t have done this on your own – not without the guidance of a great facilitator. The Camp Counselor brings an energy that creates safety, fun, and community. To do this, you can incorporate a few key actions:
1. Use data to drive actions
A Camp Counselor has a strong sense of how her campers are doing. Facilitating a course requires this same level of understanding of your learners, which you can do by monitoring data. Consistently checking out survey results, activity completion metrics, and engagement in teams allows facilitators to take action to support struggling learners, and make changes on the fly.
2. Run engaging live events
In online courses, the use of live events are catalysts for connecting the course community. For learners who have lost interest, a live call is a chance to reconnect, get excited, and feel like they are not learning alone. Don’t forget to make these live events engaging by incorporating polls, chat, and some fun games!
The Camp Counselor helps the community connect and have a good experience. Yet, sometimes, due to the size of the community, they may not be able to invest personally in each participant. This is why the highest level of facilitation is what we call:
Persona 4: The Coach (5+ hours per week)
Coaches are the epitome of great facilitation. They can take a learning experience from “that was a good course” to “that course changed my life”. Coaches do this by not only ensuring the whole “team” (in our case, the learning community) is successful, but also supports the development of each player individually. In our Foundations of Learning Experience Design course, we have found that learners who opt-in to a coach are 56% more likely to complete the course because of the personalized attention they receive. Some examples of this include:
1. Provide individualized assignment feedback
Some of our course experiences feature deliverables that can result in a learners job promotion, certification credits, or digital badges. To ensure a high level of competency, our coaches provide individual feedback on learner assignments. Learners feel supported by working with an expert to guide them. You can even get creative and submit your feedback through video or audio!
2. Keep learner motivation high
Coaches not only provide feedback for learners to improve their skills, but also make sure they stay motivated and on their game. One way you can do this in online courses is providing continuous personal check-ins where you can ask your learners to reflect on their challenges and successes of the past week.
Which facilitators will you employ in your next experience?
Having limited time is not an excuse for lack of facilitation! We hope we’ve provided some insights into the different ways a facilitator can engage with learners whether you only have a few minutes or hours. Which persona will you utilize in your next experience?
Have a team? Delegate these roles to different people to share in the best facilitation experience possible.
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