Friday, 26 September 2008

1. When does the act of teaching compromise the role of a facilitator of an online community?

One way of answering this question could be to start with the given assumptions made by the Australian Quick Guide to online delivery of VET about the role of a facilitator being that of “manager”, pedagogically using “student-centered” approaches and play a “guide on the side” certain lines can be drawn in the sand with teaching on one side and true facilitating on the other side. Clearly the online facilitator has to try not to compromise the “guide on the side” approach by crossing the role line into the territory of going into assertive “sage on the stage” teaching mode. For the new online facilitator this means a process of constant “self-awareness” as to what mode they are operating in when functioning with learners online. To step out of the face to face classroom and sit in front of the computer for online students clearly requires a “mode switch”. There are conflicts and inner tensions with this process i.e. if we liken the learning process to a railway train - do you put the engine (teacher) at the front and pull the carriages (students) along or do you put the engine at the back and push the carriages along or does the train drive itself and you just ensure it stays on the rails? The teacher role is safer and offers the least line of resistance and is summed up well in Leigh’s (2007) comment that “teaching and instruction is the much easier path for all involved
Facilitating clearly requires a different skill set and if not done properly could be a bit of a minefield. Can we be taught to facilitate or is this gained through experience only? Does the old cliché of “he/she is a born teacher” apply to facilitating as well?

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