Facilitation Tips

This page offers tips for people interested in facilitating similar, challenging conversations about open education ethics. These tips are not intended to be prescriptive, just useful for people using similar liberating structures to simultaneously engage in-person and online participants.

Use the liberating structure format called TRIZ as it is an excellent format for this conversation, but you will need to actively adapt the format depending on number of remote and onsite attendees. We believe the ethos and format of TRIZ is well-suited to the difficult, introspective conversations that must occur (or at least start) within a constrained time and space. Yet, given fluctuation in the number in attendance in different conferences, the amount of time required to small group reporting might need to be adapted.

Use both an onsite and remote facilitator.  Having an onsite facilitator is not enough. If possible, have the remote facilitator play a prominent role by introducing the session and then alternate facilitator leadership throughout session.

Use Zoom in order to leverage Zoom’s breakout rooms and keep small group online discussions manageable.  By using this function, more people were able to actively participate and facilitators were able to ask each remote group for their feedback (reporting). The breakout feature makes the most sense if you have a large number of remote attendees (minimum 6-8 people) so you can have small groups that allow participation.

At least one onsite person should be assigned to monitor what is happening in both the onsite and remote spaces in order to keep the groups in sync and in communication (manage timing of breakout rooms and discussions, onsite mic control, group report out, what is displayed on the projection screen, etc.). It worked well with two people.

Use a multi-directional (snowball) mic to pick up onsite participants’ audio. A Catchbox mic would be even more ideal. If not, make sure the onsite facilitator repeats the questions and/or comments for the remote participants.

As soon as people are asked to discuss the first question, mute the onsite mic so the remote participants aren’t hearing the onsite white noise. Unmute the mic just before a facilitator asks for report out from the groups. When the Zoom moderator closes the breakout rooms, participants will get a one minute warning to finish up their discussion so the breakout rooms should be closed one minute before the onsite groups finish their group discussions (someone onsite should be timing). Note: breakout room participants can leave their breakout rooms at any time and rejoin the main Zoom meeting.

It’s good to have the same people in the same small groups in the 1-2-4 all; it’s faster in person, and people can build on what was said earlier in those groups. The same goes for remote groups if there are enough participants for Zoom breakout rooms. Original breakout room memberships can be maintained each time the breakout rooms are brought back to main meeting and then divided up again for the next discussion. Note: if someone joins the meeting after the initial breakout rooms have been formed, they have to be manually added to an existing group.

If the virtual folks split off into breakout rooms, it’s helpful to ask each small group to choose one person to be a spokesperson for the group. It’s hard for the online facilitator to “point” to virtual groups to ask someone from each group to speak, and it’s possible that the virtual folks end up just waiting for someone from another group to speak, leaving a fair bit of silence (which there isn’t a lot of time for if you have a short session). At least having one person per group who knows it’s their job to be a spokesperson can help.

Ask the virtual participants to join early enough before the session that you can explain to them the process in as much detail as feasible. They need to understand when they are going to be doing what (when they are going into the breakout rooms and coming back, and when feedback from each group will be requested). It’s hard to explain that to the virtual group as the session is going on, since the onsite folks may be able to hear that if not muted (and because there isn’t a lot of time in a short session). A slide shared through Zoom at the beginning of the session that shows the timing of TRIZ format can be helpful to both onsite and remote participants.

This kind of session invites critical comments, and works best if people feel comfortable being honest about what they think could go wrong and is going wrong. For that reason, doing live broadcast or recording through the virtual session (such as might be done with Google Hangouts, for example), may not be a good idea. This could make both virtual people and the onsite people feel less comfortable saying what they really think. Similarly, video recording of the session could be discouraged or prohibited; since there are notes taken at the session, some might not even want still images taken and shared. You could let participants know that Google Docs keeps a full history of contributions, and if one is logged into Google one’s contributions are tied to one’s account. People could participate anonymously by logging out of their Google accounts.