On-line group learning and discussion has become a favorite method regarding facilitation and promoting individual critical thinking skills. Not only that, many articles agree with online learning as an excellent method for group collaboration within the private and public organization.
In discussing the advantages of online learning, Holt, Kleiber, Swenson, Rees & Milton (1998) also suggested the benefits and challenges of using web conferencing.
- Benefits for participants
- More people can participate without restraints of time and place.
- People who may not be comfortable participating in face-to-face groups have a voice.
- Asynchronous communication allows flexibility in individual schedules.
- Participants have time and space to focus independently on the process and content.
- Participants have time for reflection rather than knee-jerk reactions.
- More data and ideas are collected.
- Participant has unlimited space to express their views.
- Everyone can see everyone else’s contributions and build upon them.
- Satisfaction with the process produces increased buy-in to results.
- Challenges for moderators and facilitators
- Participants must have access to tools and the skills to use them.
- Silent (‘lurking’) Participants remain invisible to the group.
- Participants must be encouraged to scheduling and spending time on the process.
- Loss of face-to-face social interaction affects the development of group identity.
- Participants need responsible feedback to avoid feelings of isolation.
- Coping with the volume of data generated can be overwhelming.
- Participants must be encouraged to keep messages concise and on-topic.
- The moderator must help funnel ideas and discussion to adhere decision.
- Resistance may be difficult to perceive and engage.
Besides, Holt et al. also mentioned the challenges for facilitators; assessing individual learning and; persona of the moderator. For example, Holt et al. suggested the online instructor or the moderator should remain in the background and helps provide a sense of order. A moderator who does need to become involved in the process is most effective when speaking in the voice of a neutral, third-party person, and not in the personal view of the individual. This helps to ensure that even when the moderator takes on an active or proactive role in a forum, interaction remains centered on the issues rather than personalities (.g. 47).
Holt, M.E., Kleiber, P.B., Swenson, J.D., Rees, E.F. & Milton, J. 1998 Facilitating group learning on the Internet in Adult learning and the Internet by Cahoon, B. Issue number 78. Jossey-Bass Publishers