Virtual facilitation refers to the practice of conducting meetings with people separated by distance or time. To be precise, it brings teams from remote areas together to discuss topics in real-time. It does not require a face-to-face meeting. Conducting online workshops or conferences and online classes are good examples of virtual facilitation. But why is it important?
There are different categories of online facilitation depending on aspects such as the level of learning, the outcomes to be expected at the end of learning as well as the nature of learning. In addition, to choose a design of online facilitation, a facilitator should make sure to meet the requirements of the facilitation mentioned. Digital facilitation tools are here essential, but they are not the only things needed.
Virtual Facilitation is Important because…
- You can have a bigger impact through co-creation
- An unlimited amount of people can be involved
- Everyone can be encouraged to take part and get their voices out
- There’s just one place reserved for discussions
Categories of virtual assistance
To understand the importance of virtual facilitation, it’s good to go through the very basics. First, there is the Light Online Facilitation category. It is a start-and-stop coordinator example where the major role of the intermediary is administration. This role includes that of giving access to the digital environment, gathering information, summarizing results of a session as well as ending sessions when the need occurs.
The second category is the Moderate Online Facilitation, which has an overseeing facilitator who aims at encouraging the participants. Furthermore, the person in charge is present throughout the session to ensure smooth operations.
This type is mainly used in the learning environment. The participants are able to get feedback at a personalized level. As you can imagine, being able to give feedback to the team and the participants of each project is crucial.
How to effectively conduct virtual facilitation
To successfully conduct virtual meetings or classes, the participating team should ensure the following is done. First, one should make sure that the norms of the meeting are understood by the members. For example, the technology used should be accessible to every member as well as getting any problems resolved prior to the meeting.
If for instance, not all participants have downloaded the software needed, the start of the meeting or a workshop will get messy and delayed. This already might give you an idea of the importance of virtual facilitation: without a proper facilitator there can be multiple areas of meetings and workshops that can already go wrong in the get-go.
Second, establish a method the participants can follow. This can be achieved through the use of names that are alphabetically ordered as well as assigning people specific numbers for identification. This method gives every single person the chance to contribute to the meeting without the aspect of being bias.
Tools used for Online Services
Online business platforms use things like emails (though they are becoming an old method), Basecamp, and Slack. Basecamp allows the sharing of files, making assignments, and keeping track of due dates. This is limited to the sharing of files and online messages.
Slack is also similar to Basecamp and is limited to sharing files and online messaging. It’s not as sufficient as for instance Howspace facilitation tool. On the other hand is more than suitable for smaller groups and organizations. For online conferencing, these are some of the tools used.
Skype is used to carry out teaching, training and webinars hosting. It allows recording of videos in M4A and MP4 formats as well as messaging. Zoom offers the same services but excludes messaging. Another example is Blackboard, which is exclusively made for teaching.
It’s good to understand that not all tools are suitable for each situation or project. With that being said many of the tools presented on our site are super comprehensive and easy to use in all types of projects.
Other Tools used
Collaboration tools are another category that are used to engage participants virtually. They are designed for internal organization.
For example, the Powernoodle is used in good decision making through the use of an intelligence platform referred to as Stakeholder Intelligence. It allows people to bring ideas for solving problems by using sketches and sticky notes.
Three Dimension Collaborative Tools
These are future tools that are believed to depict the environment of avatars and the aspect of real-time sharing. They are now becoming a must-have tool with new levels of experiences. They include tools like Kahoot, which is used for carrying out surveys, discussions and popping up quizzes. Kahoot is also used in playing group games.
Another example of these 3D tools is Photosphere. Here there is the provision of virtual training as well as a good learning environment. Participants use avatars that resemble them in virtual rooms that are customized by an assistant. The skills are taught in a way that mimics that of real life.
Good Practices for Virtual Conferencing
First, it is important to create team rules for engagement. This enforces good behavior among the participants. An organized method for communication should be used to make sure that everyone takes turns in contributing to the meeting agenda. Furthermore, multitasking should not be allowed. Note that the meeting should be in a quiet place.
At the end of the meeting, it is good practice to at least allocate people a few minutes to comment on the completed session. This helps to evaluate whether the meeting was a success or not. The negative outcomes should be noted for improvement, while the positive ones should be embraced.
Characteristics of a Good Coordinator
A skilled facilitator should create a safe and comfortable environment for the participants and have a rapport with them. He should demonstrate good understanding and mastery of content delivered. He or she should be good at time managing and be technologically literate. For a class, the facilitator should use different approaches to engage learners.
In addition, the person should be capable of multitasking. This is done by going through the screen to see what is going on, who needs to make requests or ask questions and at the same time, be able to maintain the flow of the dialogue. The above characteristics are only perfected through regular practice.
Benefits of Virtual Services
This involves an unlimited number of people and ensures that everyone feels heard through a shared place. In addition, activities like notifications are automated and schedules are used to ensure that work is done in the agreed time.
This is a benefit over manual facilitation where time is greatly wasted by carrying out activities manually.
It is hard to read non-verbal signals as well as spotting visual cues. The technology used is also unpredictable because there may be a connection failure that may stop the session from occurring successfully.
Furthermore, a user is required to master the technology being used. In many cases, participants easily drift away.
These types of businesses use electronic means for business transactions. For example, Amazon conducts its activities using social platforms. Some of the businesses mainly operate in a virtual world.
They offer things that are viable to commerce such as virtual products, property, and services to their customers. A good example is the Second Life.
Virtual enterprises, on the other hand, are networks made up of independent companies linked by technology. Their goal is to share costs, skills, and make it possible to access each other’s markets. The enterprises are formed using a cooperative agreement with no involvement of hierarchy, which leads to achieving a consensus goal.
Application Areas of Facilitation
Virtual facilitation is applied in various situations as well as places such as community development, organizational planning, health activities, leisure activities, workplaces, learning institutions among others.
In general, facilitation is very important, as it serves the purpose of solving problems, decision making, and exchange of information or ideas for people who have a common interest or agenda.