News and Events

Thoughts on Virtual Facilitation

POSTED ON April 13, 2020

Over the years YDEKC has provided a variety of professional development opportunities to our members. From our popular Social and Emotional Learning Symposia; to our standalone workshops on advocacy, measurement and evaluation, and school partnerships; to our racial equity series; to our many peer learning cohorts, we have tried to create welcoming and inclusive learning spaces that incorporate our signature professional development practices: 

  • Learning in community 
  • An interactive and engaging approach 
  • Practical tools and resources 
  • Honoring and modeling youth development principles 

Over the past few weeks, we have grappled with the challenge of translating these practices to an online environment. How can we learn in community with others in an interactive and engaging way when we cannot be in the same physical space? Here are some of our initial thoughts: 

Make the effort to build community online. Just as our in-person sessions incorporate community-building activities, we are exploring ways to build community online. Introductions and icebreaker questions are good places to start. It is also important to provide people with opportunities to ask questions or share thoughts throughout online sessions, and to reflect at the end. One advantage of the online environment is that it gives people the chance to engage in different ways. People who are comfortable speaking in a group have that option; others can contribute by using the chat feature that most platforms offer. 

Incorporate whatever interactivity the technology permits.  There are a number of different online learning platforms that offer a variety of capabilities and features. Think about how you can use these features to incorporate different kinds of interactive experiences. Does your platform support polling? Maybe you could use a poll in place of a “four corners” activity that you might do in person. Some platforms have whiteboard features that allow multiple contributors at once; some allow participants to share their screens; others enable breakout groups. Even if your platform is basic, prompting participants to use the chat space or giving each person structured opportunities to speak can help to increase engagement. 

Provide useful tools and allow time to practice applying them. Online and in-person, adults learn better if they have the opportunity to practice. In addition to providing focused, relevant content and practical tools, consider whether you can build in opportunities to apply new skills. Sometimes a short break from the conferencing can allow participants to complete a task offline and then reconvene to reflect. 

Bring youth development principles to the virtual space. We strive to create positive, welcoming, identity-safe spaces across all of our offerings. In order to bring these youth development fundamentals to online offerings, we are challenging ourselves to make room for relationship building, and to provide voice, choice, and leadership opportunities to all participants.  Further, we are embracing the online environment as a chance to build our own skills and to experiment. In this way, we can model learning, growth, and most of all the freedom to make mistakes! 

YDEKC will be offering a three-part Training of School-Community Partnership Trainers in May and June. While we had originally conceived of this as an in-person opportunity, COVID-19 will move us online. While this would not have been our first choice, we are embracing the opportunity to practice putting online learning principles into action. We are also hopeful that this crisis will help us to overcome longstanding geographic barriers and better serve our members and partners across King County in the future.