FAQ Editor: George Pór
Most of the roles and responsibilities described in this FAQ are part of a new kind of work with no ready-made job-descriptions.
The responses are definitely not definitive; they will change as our understanding of the requirements for effectively facilitating virtual communities will deepen through the feedback from, and collaboration with facilitators reading and contributing to this FAQ.
Facilitate = make easy, promote, help forward action or result. (Oxford Dictionary)
Online facilitators or hosts are the primary enablers of any virtual community.It is their enthusiasm and attention to the participants challenges in communicating and collaborating in cyberspace, that can make or brake fledgling online communities. Without their efforts "it is difficult to build momentum, maintain the flow and generate the activity that will help to ensure return visits." (Denham Grey)
Developing competence in facilitating the electronic meeting of minds that takes place in forums is a must in companies that want to turn the web tools and methods of coordination into a strategic advantage to achieve breakthrough results.
The number of required facilitative functions is raising along the following continuum: Communities of interest (hobby groups) --> communities of practice (professional communities) --> communities of commitment (teams, taskforces, work groups).
- Responsibilities outlined under the following roles can be assumed by one or a few individuals in small virtual communities.
- In larger communities, they are divided among the participants of the facilitation team.
- Participates in the administration of the server
- Contributes suggestions and implements software-related measures for maximizing uptime
- Maintains software integrity and forum security
- Provides other participants of the facilitation team and users with technical support
- Implements access privileges
- Issues or confirms user names and passwords in password-protected forums
- Forum Convener, sometimes also called chairperson, is a function of someone who has a major stake in the forums outcome(s), typically performed in task-oriented virtual communities.
- Optimizes the community's structure and design to help it meet its purpose
- Using the appropriate combination of groupware features, designs virtual spaces to meet specific community functions
- Drafts guidelines for forum community norms ("community covenant")
- Writes and edits user agreements
- Designs the structure of initial topics
- Seeds topics with context-setting materials
- Designs strategy and mechanisms for collecting and incorporating feedback from participants
The moderator, also called "host" or "organizer":
- Participates in the preliminary planning of the forum with the sysadmin, convener, and community architect
- Welcomes and acknowledges participants
- Stimulates participation and sustains interest
- Facilitates a healthy group dynamics conducive to higher quality contributions and achieving objectives in task-oriented forums
- Keeps the conversation focused on the purpose of the forum
- Provides pointers to sources of user support
- Models behaviors of effective communication and collaboration
- Provides closure: in task-oriented forums, s/he declares the forum or any topics of it closed, when its function is complete
The Content Facilitator, in some communities also called "learning guide" or "knowledge gardener":
- Seeds, feeds, and weeds the forum topics to trigger and maintain productive dialogues
- Introduces issue(s) and materials for discussion, provides additional information, ideas
- Provides ongoing editing to enhance the usefulness of content
- "Weaves" conversations -- highlights patterns of emerging meaning, solutions, or consensus, by pointing out relationships among ideas and information expressed and setting hypertext links between them
- Asks questions for consideration
- Synthesizes key points and themes
- Asks and inspires forum participants to help with all of the tasks above
The cybrarian helps users overcome information overload, navigate the forums,and access or receive the information when they need it and how they need it.She or he:
- Maintains forum indices
- Writes conversation summaries
- Creates and updates dynamic maps of forum topics and threads
- Decides how should forums, topics, and messages be linked to corresponding libraries on the community's website
- Archives/compacts forum according to agreed on forum norms
- Suggests filters, priority flags, and hot spots
- Compiles list of links pointing to off-forum resources relevant to specific forums
Please send your suggestions for changes and additions to George Pór.
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