Amy Potthast | Instructional Coach & Designer | Learning Design Studios

This past weekend, when my grad school cohort met for our Instructional Strategies for Adult Learners course, our professor asked us to reflect on one of our best and one of our worst experiences as facilitator.

Interestingly, the good experiences I thought of often had a corresponding bad one.

For example, a social networking training I did for national service program staff worked well partly because I was very aware of who was in the room. I had done a survey ahead of time, and had a very clear sense of what kind of experiences my participants had had with online social networks, and a vivid picture of what they wanted to learn in the workshop.

However for another social networking workshop I offered, I didn’t send out a survey to participants ahead of time. The event organizer asked me to speak about how to use social networks to recruit new volunteers.  Instead of doing a survey, I asked the event organizer whether I should focus my hour-long session on introducing the social network sites themselves — or whether I could focus entirely on volunteer recruitment through the sites.

She assured me that the crowd was young and that they all were digital natives. “Just focus on volunteer recruitment,” I was told.

So I prepared a workshop on recruiting volunteers using Facebook, Twitter, blogging, and Youtube — without planning presentation slides that showed the basics of each site. Big mistake. The participants were young-ish — most were under 30. But half did not use Facebook, and only two had ever used Twitter.

Fortunately, I could get online in the training room, and jump out of my presentation to walk participants through the basics of the sites themselves. But I still had to “dance” a bit — and felt flustered, time-crunched, and less effective than if I had just sent them a survey ahead of time and asked what they knew.

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