Generating and sustaining momentum in an online professional development course
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Generating and Sustaining Momentum in an Online Professional Development Course. Why Momentum? What we Know and What we will Learn. What We Know: Communication is the key! The “What’s in it for me?” factor opens the door.

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Generating and Sustaining Momentum in an Online Professional Development Course

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Generating and Sustaining Momentum in an Online Professional Development Course

Why Momentum?What we Know and What we will Learn

What We Know:

Communication is the key! The “What’s in it for me?” factor opens the door.

  • Communication is the key to generating an effective online community. We also know that motivation is created when the community has a clear purpose and benefit for the participant.

  • As a course developer and eventual facilitator, you will be given the task of using the communication tools available to you to build and maintain the momentum for an effective online community. This presentation provides an overview of strategies for generating and sustaining momentum throughout the online experience.

What We Will Learn:

Momentum sustains a community.

How Momentum?The Momentum Theory

  • For more than 10 years CTE has been studying online communities. Gaining momentum in a community is critical to its success. Through our research we have determined that the elements of both member engagement and critical thinking on the part of the members gives traction to a community. Traction is needed to build community and new knowledge; and over time, the traction of a community moving forward yields “ the big M,” Momentum!

    Think of a community like a vehicle and the idea of momentum becomes clear…

  • The wheels of the vehicle (the members ) are what engage on the ground.

  • The ignition (critical thinking on the part of members) begins turning the wheels.

  • The turning of the wheels and their engagement on the ground gives the vehicle (the community) traction to move forward.

  • Moving forward through over time gives the vehicle (the community) true momentum.

How Momentum?

Generate and Sustain Momentum through Member Engagement

Generate and Sustain Momentum Member Engagement Through Critical Thinking

Using Traction to Your Benefit to Help to Maintain Momentum


Generate and Sustain Momentum through Member Engagement

EngagementEstablish a clear Rhythm and Cycle of Instruction

The first step in member engagement is to establish Rhythms and Cycles

Rhythms and Cyclesrefer to the way that the structures of content, activities, and interaction are designed to promote appropriate pacing, engagement, and momentum in an online learning initiative.

How can I establish a clear rhythm and cycle of instruction through the

development of an online PD initiative?

  • Schedule chats for the same days of the week

  • Have “sessions” that run on a consistent cycle of time (i.e., a weekly cycle)

  • Start a new major topic each week

  • When designing weekly directions- follow the same routine when possible (i.e., content reading in the beginning of the week, team evaluations, etc.)

  • Plan for individual, team and group activities in each week

  • Use a variety of content delivery methods

EngagementCreate Rhythms and Cycles

Course developers effectively create rhythms and

cycles online by:

1. Starting a course offering with a BANG!

2. Balancing synchronous and asynchronous activities

3. Offering 3-D activities

4. Balancing Consistency and Innovation

Create Rhythms and CyclesStart with a BANG!

2. Create Rhythms and Cycles Balance Synchronous and Asynchronous Activities

Provide consistent, structured interactions via synchronous communication like online chats and asynchronous communication like discussion forums

Balancing their use of communication tools will keep things interesting in your community and the tools will support a diversity of activities – thus offering members varied ways of receiving and processing content.

  • Reinforce participants’ feelings of ‘membership’ within your community by valuing both chat and discussion contributions; each individual should feel connected to the larger whole group.

  • Stay flexible in chat and discussion forum activities by providing opportunities to extend discussions when needed.

3. Create Rhythms and CyclesOffer 3-D Activities

Each member has a 3-D persona in the ELC, so you must offer activities

in 3-D as well. It is essential to include a balance of activities for:

  • Individuals

  • Teams (or Groups)

  • The Whole Community

  • Examples of 3-D Activities include:

    • Individual: 1:1 private discussion threads between the facilitator and each member to discuss personal professional development goals, IM’ing other members in an effort to get to know new people, persona building exercises, personal reflections

    • Teams: private brainstorming chats, goal setting via discussion threads, private bulletin board announcements, team reflections

    • Whole Community: public chats with experts, discussion threads to stay connected about specific topics, public bulletin board announcements

4. Create Rhythms and CyclesBalance Consistency and Innovation

  • The challenge when building rhythms and cycles is to create a consistentbut not necessarily predictable structure.

  • Use diverse methods of delivering content to add necessary traction to your community through innovation.

  • Members may expect you to delivery content weekly, monthly or quarterly (based on your protocols), but they shouldn’t be able to predict how you will do it.

Consistency keeps members in sync.

Innovation, keeps members coming back.

4. Create Rhythms and Cycles (Content)Balance Consistency and Innovation

  • Consider the best way to deliver your content

  • Use a variety of content delivery methods

  • Integrate the content with activities and interaction

  • Ensure that content topics flow from week to week

  • Link content topics by building on previous week’s activities and discussions

  • Begin with the basics and then move to more advanced content topics

  • Customize your content for the needs of your audience


4. Create Rhythms and Cycles (Activities)Balance Consistency and Innovation

  • Use a balance of individual, team, and whole group activities weekly

  • Structure activities to build up to final project

  • Employ a balance of investigation activities, projects, and content

  • Integrate the activities with interaction

  • Incorporate ongoing reflection

  • Activities should vary in length and intensity

4. Create Rhythms and Cycles (Examples)Balance Consistency and Innovation

Examples of diverse content delivery methods are:

  • A chat with an expert

  • A virtual fieldtrip -- to a place on the Web

  • A video or audio clip

  • A discussion thread between

    members about their experiences

  • A PowerPoint Presentation

    that pulls together a variety of


Examples of diverse activities are:

  • A debate

  • A team-facilitated chat

  • A jigsaw activity

  • A simulation

  • An expert panel

  • Peer review


Generate and Sustain Momentum Member Engagement Through Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking

When Planning for Critical Thinking, think


1. Where does Critical Thinking Take Place?

2. Preparing for a Chat

3. Preparing for Discussion

When Planning for Critical Thinking, think about:Where does Critical Thinking Take Place?

Where does Critical Thinking Take Place in an Online Environment?

  • Whenever a person is deconstructing knowledge in order to build onto it, critical thinking is taking place. This can certainly happen individually, but as a facilitator, you will want to foster it and see it happening throughout your community.

  • The best place to see evidence of group critical thinking is within the chat and discussion tools. The tools offer participants the opportunity to collaborate (synchronously or asynchronously) and archive a log of their group’s cognition.

  • When facilitating a course, the “chat log” is a key reference for the participants as they continue to build knowledge and is invaluable for you as a facilitator. You will refer to it as you reflect on and evaluate participants’ critical thinking processes as well as the sophistication of the content discussed.

2. When Planning for Critical Thinking, think about: Preparing for a Chat

In order to promote critical thinking in an online chat, you, as the course developer and facilitator, must be prepared.

We’ve done it for you!

CTE has a variety of tools and resources available to you including easy to follow, step by step instructions that clearly lay out what conditions need to be in place to have an effective online chat.

3. When Planning for Critical Thinking, think about:Preparing for a Discussion

Plan in Advance!

In order to plan for critical thinking in discussions,

Course developers should consider:

  • Instructional Objectives

  • Assessment

  • Class Size

  • Subject Matter

  • Time Allotment

  • Format of Discussion

  • Discussion Etiquette

Promote Critical Reflection

What is Reflection?

  • Reflection is more that “just thinking hard about what you do” (Bullough and Gitlin, 1995). Reflective practitioners give careful attention to their experiences and how meaning is made and justified. They analyze the influence of context and how it shapes human behavior.

  • The reflective process includes the recognition of educational dilemmas, the identification of similarities to other situations as well as the unique qualities of a particular situation. A reflective practitioner frames and reframes the dilemma and experiments with various solutions and their implications. By examining the various consequences—both pros and cons—the reflective practitioner tests outcomes prior to implementation.

  • Reflection is a learned activity. In order to improve on any newly acquired skills or to refine existing skills—one must practice. Reflection is not an innate skill possessed by all those in the teaching profession nor is it uniformly achieved

Promote Critical Reflection

Activities can be used to promote critical reflection:

  • Guiding Questions: Provide guiding questions with content presentations

  • Think-Abouts: Use think-about questions through activities

  • Templates: Use templates to guide individual activities

Promote Critical Reflection –Through Communication

Communication tools can be used to promote

Critical Reflection:

  • Use the Individual Reflection Forums: Each participant is provided an individual discussion forum with permissions set for just the participant and facilitator. This is a forum for reflection on learning with respect to the goals of the course. The facilitator monitors this forum and provides individualized coaching, feedback, and support through the learning process.

  • Provide synthesis statements: Synthesize discussions and generate new questions based on learning outcomes

  • Application: Encourage participants to apply concepts to their work setting

  • Voice: Use of different “voices” to encourage participants to see other points of view

  • Experience: Have participants draw from past experiences and apply to new concepts

  • Philosophy: Have participants articulate their philosophy and values of the topic

Promote Critical Reflection – Through Feedback

Feedback can be used to promote critical reflection:

  • Rubrics: Rubrics can be used for participant self-assessment and facilitator assessment. Constructive feedback can be provided, in narrative form, by the facilitator.

  • Peer review: Provide opportunities and guidelines for peer review

  • Individual Contributions: Allow participants to assess individual contributions through the learning experience.

  • Support: Support participants as they implement strategies learned. Use the individual reflection forum and emails, where appropriate, to provide ongoing feedback and support.


Using Traction to Your Benefit to Help to Maintain Momentum

Boosting Traction

Engagement + Critical Thinking = Traction

  • Solid rhythms and cycles as well as sophisticated techniques used to facilitate higher level thinking gives community members a reason to return again and again to a community. However not noted in the equation, is a facilitation element that can truly boost a community’s traction – humor.

  • As you set a positive tone in your community, embrace any and all opportunities for humor. Depending on your members and goals of the community your opportunities for appropriate humor will vary obviously, but embrace them as they come. Humor adds humanity to your online community and illustrates that this is place for learning and camaraderie. Perhaps most importantly, it shows members the leaders of this community understand that part of true knowledge building is making mistakes and finding what doesn’t work – and that laughter can catapult us over even the largest of those hurdles.


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    DLRN-J: The Electronic Journal 2(2). Retrieved from

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    Retrieved from

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