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Share Collaborate Learn Facilitating Distributed Groups Communities of Practice are likely to include members who are geographically dispersed. Most CoPs will flourish if there is a combination of face-to-face and asynchronous work sessions. While you should aim for a face-to-face meeting with some of the community’s membership at least once per year, groups that are geographically distributed can be just as creative as face-to-face groups. i This may be because there is a greater potential for some degree of anonymity and members have more time to reflect on ideas. The facilitator's role becomes more important in distributed groups. Facilitators typically use a variety of tools to connect group members, including e-mail, listservs, message boards, wikis, blogs, podcasts, collaboration sites, and virtual meeting software for group tasks, interaction, and decision-making. ii In a PHIN CoP, facilitators will likely be required to promote connections between members in an online environment. iii Facilitating Distributed Group Meetings Meetings with distributed groups require the same careful planning and facilitation as face- to-face meetings. Keeping the group on-task during and after the meeting can be accomplished by ensuring there are clear ground rules, and the facilitator accomplishes particular tasks before, during, and after the meeting or event. Ground Rules At the beginning of the CoP meeting, establish ground rules to generate a respectful, collaborative environment for discussion. The community leader or facilitator should state the rules up front and get agreement from the group about the ground rules prior to the start of the meeting. Sample ground rules can include the following: 2 Participate actively. The CoP meeting is an opportunity to learn and collaborate with other community members. Participation allows the CoP members to get the most out of the meeting. Start and finish meetings on time. Facilitators and SMEs can work together to keep the meetings on schedule. Prompt beginning and ending times are respectful of everyone’s time. Listen to and respect all opinions. Participants are encouraged to discuss different ideas to encourage collaboration and learning about subjects from different points of view. Take turns speaking. Participants should identify themselves when speaking and not interrupt fellow speakers. Synchronous Facilitation Communication can happen synchronously or asynchronously. Direct communication, where all parties involved in the communication are present at the same time (an event), is a form of synchronous communication. Community leaders or facilitators can use chat rooms, conference calls, and web and videoconferencing software to maximize communication among CoP members during synchronous events. 2, iv Before the meeting: Distribute materials in advance. Agendas and other materials should be distributed prior to the meeting.
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  • Spring '14
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