Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Tag: facilitation

online training skills
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Online training: sharpening your skills

Online education and training have been around for a long time. But over this past year, many of us have had the opportunity and necessity to experience online training like never before. This is also true for the training of missionaries getting ready to head to the field. Facilitating an online training session is inherently different from facilitating a training module face-to-face. Since online instruction is likely here to stay, those of us involved in training missionaries should continue to sharpen our skills for facilitating online. Here are some things we have learned in the past year that help promote an effective online learning environment.

Use a variety of methods

A good principle of education is to use a variety of different teaching methods. Doing so connects with the various learning styles of your learners. This principle also holds true online. Asynchronous courses with forum discussions have existed in online learning for over 10 years. Some learners will thrive in this kind of setting, particularly if they like to carefully think through their answers before responding. In an asynchronous environment, they can read books, blog posts, and watch videos, reflect on them, and then respond when they are ready in writing through forum posts.

More recently, video conference platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, and Teams have become popular ways to facilitate. In this setting, other types of learners will thrive. They have a set time to connect and a more immediate response in the discussion.

So, when you design an online curriculum, seek to cater to as many personalities and learning styles as possible. Maybe your training course can include both asynchronous forum discussions and some live video conference sessions as well.

Break the ice

It may feel natural to introduce yourself to a fellow learner or a facilitator in a physical classroom setting when you first walk into the room or during a class break. But this can feel much more awkward in a virtual setting when you enter a virtual “room” that is already “full” of people, and no one is in closer physical proximity to you than anyone else.

Is facilitating better than teaching for disciple-making?

Is facilitating better than teaching for disciple-making? In my opinion, both are essential for disciple-making. An online search on the difference between facilitators and teachers found the following:

Traditionally, teachers are the ones with knowledge and expertise in a particular field. They impart knowledge through a variety of means to their students. Facilitators build on the knowledge base of the group of students to find the answers to questions. Both methods of instruction serve a purpose and allow students the chance to grow.

Difference between Facilitators and Teachers

A Time for Teaching?

There is a lot of emphasis on coaching and facilitating in mission circles today. And rightly so – these are great tools! Teaching often does not get much space at the table though. It seems to escape everyone’s notice that those who advocate coaching and facilitating are in fact teaching.

Teaching is frequently caricatured as only interested in passing on information without much concern for life change. In all my education, I have never met that straw man! I never had a teacher or professor who was only interested in my mastering information. Yes, information was the primary focus of exams, but not exclusively. Even my high school Latin teacher sought to build character as we translated Caesar’s “Gallic Wars.” Throughout college and seminary, my faculty advisors ( and other profs) aimed to build character and a faithful lifestyle. Some were better than others, but all saw their role as developing the whole person. Maybe my education was unique, but I don’t think so. For 35 years, I taught at a Bible College, and none of my colleagues were satisfied with simply passing on information. Teaching gets a bad rap when it is portrayed as simply  passing along information.

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