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Siobhan's DN: In pursuit of collaboration, and the drive to inform!

3 April 2014

Cloud created by:

Siobhan Duvigneau
5 April 2014

Title: In pursuit of collaboration, and the drive to inform!


This design narrative captures the observations of a learning designer who attended an online learning event aimed at researchers and communications' professionals. The event aimed to share knowledge about how to develop strategic commications plans, and offered participants the opportunity to share and comment on each other's approaches. The role of the learning designer at the event was to observe the process of learning, and to work with a translation team to create a recording of the event in English.

Describe the physical, social and intentional factors that define the design space. E.g. where and when did this occur? In what kind of space? Who were the key actors, and what were the relations between them? What where the beliefs and desires which shaped their interaction?

The event took place on April, 2014. The facilitation team used GoToWebinar to host the event, and Skype / Pamela for Skype to create a podcast of the proceedings. The team consisted of a presenter from Argentina and two logistical support personnel, one in Peru and the other in the UK . The Peruvian team member introduced the event and ensured participants were able to connect to the platform. The UK team member worked with a translator to record the event using Skype. The UK team member is a qualified teacher, and familiar with the use of technology to support learning online. The Latin American team are adequately familiar with the tools for online engagment and learning but are sceptical of the benefits of learning in this way. Their experience relates to scholarly research and programme management. This design narrative relates to a second webinar run by the faciliation team. In discussions about how to improve the subsequent webinars, the Latin American team were reluctant to try suggestions, offered by the UK team member, to improve the learning experience by designing activities for increased collaboration. Their attitude centred on the use of technology as a barrier, and asserted that technology-based learning proved difficult in their context. Due to connectivity issues (i.e. low bandwidth) the participants could not participate using voice, but instead used text based contributions. All team members are working on a project aimed at mobilising the capacity of think tanks in Latin America to influence public policy through their research activities.

The facilitation team had developed a system for capturing the audio in English. This involved using Pamela for Skype to record the event. The microphone was switched off during recording to avoid any background noise interrupting the translation. The UK team recorded the audio using a laptop and viewed the GoToWebinar presentations on their PC. Again, the audio was switched off (i.e the speaker). The voice facility was disabled due to connectivity issues therefore none of the participants were able to use this feature.

What were you trying to achieve? What was your measure of success?

The purpose of the second webinar was to provide a space for the participants to share experiences and learn from each other about approaches to developing a strategic policy engagement and communication strategy. The first webinar covered the theoretical framework and concepts (e.g. complexity theory and its impact on policy formulation), so the second webinar's measure of success was to provide a space for practical application of the concepts covered in the primary event. This would be measured by the quality of interaction between participants, and their responses to three broad and relevant stimulating questions. The webinar lasted 1.5 hours.


List the actions you took in chronological order, note their effects – expected and unexpected. Highlight any obstacles you encountered, and explain how you tried to overcome them.

20 mins (Introduction to the event, introducing topic and the presenter) - slide 1

40 mins (presenter leads on main topic of presentation. Covers aspects such as complexity theory - linking to the previous webinar - and how this impacts on the policy environment. Highights the problems of having a rigid strategic plan, in a complex environment and the advantages of being systematic but fluid in the design process. This activity seemed to cover ground already captured in the first webinar, and was viewed by an observer as boring. The tone and talking speed of the presenter made it difficult for the translator to work. Received a message saying, 'the speaker is very difficult to follow and this is posing a challenge'. The skype connection is lost once but reconnects automatically).

20 mins (Group discussions commence. The speaker post three questions sequentially. The participants were slow to respond to the first question but gathered momentum when the speaker encouraged them to participate. One or two participants shared examples of good practice from their institutions, these were listened to but not commented on by the participants (note they could only comment using text). Limited opportunity for questions and answers between each 'case study'. The second and third question were posed and the group began to participate more. Some participants lost connection to the platform, reconnectivity was managed by the Peruvian team member. There were several moments of silence as participants took their time to respond to the questions.

15 mins (the faciliation team in Latin America begin to close the event, participants are offered 15 mins additional time to exchange ideas and continue their conversations through the chat feature. The event closes with an apology about the technology and a comment about the challenges of learning in technology-based environments. There is a lot of activity now in the chat pane, participants are asking questions and commenting with each other. The presenter is also engaged in these conversations. The translator comments on the challenges of translating the speaker (too fast and occassionally incomplete sentences), and requests resources in advance to help him understand the concepts better). 


List the expected and unexpected outcomes of your actions. To what degree did you meet your objectives? What additional outcomes did you engender? Provide evidence to back your claims.

  • Participants were surveyed directly after the event, however analyses has yet to be undertaken therefore the outcome of the event is currently unknown. 
  • Final 30 minutes of the webinar were moderately interactive. The additional 15 mins saw a rise in interaction and engagment
  • The facilitation team successfully created a podcast of the event in English (i.e. simultaneous translation)
  • Moderate opportunities to share experiences, this objective will have to be addressed through additional activities / learning events
  • An unexpected outcome was the amount of time the speaker presented 'theory' to the group, especially as this was designed as a participatory event


Reflect on your experience. What transferable insights did you gain?

  • Learning online has a negative perception, especially amongst professionals who are not familiar with the technology or 'afriad' to be innovative. This will require additional support from the UK team to increase their confidence and exposure to technology-based models of learning. 
  • A back-ground logisitical support is absolutely essential to maintain the flow of proceedings, and to address issues with the technology as they arise. 
  • The speaker was reluctant to engage with the learning designer to work through ideas for 'innovating' the learning experience. Usually, a speaker is expected to provide a lesson plan or running schedule to the UK team for review. This did not happen. Therefore, it is important in future events that the UK team emphasise the benefits of seeking advice and consultation on the plans.
  • Having a good translator who is able to work without prior knowledge of the subject, and challenging speakers is critical but not easy to find. In this case, the translator was hired as a 'test pilot' as previous attempts to record simultaneous translation had not worked. In succeeding events, the translator must have the materials in advance, and a pre-briefing from the speaker / trainer.


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