Four new Technology of Participation (ToP) online training courses launched this past month, a major milestone in a months-long journey to translate the facilitation methods authentically to the virtual world. We're proud to offer a small selection of courses available now--ToP Facilitation Methods (TFM) Online, ToP Strategic Planning (TSP) Online, Shift Happens: Design Principles for a Virtual World, and Action Planning Practice Lab on Miro. All the online courses are designed to train participants to apply ToP facilitation skills virtually.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ICA and ToP Trainers entered into a four month “grace period” from April through July. During this period, Trainers were encouraged to freely experiment with training ToP methods virtually, allowing them to move beyond the core curriculum of the 13 in-person courses. Across those four months, more than 40 Trainers and collaborators collectively ran over 125 virtual training sessions, including tutorials on tech platforms (such as Zoom), workshops on running effective online meetings, bootcamps on virtual facilitation skills, and more. While Zoom and Google were by far the most popular, facilitators used at least 16 different virtual platforms to deliver ToP methods.
Throughout the grace period, ICA promoted these offerings to ToP course graduates across the United States. Meanwhile, Trainers formed three working groups with aims to support peer-learning around technical skills for virtual facilitation, share approaches that work and bolster the development of new virtual course offerings, and develop a model for virtually training the core courses.
In late July, ICA staff and ToP Trainers met to review the accomplishments of the past four months and envision the future of ToP training. While Trainers shared that they were forced out of their comfort zones by the steep learning curve of virtual platforms and other technologies, they were proud of the mutual support and collaboration among colleagues and the speed with which they transitioned to virtual facilitation.
By that meeting, three online ToP courses had been developed and piloted by trainer teams and an additional five courses had been entered the formal co-creation process. For a course to become an official ToP training, it must go through a five stage vetting process. First, the creator must formally declare their intent to develop a course. Then they are assigned a liaison from the Curriculum Team, who helps them leverage the ToP community and find at least two co-creators. The team then develops the content and hosts a pilot run. The course is refined based on the findings of the pilot and submitted for final approval. The whole process is designed to foster innovation and collaboration among the Curriculum Team, ToP Trainers, and ICA.
The four newly launched courses include both online versions of classic courses and fresh courses with completely new material. The foundational course, ToP Facilitation Methods (TFM), was developed by a team of 15 Trainers, while another team of six worked to bring the ToP Strategic Planning (TSP) course online.
Two brand new courses are now available. Shift Happens: Design Principles for a Virtual World applies the image shift theory taught in the in-person Designing for Change course to a two-part course focused on planning and leading effective virtual meetings. Action Planning Practice Lab on Miro is focuses on facilitating the ToP action planning process using virtual tools such as Miro.
More courses are already moving through the vetting process. If the creativity in the ToP community during the past four months is any indication, there is an abundance of innovative new offerings on the horizon.