Organizing an online paja – Check-in list
Kirjoittanut: Vilma Pekkala - tiimistä Ei tiimiä.
It was very early in the morning and I went through my check in list. Everything should be ready for the paja, which is starting in 15 minutes. The paja I had wasn’t my first paja, class or workshop I hosted, but it was the first I worked as a facilitator role in an online environment.
I hosted a paja about social marketing and invited a visitor to tell more about the topic. So my role was clear to organize everything and make sure that everything works well. I don’t think it was hard, but I think that it was necessary to have a check-in list and prepare well for that role too. Without a well organized system and time planning, the whole four hours would be a messy combination of topics, which is pretty new for many of us. And not only us, also for the visitor who has planned the content of the paja and is professional of the topic.
I want to share my check-in list with all who will organise online paja, workshops or classes in the future.
Check-in list for online workshops or classes:
Choose the topic
In my opinion the topic of choosing is one of the most important parts of hosting a paja or workshop. In the topic choosing process, it’s important to think for who this topic is and understand the knowledge level through it. Also, to keep the topic clear and specific enough.
In the online environment, it is even maybe more important to remember to have activating tasks or questions during the way as well as enough breaks. I can already confirm that the last one didn’t happen that well in the paja I organized.
Save the date and time
Selecting the time and date and not only selecting it, but also informing it to all the participants. What happens, when it happens and where it happens.
Make the plan and time schedule with the visitor
I had three meetings with the visitor beforehand. In the first meeting, we went through the topic together. I think it is important to know it is coming as well as I made sure that we have enough breaks as well as group task activities during the paja. In the first meeting I also informed the visitor that how many participants will be, what are the basic norms and rules in ProAkatemia as well as what they know about the topic beforehand.
In the second meeting, we went through the time schedule, zoom-link, date and other basic info about the paja. I feel it is important to keep a connection with the visitor and keep the visitor well updated on the way.
The third and the last meeting we had a day before the paja. We went through the latest updates and I made sure that the visitor had everything he needed. The last contact with him happened in the morning just before the paja by telling him that I will open the video call very soon and making sure that he is ready.
Make a link
I made the link two days before the meeting. I think it is important to make a link in the channel, which is easy to use for everybody and the visitor has easy access to the call. That was the reason we selected Zoom as a platform for the class.
With the link, I double checked the date, time and access. I also sent the link to other people to check that it really works and the date information looks right. After that I wrote an information post for all the participants and shared the basic infos as well as the link. I also added the link on my own notes, in case I need to find it fast.
In the online paja the wifi connection, good light, camera and microphone matter. I tested all these equipment beforehand and made sure the environment I am in is quiet enough as well as everything is working. With non-working equipments or unstable environment it is very hard to organise the session.
Before the online paja
Just before the online paja started I did the last minute check-ins. I checked that I have the computer charger and the mic as well as camera work. I picked up a glass of water nearby and muted my phone.
In my computer, I opened What’s App application to see if someone have something to ask from me and put all the other notifications down. Then I was ready to start the video call five minutes before the starting time. I wanted to give some time to people to get in to the call, as well as having a little bit of small talk before we started. Starting the paja five minutes beforehand also gave me a little time to react if there would be some problems in the way.
Check in questions
We started the paja in the right time. I wanted to have check in questions in the start because of three different reasons. First, it was very early in the morning, so it was also a way to wake up. Secondly, I wanted to give everybody a chance to speak as well as the visitor to get a big overall picture of who is here and who they are. And thirdly, we used 15 minutes for it. During those fifteen minutes people still got in, so it was also the way to make sure that everybody was on the video call, when the visitor starts the presentation.
Put the visitor in the spotlight and keep the chat box open
When the visitor started speaking, I put him in the spotlight for everyone to make sure that the video stays big for all of us. I also gave the access to be co-host for the visitor as well as the coach who was with us in the paja. And then I opened a chat box in the Zoom as well as in What’s up to make sure that I’m able to react if someone has something to ask or comment.
Before this paja, I hadn’t any experience organizing participants in the breakout rooms. Before the paja I watched YouTube video instructions of that as well as checked the system in the practice room in the zoom. Some of the participants were in the same space, so I asked the list of them beforehand, to make sure that I can put them smoothly in the same room. While the visitor was speaking, I started to organize participants in different breakout rooms. So when the moment came to start the breakout rooms, I had them ready as well as I wrote them down in the chat box to make sure that everyone knows where to go as well as for me and the visitor to remember who are in the same room.
I watched this video before the paja to learn how to organize breakout rooms: https://youtu.be/6i-NA563Ojk (Kao, 2017)
Keep the time under the control
Personally to me the hardest part was managing the time. It’s hard to calculate how much time we need and how much we need. I forgot to count the breaks and we didn’t have proper break time in the last part of the paja.
It also felt very hard to stop people from talking and telling them that you have only this much time to use. I did it, but it still feels very hard and I felt the feeling of the rush, which I don’t like. That is something I would develop my organizing skills on the next time: how to make a feeling of peace and non rush in the paja?
Summarize the topic
In the end we summarized the topic. Because of the time, I decided to give each participant 5 minutes to write down the things they learned or which are on their mind. I would prefer to have dialogue about the topic, but in this case we didn’t have enough time for that.
Collect the feedback
I also wanted to give feedback for the visitor, so I asked everyone to write down their thoughts in the chat box. I would prefer the freeflow feedback, but since we didn’t have time for that I think the written chat box feedback worked pretty well. It was also nice that the written feedback stayed there in the chat box. I felt it important, because I think it is nice for the visitor as well as each of the participants to share their thoughts, ideas and feelings of the paja.
Make the visitor feeling good to leave the session
In the end, I ended the paja clearly. I said the last words and summarized quickly the previous hours. I also thanked all the participants and visitors for joining the paja. I like ending things clearly and I think it is even more important in the online environment since everyone is in different locations.
After all, I enjoyed the paja organizing role a lot. I learned new skills as well as my understable of how to be the facilitator increased. I think overall it went very well and I was well prepared in each sector and there weren’t any big obstacles in the way. Next time, I would like to develop my time management skills as well as to find out how to make sure that there is no feeling of the rush in the paja. The experience of organizing an online paja was very good also in the future. It seems that working in the online environment will make even bigger steps in the future and these are not ending. Learning and developing technical skills is also an investment for the future.
Kao, George. 2017. Zoom meeting: how to use (with example of a breakout group). YouTube. Watched 25.3.2022. Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6i-NA563Ojk
Picture: Julia M Cameron in Pexels