EcoEng Newsletter No. 11, October 2005

myNetworks for sustainable solutions

A web-based communication platform supports learning activities

Content No. 11/05
Title page / Index
From the editors
Faces: H.v.Bohemen
Review: EE Book
Overview, Etnier
Kirk et al.
Composting (ch. 4)
Fecal composting
Policy Finl, Mattila
Desert infrastruct.
Writers' Fund
Ecosan Durban 05
Good bye T. Rohrer
Various issues:
Joe's Corner
Mailing list

By Daniel Roduner

Swiss Centre for Agricultural Extension and Rural Development (LBL)
Department for International Cooperation
Eschikon 28
8315 Lindau (Switzerland)

Daniel Roduner is an economist and collaborates with LBL, Switzerland (Swiss Centre for Agricultural Extension and Rural Development, Lindau) as a consultant / facilitator ( His article is re-published with permission.


About myNetworks


The team of seecon gmbh, armadillo-media gmbh and The Network University of Amsterdam developed a web-environment which is specifically designed for linking community building and e-learning activities. This platform, formerly designed for the exchange of experiences and for training courses in Ecological Engineering, offers all classic spaces for web based interaction.

myNetworks can be used in different ways, (a) as a thematic platform for distant coaching and e-learning as well as (b) for the development of any interacting community.

As a thematic platform, it provides specific information and coaching services to a community on a well-designed internet-platform. The target group consists therefore of professionals and practitioners who are looking for solid information and know-how about sustainable solutions, especially in the field of environmental questions.

For the development of interacting communities, myNetworks offers several spaces the web-platform for different kinds of interactions, plus assistance in using them.


A static website and interactive communication


The web-environment offers a wide range of information and links in the field of sustainable (environmental) solutions. The interactive spaces of the web-site relate to community building and e-learning activities. The user may read through already posted information, or upload his/her own studies, analysis, insights, etc. However, the platform turns out really interesting, by visiting the discussion spaces offered. Leaving the static part behind (or in this case: leaving it in the upper and left-side menu bar) we enter the community space, where we find real-time chat possibilities, quick-messages for other members that are currently on-line and discussion rooms where we (re)-join an ongoing debate whenever we want. MyNetworks therefore supports the use of static information (including its own library), a-synchronic on-line discussions and real-time chats.


Service for e-learning


Facilitation, support, and coaching are crucial for e-learning. MyNetworks" e-learning environment proposes a whole set of tools and methodological approaches to overcome constraints that training-courses always face; i.e. participants loosing interest; their differing needs or motivations.

Therefore the moderator has the task to inspire, to animate, to motivate and to support the on-line participants. Members risk disappearing or getting lost during an on-line initiative, and it's the moderator's task to find out whether someone is just a lurker and fine with that or if the participant needs individual support.


A training in e-moderation


The moderation of courses, training, exchange-platforms, or other events on the internet is a new task which requires specific facilitation skills, as well as methodological knowledge and specific technical and social skills.

In January 2005, SDC (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation) in cooperation with LBL (the Swiss Centre for Agricultural Extension and Rural Development, Lindau), offered an online training in e-moderation, using the myNetworks platform. After a kick-off meeting held face-to-face, the participants learned to organize themselves through an on-line forum. The parallel real-time meeting in an interactive chat-room helps sorting out the most relevant problems and obstacles the participants face. Step by step and following an especially elaborated learning path with synchronic and a-synchronic collaboration patterns, the participants are guided through weekly exercises which increase in complexity and coordination skills.

Finally and when organizing and moderating for the first time an on-line task-force, or a story writing group, or an expert brainstorming, the participants feel what it really takes to e-moderate.


One tool, different ways of interacting and learning

Working spaces on myNetworks Interaction pattern Learning focus / Best suited for Tips / Do's and don'ts
News board A-synchronic & non active interaction

News is posted only by moderators; users have to check constantly to find news.

Information transfer

Information about ongoing or upcoming events.

Use the news board only for important messages. Post only one "news" a week. Try to announce upcoming news through other channels.
Library, private bookshelf

A-synchronic & non active interaction

Books, reviews, articles etc. are made available; users are supported with a search engine to find most relevant publications.

Knowledge transfer

Background and thematic information.

Post most relevant publication and eliminate out-dated information regularly. All users are very thankful for short summaries.
Discussion forum

A-synchronic but active interaction

All forum-members post their contributions into discussion-threads.

Learning through sharing

Joint learning through sharing and debating experiences, ideas and questions.

A discussion forum needs an e-moderator with facilitation skills and methodology, technical skills and social skills. It is best suited for exchanging and creating knowledge and ideas.
Chat room

Synchronic and active interaction

Real-time discussions between chat members.

Brainstorming and decision making

Quick developing of ideas; process related questions are discussed and agreed.

Chats with more than 6 to 8 members tend to be inefficient. Organize and agree following issues: content, expected results, timeframe and the participation-method.

It is not suited for thematic discussions.

Instant messages

Synchronic and active interaction

Members write quick messages directly to an other member.

Instant help-line and lobbying

Quick messages allow members to communicate out-of-sight of other members.

"Backchannel" messages allow members to interact without disturbing the group-process; but it can also undermine a whole group-work!

Lessons learned: Learning is done through interactivity

  • It's the service which makes the difference! Facilitation, support, and coaching for e-learning activities are crucial.
  • Interactivity of the e-learning activities is provided by a strong and qualified moderation and not by fancy animated programming.
  • Learning is fostered through a clearly structured and motivating e-learning environment.
  • Joint activities and on-time contacts (for example chats) are important motivation tools.
  • On-line learning needs common objectives and a strong commitment of all participants.

Do you want to see what myNetworks looks like? Or do you need support for implementing an online debate or course?

  • Have a look at the web-environment, get general information and find contacts on:
  • Contact the community managers A. Schoenborn or M. Pereira:
  • All documents can be found under the following address:
  • If you need support for moderating an on-line event (community of practice, training, experience exchange, etc.) contact Gabriela Renggli or Daniel Roduner at LBL or visit the website

© 2005, International Ecological Engineering Society, Wolhusen, Switzerland