Facilitating Online Courses

For the past year I’ve been facilitating our Master eLearning Course while my colleague Ruth McElhone has been on maternity leave (she’s back now). I’ve found that facilitating in the online environment is quite different from classroom facilitation and as such has a number of unique characteristics and limitations. I’ve learnt (and continue to learn) a lot about online facilitation by actually doing it.

Here’s some reflections/tips/ideas from what Ruth taught me and from my own experience about what I’ve found works well at different stages of an online course:

Before the Online Course Starts

  1. Familiarise yourself with the course delivery structure and the site/platform.
  2. Develop an online delivery plan/schedule.
  3. Make sure your contact information is up to date.
  4. Provide clear log-in instructions to students.

 At the Beginning of the Online Course

  1. Contact students, welcome them to the course.
  2. Check that students can log-in, provide support and troubleshoot as needed.
  3. Facilitate introductions and community-building activities at beginning of the course e.g. have everyone introduce themselves in a forum.
  4. Set clear expectations.
  5. Confirm contact/turnaround times.
  6. Emphasise the importance of interactions and that online communication between participants is key to building community and contributes to the course outcomes, profiles, forums, chats etc.
  7. Encourage sharing of ideas and experiences.

 During the Online Course

  1. Be a positive online role model.
  2. Send some sort of meaningful weekly communication (I used email and a short weekly video) but don’t overwhelm students.
  3. Ideally respond to student’s communication quickly to resolve any difficulties/queries to ensure their learning is not interrupted e.g. phone calls, email, messaging, and forum posts.
  4. Be approachable and provide guidance and direction to students when needed.
  5. Personalise the experience for students as much as possible.
  6. Encourage online communication between students.
  7. Promote student independence/responsibility and student collaboration.
  8. Monitor student progress, participation in activities and completion of assessment tasks and follow-up as required.
  9. Provide informative developmental feedback.

After the Online Course Finishes

  1. Wrap-up the course, thank learners for their participation.
  2. Review learner feedback and make adjustments and improvements.
  3. Engage in your own self-reflection for improvement and consolidation.

What are your tips for successful online course facilitation? Let me know in the comments area below.

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