In the above infographic, I list my top 5 tips/strategies for effective online facilitation. These past few weeks I have considered what good facilitation in general means and have found that while there are some similarities between face-to-face facilitation and online facilitation, there are a number of considerations that must be made for an online environment. I will now outline my top 5 tips/strategies, which while important for any good facilitation, are especially important in an online environment.
The first tip is knowing and teaching to the audience. This is important in any environment, but the online setting can be a greater divide which can make creating connections difficult. A facilitator should know as much as they can about the learner to be able to adapt to learner needs. Bull (2013) describes this role as ‘big brother’, as it can be necessary to make sure that learners are getting the most of their learning experience.
The second tip is being available and accessible. Availability can be hard to define without physical presence. Going up to a facilitator in a face-to-face setting is straight-forward, but contacting an online facilitator can be more difficult. Therefore a facilitator should clearly lay out their availability and show that they are present. By posting or emailing, a facilitator can show learners that they are around even without physical presence (Boettcher, 2013).
The third tip is having clear expectations and instructions. Even if a facilitator is fully accessible and available, learners need clear instructions and know what is expected of them. The structure of a course or presentation needs to be clear and relevant as context could be lost in an online environment (Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2018).
The fourth tip is being confident in your expertise and encouraging varying opinions. As a facilitator, you are the expert who guides the learners through the subject matter. Learners will be looking for confidence in the grasp of knowledge which can reassure the learner that they are in good hands. The other aspect of this role is to make sure that you are not intimidating the learner and be able to allow them to voice their thoughts and opinions even if they may be against the general thought. This is a balance between being the roles of ‘tour guide’, ‘learning coach’, and ‘valve control’ as coined by Bull (2013).
The final tip is using different mediums to present information. This tip is most relevant in an online environment, because motivation and keeping learners engaged can be a challenge. More activities that encourage interaction and reflections can create a community where there is inquiry learning that is full of peer support (Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes, & Garrison, 2013).
Boettcher, J. V. (2013). Ten Best Practices for Teaching Online.
Bull, B. (2013). Eight Roles of an Effective Online Teacher. Faculty Focus.
Dunlap, J. C., & Lowenthal, P. R. (2018). Online educators’ recommendations for teaching online: Crowdsourcing in action. Open Praxis, 10(1), 79–89.
Vaughan, N. D., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry. Athabasca University Press. Chapter 3: Facilitation (pp. 45-61).