Five Tips for Effective Online Facilitation

Teaching is a challenging and rewarding profession.  Teaching within online environments is uniquely challenging, given the remote and seemingly impersonal relationship between the educator and the student.  The infographic below was created to increase the educator’s effectiveness when facilitating their course(s) online.

Set Clear Expectations

By setting clear instructions and expectations for the students, the educator will help ensure the success and completion of the course objectives.  Additionally, these clear instructions and expectations will ensure the student does not get lost within the course content (Dunlap, 2018) which may prevent student frustration.  Instructions should include an explicit syllabus with detailed outcomes, expectations, assignments, and timelines (Vaughan, 2013).

Allow Students Freedom

Consider giving students the freedom of choice on all projects and assignments.  Does the course structure allow flexibility in grading weights?

Think outside the box!  What are the objectives of the project or assignment?  Can they be achieved in a creative or unique way?  To ensure success within the freedom of the project or assignment, the educator should be clear with instructions and expectations of the students regarding choice in activity, content, and assessments (Vaughan, 2013).

Build A Community

An online community within each course will help students feel connected with each other, with the educator, and help ensure completion of the course objectives.  As Bull (2013) outlined,   “without intentional efforts to build a positive social environment, online learning can feel lonely and impersonal.”  This feeling of isolation can lead to a lack of motivation in students.

It is recommended that the online course community includes academic and non-academic social interaction, for example, text-based discussion (e.g., discussion boards), text and photo-based bulletin boards (e.g., Nearpod or Padlet), or video clips with discussions (e.g., Flipgrid).

Support and Encourage

Educators are encouraged to discuss the possibility that students may experience significant role adjustment when learning online and provide an opportunity for students to outline any concerns about the online environment or the course (Vaughan, 2013).

Educators should model their expectations of the students.  For example, the educator would model how to share and interact in a discussion forum and provide exemplars of projects and other assignments (Dunlap, 2018).

Use Humour (Often)

Educators should not take themselves too seriously.  Online learning is difficult for the student and the educator.  Both will make mistakes during the course and need to be able to brush it off and return to the task at hand.  This may be much easier to do if the educator shows themselves as genuine with a sense of humour. Students have reported that they are more engaged when the teacher used humour in the classroom (Berk, 1998).

A larger version of the infographic as a PDF can be found here.

All images within the infographic by Pixabay.com and released under Creative Commons CC0 International License.

Concepts cultivated from the following sources:

Berk, R. (1998). Professors are from mars, students are from snickers: How to write and deliver humor in the classroom and in professional presentations. Madison, WI: Magna Publications

Boettcher, J. (2013). Ten Best Practices for Teaching Online Quick Guide for New Online faculty. Retrieved September 18, 2018, from http://www.designingforlearning.info/services/writing/ecoach/tenbest.html

Bull, B. (2013). Eight Roles of an Effective Online Teacher. Retrieved September 18, 2018, from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/eight-roles-of-an-effective-online-teacher

Dunlap, J. C., & Lowenthal, P. R. (2018). Online educators’ recommendations for teaching online: Crowdsourcing in action. Open Praxis10(1), 79–89. Retrieved September 18, 2018, from https://doi.org/10.5944/openpraxis.10.1.721

Edutopia. (2016). 4 Student Engagement Tips. Retrieved September 13, 2018, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/student-engagement-tips-from-student-harley-center

Edutopia. (2017). 53 ways to check for understanding. Retrieved September 13, 2018, from https://backend.edutopia.org/sites/default/files/resources/edutopia-finley-53-ways-to-check-understanding-2016.pdf

Salmon, G. (2018). The five-stage model. Retrieved September 18, 2018, from https://www.gillysalmon.com/five-stage-model.html

Vaughan, N. D., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Facilitation. In Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry (pp. 45–61). Athabasca University Press. Retrieved September 13, 2018, from http://www.aupress.ca/books/120229/ebook/03_Vaughan_et_al_2013-Teaching_in_Blended_Learning_Environments.pdf

Thank you for taking some time out of your day.  What are your thoughts on this infographic or online facilitation?  What is your favourite tip to share with others?  Please comment below.

Enjoy the rest of your day!

Image by rawpixel from Pixabay is licensed under CC BY 4.0 (CC0 license).

One Reply to “Five Tips for Effective Online Facilitation”

  1. Hi Dugg,
    Nice work on the infographic – it’s visually appealing and rich with good advice, clear and uncluttered. I agree with your humour point. I find humour engaging as a learner. I remember my elementary school orchestra teacher used to tell jokes. Here’s one of his:

    Why does the mushroom always get invited to all the parties? Because he is a fungi (fun guy).

    A social worker I’m friends with told me once she feels annoyed when mandatory online training for work tries too hard to be entertaining. I find it engaging, but she finds it patronizing and irritating. I like to laugh and have fun with most things I do, but others value seriousness and professionalism. Do you think humour and professionalism can co-exist, and do you have any tips for discerning appropriate use of humour? (besides the obvious – don’t tell offensive jokes targeting demographics)

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