Digital facilitation takes more effort and planning on the part of the facilitator. It takes considerable effort in order for the facilitator to use the technology correctly, engage the learners, and present the content.
There are fewer walls. Digital facilitation allows people to live in one location and study in another. This idea introduces a level of flexibility that has not been available in most learning institutions until now.
There needs to be a balance between teaching the content and the technology. Not all the students in a program will have the same technical ability and will need help to use the tools. That should not reduce the time and effort spent on the content. It is a juggling act to get everything right.
What will learning look like as we incorporate digital facilitation?
How do we adopt the flexibility that digital facilitation provides? How to we make it not scary for those more comfortable in face-to-face environments?
Digital facilitation is like the leaves changing colour in the fall. It is does not mean the end of something (i.e., face-to-face learning), but the symbol of changes on the horizon. Much as the trees do not fear the change, we should not feel intimidated of the changes digital learning can bring.
Community is not something that forms automatically. It takes effort, planning, and attention. This infographic provides strategies to create community in digital environments. An important part of learning is inquiring. According to Garrison, Cleveland-Innes, and Vaughan (2013), “the premise of the [the Community of Inquiry] (CoI) framework is that higher education is both a collaborative and an individually constructivist learning experience” (p. 10). CoI builds on the presences of social, cognitive, and teaching elements, creating a “collaborative constructivist educational experience” (Garrison, Cleveland-Innes, & Vaughan, 2013, p. 11).
While there is a connection between the presences, it is important to focus on each independently. By combining these elements, the classroom facilitation will work for the instructor and students, creating a strong CoI.
Students need interactions in the classroom to allow for the best possible learning (Garrison, Cleveland-Innes, & Vaughan, 2013, p. 48). By utilizing the strategies in the infographic, a facilitator can create a social environment. As students feel they are contributing members of the classroom, they begin to form a community (Garrison, Cleveland-Innes, & Vaughan, 2013, p. 49). As the facilitator, the students will look to you to see the conduct expected of them to create a social presence.
Each student learns differently. As a result, facilitators need to implement a variety of tools. According to Richardson, Caskurlu, Ashby (2020), “facilitation is helping your students reach their goals by encouraging them to participate, suggesting ideas or strategies for them to consider” (para. 2). The strategies in the above graphic should help engage most learner types. Online facilitation does not lend itself well to sage on the stage content delivery. The cognitive presence in the CoI will be stronger if the students have a role in the delivery of content.
Teaching presence combines social and cognitive presences in the facilitation of the course (Garrison, Cleveland-Innes, & Vaughan, 2013, p. 46). This presence is more about the facilitator than the students, but it affects them and their learning. Delivering the content the same way every year will not create the strong presence for a CoI. The strategies outlined above can help to keep the delivery lively. As the facilitator, it is important to keep the position of the learner in mind while delivering the course; these strategies can help do that.
These strategies are only a few of the many available to guide facilitation in online classrooms. The conversation surrounding approaches is infinite since there are always going to be innovations worth adding to the puzzle. Thoughts and ideas are welcome in the comments area below.
Bull, B. (2013). Eight Roles of an Effective Online Teacher. Faculty Focus.
Richardson, J., Caskurlu, S., & Ashby, I. (2018). Facilitating your online discussions (PDF), Purdue Repository for Online Teaching and Learning.
Vaughan, N. D., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry. Athabasca University Press.
Digital facilitation is not as easy as everyone thinks.
As I watch the world gravitate to online education, I repeatedly hear comments about it being easier, not that different, and not as effective. The truth is, it is different and comes with its own set of challenges. Though it does work.
Digital facilitation comes with so many options, it may be difficult to choose the right tool for each circumstance.
With all the available tools and those that continue to come, I think it is possible for facilitators to be overwhelmed with choices. If facilitators choose multiple tools, students may also feel overwhelmed.
Digital learning is not a second choice or a left-over to accomplish education and the facilitation should not treat it as such.
I think that people look at digital facilitation and learning as a act of desperation to complete education and firmly believing that face-to-face is the best option. I do not agree. I think digital learning is another option, not better, not worse.
How do we change the stigma around digital facilitation?
How do teaching styles differ from face-to-face to digital facilitation? Do they have to differ? If yes, how much and in what way?
Digital facilitation is like a compass; it helps learners get to where they want to go.