As I reflect on my experience as an online post-secondary instructor and designer, I remind myself of the multitude of factors that can influence the success of both online facilitators and online learners. Each time I attempt to summarize three key points about online facilitation, more and more ideas come to mind, making my previous ideas seem less significant. Online facilitation is a deep topic and one that is seemingly ever-expanding. Nonetheless, the following are three key points that come to mind when I think of facilitating in digital learning environments:
- To deliver a positive online learning experience, instructors must possess the technical competencies to assist learners with commonly experienced computing issues such as browser incompatibilities, software setup, submission file formatting, and much more.
- Imperative to learner engagement is a facilitator who can promote compelling interactivity throughout an online course. The decision to encourage interactivity between a learner-learner, learner-content, or learner-teacher dyad can vary depending on the course material, the capabilities of the facilitator, the learning requirements, and the institutional teaching and learning standards.
- Irrespective of the chosen course delivery method (e.g., synchronous vs. asynchronous delivery), it is essential to provide online learners with clear and direct instructions on navigating a course and completing the learning objectives. Therefore, clear and concise communication is an important aspect of online course facilitation.
Similar to my ideas about online facilitation, I have many unanswered questions regarding the practice of online facilitation, two of which are the following:
- Will advances in edTech ever truly emulate authentic in-person collaboration-based experiences?
- How do you balance meeting online learners’ ever-growing needs and expectations with the course facilitator’s available resources (e.g., time)?
Lastly, when I think of digitally-mediated course facilitation, one animal comes to mind: The chameleon. Why? The dynamic nature of online education is much like the chameleon’s ability to adapt to its surroundings. Like the chameleon (imaged above), which alters its coloration to adjust to changes in temperature or light, online education and course facilitation processes, for many institutions, are in a constant state of flux, adapting to the needs of the learners and capabilities of technology to satisfy enrollment and student performance objectives.