While online learning can offer great opportunities for self-directed learning and flexibility, sometimes you need to have a human (or a team of humans) on the other side to encourage, guide, and create opportunities for connection and deeper learning. This is where facilitators come in. Course facilitation includes everything involved in running a course, from administrative tasks to the kinds of tasks that a traditional classroom facilitator would do.
The first step in creating a facilitation plan is to look at how involved you expect your teaching team to be. This is always a balancing act: the more involved they are, the more your learners will be engaged and connected with the course, and the more they will learn. But, of course, that also requires a larger time commitment for your facilitation team.
A facilitator, or team of facilitators, may use a number of different strategies to engage learners in an online learning environment. Facilitators that are available and accessible to learners are a crucial part of a learner’s journey. Humanized content, being able to convey concepts in meaningful ways, and using multiple engagement methods improves learners’ sense of community and feeling of connectedness to the content and the course. Effectively facilitating an online course can also be very rewarding for the facilitator(s).
Considerations & Best Practices
- Decide how you’re going to facilitate your course fairly early on; it may not change your course design significantly, but it could change it to some degree!
- To whom on your team should learners reach out if they have questions or trouble with the platform? A central mailbox? A specific person?
- How often & how thoroughly will your team moderate the discussion boards?
- How often & thoroughly will they review assignment submissions for feedback?
- Will your teaching team be conducting live webinars?
- Will they be acting as mentors to a group of learners?
- Will they be moderating the Team and Group workspaces? (If you have them)
- Will someone review feedback survey results to adjust later modules even as the course runs? How about after the course finishes?
- Block time on your calendar daily or several times a week to help you prioritize facilitation.
- Review course data on a regular basis (perhaps weekly) to get a feel for what’s happening.
Troubleshooting & Questions
Course admins are the first point of contact for all learner questions. Make sure learners have a clear understanding of how to reach you with any questions or issues.
If a course admin is unable to resolve a technical or platform issue, the admin can forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org for troubleshooting. Please include the course URL and details on what’s happening and what was already tried to resolve the issue.
Ways to Incorporate
Use these tables to assign roles for facilitation to your team before your course begins. The details will vary depending on the timeline of your course and how you plan to run it. These time guidelines are only estimates.
Instructor / Facilitator / Moderator Responsibilities:
Sample Weekly Engagement Plan
Here is a sample engagement plan for one week of a cohort-based course that is run for multiple weeks. Feel free to customize it for your course.
For self-paced offerings, you may be doing less facilitation.
Analytics & Data Downloads
Part of facilitation is to look at what’s happening and alter how you are facilitating to increase engagement. If your role includes reviewing data for this purpose, here’s how to get started.
The NovoEd platform automatically tracks an amazing amount of data on every course that is run. All you need to do is access that data, and there are two ways to do so:
Use the Analytics page to get a snapshot of key engagement metrics in your course, such as:
Data Downloads Page
Use the Data Downloads page to create custom reports and pull more detailed data. The larger the report (based on the number of fields included in it and the number of people being reported on), the longer it will take for the report to run. Small reports may only take a minute or two, while large ones could take significantly longer.
Here are some commonly created Data Downloads:
- Enrollment Status (date learner was enrolled, current enrollment status, date unenrolled, date of first visit to course, and last activity date)
- Progress (% of lesson pages viewed, points earned, and completion status)
- Assignments (submission date and number of comments received)
- Quizzes (submission date, submitted answers, and % correct)
- Discussions (number of comments made)
- Audios & Videos (% watched)
- Surveys (submission date and submission answers)
- Teams (submissions, posts shared, documents created, and submissions shared)
And here are some commonly created Content Downloads:
- Assignments (text submitted and links to submitted files)
- Discussions (actual text from posts)
Best Practices for Data Downloads
A few tips for you:
- For all of these reports except Enrollment Status, consider whether or not you want to include data on learners who are no longer enrolled in the course. Most of the time, you will just want data on the enrolled learners in reports like these.
- Consider how you want to see the data:
- Do you want it all together in one place? You could put all of this in one report… but it might be overwhelming to look at.
- Do you want all of the assignments in one report, all of the videos in another, etc?
- Or, do you want everything from Module 1 in one report, everything from Module 2 in another?
- For the most part, the platform tracks all of this data whether or not you set up a report for it. One thing it won’t do is get learner feedback… unless you set up a feedback survey early enough for learners to see it and complete it.
- When planning your course, decide whether or not you want to get learner feedback through a survey.
- And do you just want one survey at the end of the course?
- A mid-point survey and a final survey?
- A survey at the end of every Module?
- You’ll want to set these up before your learners reach these points in the course.
Best Practices for Facilitation
These articles contain best practices for facilitating social online courses:
- Everything you need to know about online facilitation: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
- Designing a Participant Engagement Plan to Maximize Learning
- Pre-course Communications: 4 Tips to Drive eLearning Engagement
- 5 Ways to Build a Successful Online Learning Community
- 3 Email Intervention Examples to Re-Engage Learners In Your Online Courses
Platform “How-To” Documents
Here are a few articles from the Help Desk Website that you can refer to after your onboarding for any questions on how to do common facilitation tasks:
- Course Communications Overview
- Discussion feature guide
- Monitoring Discussions
- Assignment Gallery
- Content Flagging
Appendix: Best Practices for Providing Feedback
Here are some resources on best practices for what to say when you are providing feedback. Feel free to customize your feedback with the tone and energy you want to bring to the course.
Resource 1: Table from the article The Art of Giving Online Feedback published in The Journal of Effective Teaching:
Resource 2: Table adapted based on information provided in the book Understanding Online Instructional Modeling: Theories and Practices by Robert Zheng and Sharmila Ferris.