In Part I of this series, we discussed the boom of online learning, the benefits of challenges that most course creators and students face and the best practices for preparation and development of your course.
With those foundational pieces in mind, let’s talk about how to best facilitate your course material to ensure that you are delivering an inclusive, engagement-friendly, and educationally impactful experience for your learners.
When it comes to the actual facilitation of your online course, there are a number of areas you are going to want to focus on, including:
Within this article, we will go through each of these areas with recommendations on how to best incorporate them into your course for maximum results.
The first thing you must do when getting ready to facilitate your course is to make sure you have all the tools you will need to create a professional and workable course framework. There are a number of platforms for online course creation with varied capabilities and price tags.
Once you’ve settled on a platform, you’ll also have to consider hardware, internet connection, proficient lighting, microphone/audio settings, presentation software, and filming location.
While we can’t choose your platform, we can help you select one that is suitable for your needs. We have used dozens of them and currently use Zoom for our live classes and Kajabi for our on demand courses. We have also offered a few recommendations for all of the above areas in a previous post, linked here.
Ultimately, you should be offering clear and concise delivery, with a distraction-free backdrop, great lighting and excellent audio. You may opt to do live classes or film yourself facilitating the curriculum. You can also go with more of a webinar route by screen recording your slide deck material and using a voiceover recording to further explain each slide. Some course creators prefer a combination of methods. We recommend taking an approach that will best demonstrate the content to your audience so that they achieve their objectives and experience results!
While online facilitation hosts a very different set of skills and accommodations than in-person facilitation, there are a number of criteria that remain constant across both platforms. First and foremost, ensure that you’ve created a comfortable and inclusive learning environment.
Understanding that people learn differently and ultimately will benefit from a variety of methods are important keys to success when facilitating your course. Leverage a variety of methods for students to correspond with you and with the greater group.
Group discussion forums are an effective way for students to ask questions and discuss course mandates and materials with their cohort. Depending on the program and price point, you may want to have a mechanism in place for students to reach out privately for support. To maximize the experience for your participants, encourage active engagement with the curricula and, for cohort-based learning, with each other.
Because online course curriculum is largely self-led, establishing clear goals and expectations is key to ensuring everyone stays on track. Using the objectives as key success indicators, outline how your students will be evaluated or graded (if at all) and thoroughly outline what criteria will measure success. Consider a checklist for each module so that participants understand what they ought to be covering and the outcomes they should expect.
Having a set of module goals/objectives and course goals/objectives will give students an idea of where they should be at any given point within the curriculum and also provide a framework for which to ask questions if they aren’t hitting the set out milestones.
Providing an avenue for behind the scenes support is a great way to ensure a positive learning experience for your participants. By including a private communication forum, whether it’s via email or a closed group on Facebook or another platform, you are providing a confidential way to motivate learners and to encourage students to participate.
Regular communication with your cohort either via group correspondence or individually is very important to the success of your course, offering a way to accommodate both will ensure that everyone is learning in an environment that is comfortable for them. That way, if you receive communication from an individual that you feel would be beneficial to the group, you can encourage them to post it in the group forum (or you could share the question anonymously on their behalf). This way, everyone can benefit from the answers to questions of general interest.
Further to the last point, creating a collaborative atmosphere between course participants draws connections between the individual experiences and applications of the content. Many online course creators are guilty of ‘over facilitating’ meaning that they are answering every question and settling every point. Part of learning is to work with others to push the discussion further. If you’re able to provide a forum in which your course participants can collaborate and correspond within your course platform, that’s ideal, however, if that isn’t a capability that you have, creating a private Facebook group or a LinkedIn group specifically for students (and alumni) is a great way to create a safe and secure space for your cohorts to chat about course materials, deadlines and to ask questions.
Taking a multi-pronged approach by including opportunities for your participants to engage is an important part of your facilitation process. In Part I, we briefly touched on the various learning activities you could incorporate into your course curriculum. It is within these modalities that you can incorporate engagement and gamification techniques.
Gamification techniques are an effective and fun way for online course creators to actively encourage their participants' involvement. Incorporate these tools into your content by embedding polling into your course work or within your group chat forum. Create a game or end of unit quiz that helps students ‘test’ their knowledge from a specific module before moving to the next.
If gamification doesn’t quite fit for your curriculum, there are many ways to facilitate involvement with your cohort, including poignant questions to stir up group discussions - synchronously or asynchronously, using breakout rooms during live classes, encouraging shared assignments, offering one-on-one coaching sessions, or inviting guest collaborators.
Regardless of the method, fostering healthy engagement is a critical part of the social learning experience, so we strongly encourage you to make sure to create avenues for involvement as much as possible!
Even though you will be preparing the materials and sharing that with your students, act as a guide as they make their way through the curriculum. That will look different for each course creator, but ensure that you have consistent communication throughout to encourage students to keep going, give them hints and bonus content and let them know that you are there to support them throughout their educational journey.
For course creators offering cohort or group learning, this may look like a weekly email or post in your course discussion forum that outlines the week’s module objectives, reiterates important deadlines, or introduces the next assignment. This is also a great opportunity to tie readings, activities, and discussion questions together for your students.
You should be well equipped now to start the facilitation portion of your online course!
What’s next? Watch for Part III of this series: how to produce and test your online course! We will take you through the production dos and don’ts as well as the benefits and best practices for beta testing your course before bringing it to the masses!
If you are looking for guidance creating or facilitating online courses, whether live or on-demand, or want to off-load the heavy-lifting of creating content to someone else, book a Discovery Call. We can help.