25 Tips for Successful Online Course Facilitation

02 Aug

Concept of Hand with Electronic Fingerprints

Teaching in the online environment is quite different from teaching in the classroom and as such has a number of unique characteristics and limitations. The following guide (based on my experience as an online facilitator and learner) is designed to help you before, during and after an online teaching event.

Before the Online Course Starts:

  1. Familiarise yourself with the course delivery structure and the site/platform
  2. Develop an online delivery plan/schedule
  3. Check that all resources, activities and links work (i.e. they open in a new window), are current and relevant to the learning experience
  4. Update your contact information
  5. Contact learners, welcome them to the course and provide clear log-in instructions

At the Beginning of the Online Course:

  1. Check that learners can log-in and provide support and troubleshoot as needed
  2. Facilitate introductions and community-building activities at beginning of the course e.g. have everyone introduce themselves in a café style forum
  3. Set clear expectations
  4. Confirm contact/turnaround times
  5. Emphasise the importance of interactions and that online communication between participants is key to building community and contributes to the course outcomes, profiles, forums, chats etc.
  6. Encourage sharing of experiences

During the Online Course:

  1. Be a positive online role model
  2. Send some sort of meaningful weekly communication, but, don’t overwhelm learners
  3. Ideally respond to learner’s communication within a reasonable time frame to resolve any difficulties/queries to ensure their learning is not interrupted e.g.  phone calls, email, messaging, and forum posts
  4. Provide guidance and direction to learners when needed
  5. Encourage online communication between participants
  6. Relate to learner experiences and ask thought-provoking questions
  7. Promote learner independence/responsibility and learner collaboration
  8. Provide technical and other learner support as required
  9. Online learning can be isolated and lonely so provide positive encouragement and feedback
  10. Monitor learner progress, participation in activities and completion of assessment tasks and follow-up as required
  11. Provide informative developmental feedback

After the Online Course Finishes:

  1. Wrap-up the course, thank learners for their participation
  2. Review learner feedback and make recommendations for improvement
  3. Engage in your own self-reflection for improvement and consolidation

What are your tips for successful online course facilitation?

My list of tips was originally posted on the eLearning Industry website a few weeks ago. It’s had over 4,600 views so I thought I’d post it here as well.


Posted by on August 2, 2013 in Online Facilitation


Tags: , , , ,

11 responses to “25 Tips for Successful Online Course Facilitation

  1. Guillaume Gevrey

    August 2, 2013 at 4:36 am

    great tips, thanks. I had written something similar a few months ago

    • learningsnippets

      August 2, 2013 at 6:04 am

      Thanks for your comment Guillaume. I had a look at your post and thought you had some great ideas too!

  2. tanyalau

    August 4, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Hey Matt! Well done on the post – that’s awesome!! Nice succinct tips. I haven’t actually done any online course facilitation but it’s quite possible it may be something our org may do in the future (we don’t even have a platform yet so it may be a little while yet…bit behind the times here…!). Just curious on what types of courses you run, length and how they are structured if you’re happy to share…might give me some ideas on options we could explore. Cheers Matt!

  3. learningsnippets

    August 5, 2013 at 10:46 am

    Hey Tanya! Thanks for the comment. The tips came about as a result of my experiences facilitating some subjects for TAFE using Moodle (we don’t have them in my workplace either, YET!), of being an online learner myself (using Blackboard) and by talking with others who have lots of online facilitation experience.
    For the ones that I’ve facilitated, they have been around 5-6 weeks in duration (one unit of competence at a time). I’ve found Moodle to be a good platform – it’s easy to navigate and to create activities for learners especially in the latest version (and its free!). Depending on the timetable, sometimes there was a classroom workshop at the beginning which gives you a chance to make sure everyone can log-in and you can show them around the site. One of the biggest challenges is sustaining the motivation. I wish I had known about SDT! Many of the platforms allow you to set up chat/discussion areas and this allows the learners to interact with you and each other (its all about relatedness).
    In terms of actual time spent facilitating, I reckon I would have spent as much time if I had facilitated in the classroom. The difference was that it was distributed over a number of days and even weekends. My view is that you need to be monitoring and checking in at similar times to your learners. This also helps you to respond to them more quickly.
    Happy to talk to you more about it, if it gets closer to you implementing it 🙂

    • tanyalau

      August 5, 2013 at 1:26 pm

      Thanks for the info Matt. Yep – def agree that sustaining motivation is the big challenge in any online learning situation – particularly one spread over a period of time (having done a few post grad subjects online myself too, as well as the Mooc…). Ongoing communication and clarity around expectations important. Requires new skills on both sides – teacher and learner.
      Not holding my breath on moving towards this in my org…or if we did, would need facilitators with specific skills in online (or trainers who are willing to develop these skills) since it is so different from classroom. Will def chat if it looks like it might happen!

  4. Ryan Tracey

    August 14, 2013 at 12:20 am

    Excellent tips, Matt.

    For *live* online courses, I would recommend that the particpants check their connection before the course starts. Also, ask them to log in on the day about 10 minutes beforehand. The idea is to iron out any technical issues without interrupting the actual session.

    I would also recommend recruiting a buddy/moderator who can handle queries and problems, allowing you to focus on the delivery!

    • learningsnippets

      August 14, 2013 at 2:47 am

      Thanks Ryan, yes they are two great additions. Its always frustrating when technical difficulties hold up a session so starting a little early will give you a chance to address them beforehand.
      I like the buddy/moderator idea too as a way to save you some time and focus on delivering the course itself.

  5. Aaron Tyo-Dickerson

    August 24, 2014 at 5:52 am

    Reblogged this on Aaron Tyo-Dickerson and commented:
    As I gear up for a new series of Moodle workshops (Moodle Basics for 2.7 and Moodle Admin) these are great reminders for me. I will be using the completion tracking and conditional release features of Moodle to make the most of Tip 10 (“Monitor learner progress, participation in activities and completion of assessment tasks and follow-up as required.”).


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