Engaging online facilitation
Within wholly online or blended courses with large online components, teacher presence requires a more prominent position, and development of a community of learning more imperative for students. Just as with a face-to-face teaching space, the online teaching space must also contain structured areas for receiving teacher-led knowledge and information, spaces where students can discuss, create and collaborate informally, a space for presenting work to their peers to demonstrate understanding, and a private space for independent and reflective work. Facilitating learning in the online space requires a more active presence by the teacher to ensure that students are stimulated to be active learners who question, enquire, respond and critically analyse a variety of questions and situations.
Consider the following principles of facilitating learning within an online course:
- Maintain teacher presence – Whether it be written, audio or video, it needs to be regular. Students need to know you are there: observing, guiding, and supporting. Especially when they can’t ‘see’ you.
- Maintain social presence – Establish a climate that will create a community of learning. Social presence supports purposeful collaboration and a questioning predisposition. Sustain a community by shifting from affective expression to purposeful cohesive responses. Having limited or no face-to-face for some can be isolating and lonely. Effective learning occurs best when students feel part of a learning community and can share their learning experience with others. Be an active member of that learning community
- Maintain cognitive presence – Establish opportunities for critical reflection and discourse that will support systematic inquiry. Ask students to provide links to resources or videos that they think might support their peers, or could be added to your list of student resources.
- Conduct effective online discussions – Create a variety of ways in which students conduct and interact with online discussions. Online forums can be set up to act in different ways to fit the pedagogy underpinning the intended learning outcome of the discussion. Post open ended questions, and respond to posts with additional questions to extend their thinking or discussion further. Ensure posts are answered or acknowledged within 24-48 hours, as no-one likes to feel ignored. Encourage students to actively facilitate their own discussions.
Sharing effective approaches
Engaging and motivating students
Engaging students in online learning is critical for success. In this video, teachers and students share their strategies for improving engagement and motivation in online learning environments. Effective facilitation, creating learning communities, strategies for motivating students, and encouraging and sustaining participation are discussed.
Conducting effective online discussions
Discussions are an important component of many forms of online student interaction. For students to benefit from an online discussion, it is important for teachers to generate relevant topics, effectively moderate student activity and participate regularly. This video highlights several strategies to help manage online discussions more effectively, and make them more beneficial for your students.
Online teamwork and collaboration
While developing effective teamwork and collaboration skills are considered important to the learning process, many students find group work challenging and difficult. In this video, academic staff explore how learning technologies can improve the collaborative process within online teamwork, and offer some useful strategies for facilitation and assessment.
Resources, strategies or assistance
- University of New South Wales – Welcome to Learning to Teach Online
- Vanderbilt University – Blended and Online Learning
- Teaching Practice - Group work
- Teaching Practice - Structuring physical spaces
- Contact your Institute's Learning Designer to explore ways in which you can improve your online facilitation practices to enable more student engagement in learning.