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iCourse/oCourse Faculty Best Practices

Facilitation Techniques

Instructors are expected to not only be teachers but mostly facilitators of learning. Faculty should manage the learning process by encouraging collaboration and engaging learners in a variety of ways that lead students to an understanding of the course content and competence in the course learning objectives.

The best learning occurs when students are able to bridge the gap between new knowledge and their own experience. Here’s a technique that may be helpful as faculty facilitate online discussion and collaboration in the online environment.

The ABC Model

Acknowledge – Acknowledge what the student has posted—“Thank you for your detailed response” or “That’s a very good point ____, I’ve never looked at it that way.”

Build – Build on what the student’s comment by adding your own perspective, knowledge or experience on the subject. You may include alternative solutions, add other perspectives, point out problems, and even disagree constructively at times. This is also a good opportunity to reflect upon or refer students to the assigned readings.

Continue Discussion – Encourage students to apply the concepts to the workplace environment and/or their daily lives. Ask probing questions that require students to think deeply and invite other students to participate in the discussion. A very effective way to assist students in their learning process is to implement Socratic questions.

Online Communication

Online communication does not allow for visual cues (such as facial expressions or hand movements) or verbal cues (such as tone of voice). Therefore, it is important to follow certain guidelines when communicating online.

  • Use complete sentences with appropriate grammar and spelling.
  • Carefully choose your font size, type, and color. Using large fonts or typing in all capital letters indicates shouting and should be avoided.
  • Maintain a professional and respectful tone at all times.
  • Ask students for clarification if you find a discussion post difficult to understand or offensive.
  • Avoid sweeping generalizations. Back up your stated opinions with facts and reliable sources.
  • Be careful with humor and sarcasm; avoid them if possible. Both can easily be misunderstood.
  • You can use emoticons when appropriate to reinforce humor, disappointment, etc. However, avoid overusing them instead of fully explaining the meaning of your statements.
  • When responding to student questions, be sure to address every point in their message to avoid unnecessary follow-up messages.

Student Retention

Students choose to take online courses over on-campus courses for a variety of reasons. Many online students are busy working professionals with an abundance of family and professional obligations. Due to the typical nature of the online learner, establishing a personal connection with the students is sometimes difficult. It is suggested that faculty:

  • Offer the possibility of 1:1 contact.
  • Use a tool like that sends text message reminders to students about tests or quizzes due.
  • Check student attendance each week to ensure that all students are participating in the course. If a student is not participating, offer to speak with the student.
  • Contact appropriate student services staff for guidance if a student has become unresponsive to phone calls and/or emails.