Brown DLD Faculty Guides

Facilitating Your Course

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Now that you have designed your course, what comes next? This article covers what instructors do during the course, as opposed to what must be done before the course, which is design. You design an online course before you facilitate it, but understanding facilitation influences design decisions. Throughout your course, you can note what worked well and what needs improvement to inform design in the next course iteration.

Create a Facilitation Plan

Consider the various course facilitation activities you’ll need to do each week and how they can best fit into your schedule given your other duties. Set up a sustainable weekly rhythm and approach that works. To provide structure, it can be helpful to plan your classes, or modules, in segments. For example, segments might include:

  • A review activity that connects to students’ prior knowledge
  • A lecture or presentation on the day/module's material
  • An application or meaning making activity that students engage in to deepen their learning
  • A formative assessment to gauge students' understanding of the material
  • A reflection and debrief on the lesson or module. 

Keeping a structure like this helps your planning and maintains a consistent routine for students. Also strive to be consistent in both the approach and timing of communications to students, discussion involvement, grading, and feedback.

Establish and Maintain Teacher Presence

The instructor’s presence, or instructor immediacy, refers to how psychologically connected students feel to their instructors, and it’s correlated with a number of beneficial outcomes such as enhanced learning (Chesebro & McCroskey, 2001), motivation (Baker, 2010) and student attendance and participation (Rocca, 2004). Below we outline a number of suggestions that can enhance presence and immediacy in your course.

  • Remain visible. Log into Canvas to review student work, note themes in their understanding and areas in need of revision, maintain a presence in the discussion board, and use announcements to communicate important information and ideas. 
  • Humanize with video, audio, and images. Starting your course with a personal video introduction or sharing some photos can help students connect with you.
  • Be responsive. Let students know how long after they email you they can expect to get a response. If you have students ask questions through discussion boards, set aside time to monitor them and provide responses. 
  • Office Hours/1:1 meetings. Post “office hours” in the orientation module or via an announcement so students may request an appointment. You could also host live help/Q&A sessions using Zoom for the whole class. Online office hours can help connect students with each other and with you, especially when planned in advance. 

Allow for Interaction

  • Build in opportunities for students to collaborate and socialize. Students’ thinking and understanding is extended through discussion with peers. It can be incredibly helpful for students to hear how someone closer to their knowledge level makes sense of the material or approaches problems.
  • Set up respectful class and discussion norms. Class norms and discussion guidelines can help to mitigate potential conflicts that can arise when discussing controversial topics. Consider involving students in the creation of class norms, asking them to first list, either individually or in small groups, what behaviors demonstrate and facilitate a respectful learning environment and which types of behaviors detract from it. From there, a final list can be decided on and endorsed by the entire class. You can then remind students of these guidelines before discussions or class segments that might be contentious.
  • Consider creating a chat for students to ask each other questions or discuss course material. Chat offers a quick way for students to hold more informal discussions and ask questions they may be reluctant to ask in class. Learn more in our Chat Tools article.
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