6 KEYS TO BECOMING AN EFFECTIVE VIRTUAL FACILITATOR

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I have taken the liberty of translating this document made by Amanior Kaur, on the keys of the Virtual Facilitator. May 09, 2016

Whether you're a college professor preparing to teach your first class online, or an instructor looking to increase the effectiveness of your online training programs, or anyone who wants to become an online instructor the fact is that there are many differences between virtual education and face-to-face teaching.

In order to take a successful course, you will need to adapt to new technologies and learning approaches. Fortunately for you, we have some simple but effective tips to help increase your effectiveness as an online facilitator and ensure a pleasant learning environment for everyone involved.

6 Tips for becoming an effective online instructor.

  1. Arguing, not lessons

When you are creating an online course, you cannot simply upload an hour-long recording of the same conference that you would give in a face-to-face environment. It's unrealistic to expect students online to want to sit down and watch a long conference without interruption. There are simply many distractions in a passive learning scenario.

Instead, it's best to encourage you to have a discussion on the subject. You can do this by holding discussion forums; it is perfectly appropriate (and recommended) and frame the discussion by asking guided questions that will keep the focus on the subject.

  • This, in addition to providing some relevantly assigned reading/visualization materials, is a way to keep students truly engaged. These materials may include book chapters, online videos, conference clips and/or PDFs.
  • In terms of your own contributions to the discussion, remember that you do not have to answer all questions or resolve all points in dispute. You should continue to participate in the discussion, but not get involved to such an extent that it impedes the critical thinking of your students.

 

  1. Promote collaboration.

Learning in an online environment can sometimes seem lonely. Except where part of the classes are performed in a hybrid way, which include both online and face-to-face activities.

In many cases your students will be, probably completing the entire class module alone, in front of your computer screen. This is one of the potential weaknesses of virtual courses; students simply don't get to enjoy opportunities for collaboration and group work as they would in a face-to-face class.

However, this does not mean that there are no ways to promote collaboration in an online environment. In fact, you can:

  • Assign a group project, which allows your students to collaborate, share ideas, and perform group tasks.
    • Use group room features, or forums, to encourage collaboration and group discussion during class.•
    Use chat features to encourage students to ask questions
  1. Provide small information.

Let's face it: the attention span of humans is being shortened. And paradoxically, many studies have found that technology is largely to blame for this. When an online class is being held, it's important to provide content that can keep your students' attention. For example, while there's nothing wrong with you watching an hour-long video once in a while, you won't want to have this kind of material on a daily basis.

In turn, it is important to provide students with information of very small size that is easy to digest. Infographic, short video clips, online news articles, or similar activities, with which your students stay tuned. So when you place small content, you can expect good results in terms of commitment, learning and performance.

  1. Include real-life examples

Classes are generally much easier to understand when they are directly related to their students. So when you enter it a concept or theory, try to set at least one real-life example that can be used to demonstrate it. Think about how you learned your first sum or multiplication in elementary school, and your teacher had it by counting blocks or other learning tools to help visualize your equations. The same concept can be applied to almost any concept you are trying to teach. And if you can't come up with any real-life examples, you can always create "hypothetical" situations to help demonstrate the concept to your students.

  • Telling stories is a great way to help yourself. Choose the characters carefully.
  • Use research statistics and reports to support the facts and make a solid presentation.
  • Including case studies is a good idea to show how a product/concept works in a particular situation.
  1. Be a "side" guide

When working as an online instructor or facilitator in training, you can easily exaggerate in terms of your participation. For example, you may feel compelled to comment on everything in a discussion and answer all questions you may have.

The idea in an online course is that students should be given a little freedom in terms of deciding what they want to comment on. If you are constantly participating in your students' discussions and adding your own comments and opinions, they will end up feeling uncomfortable sharing your ideas.


Being a virtual facilitator is facilitating learning; provide the tools and resources to their students and they will have to take what they need for the course. It's something different from what you do in a face-to-face environment, and that's something that can be hard for many to get used to.

  1. Enter Critical Thinking

Last but not least, it's making sure you're taking steps to really get your students to think critically, about the topic at hand. This is sometimes more difficult to do in an online environment than in a face-to-face environment, especially considering that sometimes it is more difficult to have an individual conversation
with each student. However, crafting tasks or asking questions that lead students to go beyond the information provided and think critically will result in a much more effective learning experience.


  • Reflection activities and even structured discussions can be a great way to get students to think more deeply. For example, consider assigning groups of students with different views on a particular topic, and then generate a discussion in which they defend their point of view from the rest of the students in the course.

  • Assigning external or research activities encourages students to go beyond textbooks and explore other resources outside the course.

In general, working as an online instructor can be challenging, especially when you've never done it before. Even if you've been teaching for years, you have to adapt to the latest techniques and forms of online learning.

However, by keeping these basic tips in mind, you'll likely find that you are able to lead truly stimulating and engaging discussions, and that your students are walking toward effective and enriched training.

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