Feedback Tip

Course facilitation is an extension of what has been designed in the course development stage.

Within specific community activities, regular and substantive instructor feedback is important to establish presence. Model the behavior and contributions you want to cultivate in your course.

Provide learners with regular check-ins to evaluate their performance and communicate feedback. This allows learners to assess their progress, identify areas for improvement, and celebrate achievements.

Examples include:

  • Providing weekly self-diagnostic or diversified assessments that give immediate and detailed formative feedback on learner performance
  • Responding substantively to learner contributions in discussion forums or other dialogue tools
  • Providing weekly summaries of general class performance through video or other media-rich formats
  • Sharing topical or weekly introductions through video or other media-rich formats
  • Maintaining regular and accessible virtual office hours for learners to communicate with you

Leverage Learner Contributions

If you have discussed a particular topic in previous courses, you may be able to predict learner responses. Plan to use these expected responses to challenge learners to think deeper or differently about a topic.

Encourage, Nurture, and Recognize

Publicly acknowledge learners within a forum when their contributions are particularly strong or reflect exceptional preparation and understanding. Inspire these high performers to take their work to the next level by personally recommending additional resources to them. Their contributions and your engagement enhance the overall course dialogue. Encourage participation in your regular announcements and private correspondence with individual learners. Make sure to also motivate less advanced learners with positive reinforcements when they contribute.


Resources for

7 Principles of Good Practice in Online Teaching

Virginia Commonwealth University

The author discusses the seven core best practices of teaching online:

Assessing Online Facilitation

Humboldt State University

Guide for reviewing online facilitation:

Managing Instructor Presence Online

Arizona State University

Steps for instructors to connect with learners.

Focus the Discussion in Forums

Regularly check the forums to ensure responses are appropriate and relevant. If a subject veers away from the intended material, you can reign in the group and guide them back on-topic. Sometimes a conversation may go off-course in a positive way and touch upon other instructional objectives. Find the balance between meeting learning objectives and sustaining the health of a community. Be careful not to publicly single-out or scold a learner. If one person is regularly derailing a discussion, initiate a private conversation. If several people are going off-track, gently bring the group back to the desired focus.

Respond to Individual Learners

Each week, it is not necessary to respond to every posting by each learner. You can respond at least once to each person or you can develop a schedule that shows that you are attuned to individual learners. Responding to a learner’s post demonstrates that you are listening. This is a significant factor in learner satisfaction, and large classes may require a modified approach.

Involve Learners as Co-Facilitators

Leverage the learners who are excelling with their participation by asking them to be co-facilitators for the discussions. Provide clear expectations for this role and tie a grade or another qualifier to the work. While co-facilitation can enhance a forum, do not use this strategy to replace your active engagement.

Facilitate Synchronous Events

Synchronous refers to real-time communication and instruction — think of it as a live conversation with your learners. The use of synchronous tools, such as web conferencing applications, chat, and other real-time collaboration tools, can enhance the learner experience and support learning goals. Real-time community tools are great for team-building, walking through complicated processes, and offering opportunities for questions and the exchange of ideas.

Tips for facilitating synchronous events:

  • Test equipment
  • Use a checklist of items before event
  • Manage roles
  • Encourage participation
  • Build in interaction
  • Use visuals