Week 1 Overview

Site: SCoPE - BCcampus Learning + Teaching
Group: Facilitating Learning Online - Fundamentals 2019 OER
Book: Week 1 Overview
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Monday, 24 June 2024, 10:01 PM


Week 1: Overview


Setting the stage...

We begin FLO by introducing/reviewing some important topics in online teaching and learning:

  • intended learning outcomes
  • building and sustaining an online learning community
  • providing feedback
Throughout the FLO workshop you'll be asked to participate in or facilitate specific online learning activities. Take time to reflect on these important topics and see how they affect the learning experience - both from a facilitator's and a participant's perspective.

During Week 1, you'll explore concepts and research associated with online facilitation, online learning and the Community of Inquiry framework. You'll begin to develop and participate in the FLO learning community. By the end of the week, you'll be connecting with the other members of your facilitation team, sharing your first "nuggets" of learning, and self-assessing your participation.

Notice what the FLO facilitators and your colleagues did this week to develop the learning community. What worked for you (e.g., features of the course itself, activities, timing, certain moments or postings)? What could have been done differently?

Learning Outcomes

A learning outcome provides a description of what learners should know, understand, and be able to do in a course or program (Huba and Freed, 2000). Learning outcomes place the emphasis on what learners will obtain in the learning process, not on what the instructor is attempting to do in the course or unit.

The following is a passage from Palloff and Pratt's Lessons from the Cyberspace Classroom (2001):

In a collaborative learning environment, learning and learning outcomes are much more than the simple acquisition of knowledge. The co-creation of meaning and knowledge that can occur in the collaborative online classroom can serve to create a level of reflection that results in what is called transformative learning.

In transformative learning, students are able to begin to reflect on the following question: How am I growing and changing as a learner and as a person through my involvement in this course? If the course has been designed to incorporate and invite real life experience into the classroom, students can begin to explore the material being studied not just from an academic standpoint but through the personal meaning they derive from it.

As facilitators of the online classroom process, instructors can encourage students to engage in this level of reflection by creating assignments and asking questions that allow students to apply material to their work or life situations.

(Palloff and Pratt, 2001, p. 83)

A learning outcome establishes the basis for fair learner evaluation. Formal and informal assessment processes provide both participants and facilitators with opportunities to check that learning is aligned with learning outcomes. As learning facilitators, we have a challenging task to incorporate assessment in a way that is both constructive and supportive of our learners. This is especially true in the online environment where our learners may feel increased isolation and concern.

You made find it helpful to reflect on the following questions as you prepare to teach your online course:

  • How do the outcomes inform and focus the course's learning activities?
  • How do I keep learners focused on the outcomes?
  • How do I ensure that ongoing assessment and feedback aligns with the learning outcomes?

Weekly Activities

During this first week, the FLO Facilitators will guide you in a demonstration learning activity about online community. The purpose of this activity is to show you one way of facilitating a learning activity online in a short period of time.

Note:  Each of you will have an opportunity to facilitate a week long learning activity during this workshop. You can review the details of the process in the FLO Workshop Handbook:  Activities: facilitating page and you will find further guidance in your team planning forum in the Facilitation Teams Workspace tabbed page.

Your activity facilitation team (FLO Facilitators) will post detailed instructions and a schedule above the activity forum.

Focus for the Activity

You’ll be asked to explore your own perceptions of online learning communities and the role an instructor can play in building online community.


During this week's discussions, you'll be asked to:

  • share your ideas and experiences around online learning communities
  • explore different aspects of the Community of Inquiry model
  • think of ways that an instructor can develop and maintain an online learning community

Community Building

To know someone here or there with whom you can feel there is understanding, in spite of distances or thoughts expressed, can make of this earth a garden. ~ Goethe

Developing a supportive and connected online learning community is a key factor in helping learners feel comfortable and willing to fully engage in learning activities. Preparing a statement on a given topic and posting it for everyone to see can be an intimidating experience for a learner in a new group, particularly for those who are relatively new to the online environment. When people know a bit about each other and have had an opportunity to interact informally, a sense of camaraderie can develop which encourages people to feel comfortable enough to take risks and explore ideas.

Many programs begin with a face-to-face course or residency so learners have met each other in person and have begun to form a cohesive learning community. As an online instructor you might be the "stranger" who needs to get to know your learners.

We build a sense of connection with our learners through presence, interaction and commitment to a common purpose in a given space and time. Non-verbal and verbal cues of welcome, invitation and encouragement contribute to the tone of a face to face class. In the online environment most of these communication tools are at our disposal if we just know how to employ them:

  • Providing brief audio and video introductions to both the course and yourself as an instructor help bring your voice and personality to the class. Learners can do the same.
  • Make your intentions and expectations explicit.
  • "Silence" in an online course, (a lack of messages, responses to messages or other interactions), can be construed – and misconstrued. In addition, it is easy to misunderstand a written message and draw negative conclusions. When a person is feeling anxious, the likelihood that they will interpret things negatively increases.
Mike Thompson (1:24)

Our job as learning facilitators is to be obviously supportive, both of the group and of the individual. The kinds of learning activities we choose play a significant part in the development of a sense of community. Learners cannot be passive knowledge-absorbers who rely on the instructor to feed information to them. It is imperative that they be active knowledge-generators who assume responsibility for constructing and managing their own learning experience. In a learner-centred environment, many of the traditional instructor responsibilities such as generating resources and leading discussion shifts to the learners. Success in an online learning environment depends on the use of instructional strategies that support this shift in roles.

The teacher guides his students best, by allowing them to lead. ~ Lao Tzu, Chapter 66

How do you create and sustain online communities?
Patricia McClelland (3:46)
Beth Cougler Blom (3:41)

Presence and Learning

It is important for learners to understand that we are actually present and active in the online class as we are not visible to them. We want them to know that we are reading their postings, watching activities unfold, and taking note of the process of learning. This is referred to as "instructor presence". Throughout this course you will find tips and strategies to establish and maintain presence without being overbearing or stifling learner initiative.

Doug Hamilton (1:03)

Developing a sense of community can begin from providing opportunities to create connections between participants and between participants and the course content. Don't be afraid to use your imagination and get creative; bring who you are to the online environment. At the same time watch that you don't overwhelm the group with additional activities that burden them. Keep it simple and make much of it optional.
Beth Cougler Blom (2:43) 
Alicia Wilkes (1:20)

Doug Hamilton (1:28)

Online Facilitation

coffee cup

This resource contains 4 very short video clips (three on this page, one on the next) from faculty.

Sit down and take a relaxing 10 minutes to hear a few of their thoughts. Keep their insights in mind as you work through this week's activities.

Doug Hamilton (1:02)
Jen Walinga (1:18)
Alicia Wilkes (1:28)

Providing Feedback

Feedback is essential to learning. It lets people know whether they are mastering the outcomes and indicates whether or not remedial or additional action is required. Feedback can also encourage learners to stretch and reach new heights. Feedback is like water or air for online learners; they need it to survive.

Feedback can be inspiring to learners. It can assist struggling learners who need more encouragement and positive reinforcement. It can also help learners better appreciate the specific strategies they need to use to improve their skill level or performance. Nevertheless, if not done with sensitivity, respect, and empathy, feedback can also be devastating. Poorly planned, or awkwardly phrased feedback can confuse and demoralize a learner.

To be effective, feedback should be positive, concrete, and specific. Feedback should also be instructive. Like asking good questions, providing feedback also enables participants to reflect on their learning and determine possible follow-up actions and strategies.

Alicia Wilkes (1:04)

Optional Reading and Viewing

The following optional readings and videos are provided as references for the topics discussed in this week's Overview.

Online Facilitation


    • Excerpts from 2008 Online Facilitation Strategies video - (6 min, Youtube)
      0:11 - "How do you help students interact effectively in an online course?"
      1:20 - "How do you sustain online discussions?"
      1:45 - How do you keep a presence in online discussions without taking over the conversations?"

    And just for fun....

    Online Community
    Community of Inquiry Model