Online teaching is being more and more prevalent in today’s world. Online asynchronous discussions have been and continue to be used as a platform for exchanging information, communicating, and evaluating and supporting learning. Just like in face-to-face instruction, educators come upon some challenges while facilitating asynchronous discussions. Below is a list of a few methods that can be used to improve asynchronous facilitation.
Make the topic interesting and relevant to the students and the content you are teaching
Students need to feel invested in what they are learning and it helps to get them drawn into what they are learning. In the discussions make it relevant to the student lives and or explain to them the relevance of their discussion(s).
To make a discussion truly beneficial there needs to be a great deal of interaction and participation. As the instructor/facilitator it may be beneficial for you to set the ground rules for discussions. These ground rules could consist of participants posting and replying to at least two of their classmates or providing additional information to another students post. As the instructor you need to model this by giving feedback as well.
Ask open-ended questions
In asking open-ended questions students feel more comfortable in sharing their opinions and giving feedback to their peers. Open-ended questions allow students to take the discussions to a much higher level because there is not a right or wrong answer. Encourage the students while they are posting to also ask open-ended questions of their peers. In beginning a discussion for the first time in a class it would be a good idea to model this for the students. Give them an example of what an open-ended question compared to a single answered question can do in a discussion!
Create a safe environment
One of the most important things to do in asynchronous facilitation is to create a safe environment. Students need to feel like they can speak and share freely in discussions and interactions within the group. If students feel like their input is valuable they will be much more willing to provide this input into discussions and group work.
Be precise and clear-but don’t run the show!
When beginning a course make sure you have given precise and clear expectations and rules. Students need this structure in order to not only understand what they are doing but so that they do not get frustrated. It is important to have precise and clear directions and expectations but a the same time as the teacher you are facilitating not leading. You are laying the ground rules for the class and allowing students to take the lead as well.
I hope the suggestions above can aide you in your asynchronous facilitation. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and to try new things!