Sunday, February 1, 2015

Methods for Asynchronous Facilitation

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). 

Encourage participation
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!  





1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for your post on asynchronous communication, Stacey! You made some excellent points! I really thought the last one is meaningful when it indicates "don't run the show." Teacher have a tendency to try to control things, and the beauty of asynchronous learning is that it is mostly all about the students interacting and sharing with each other.

    Another great point that you made was to make the topic interesting. Some of the ways to accomplish this is to make the discussions about real life issues or current affairs. Another way could be "from the perspective of" the audience that you are teaching. If they are adults learners, perhaps discussion questions may be a bit different than adolescent learners.

    I have taught online education classes since 2011, and my experience with asynchronous discussion boards are that students are more open in these arenas then they are in the f2f environment. That may be a reflection on me as a f2f teacher as well.... I think sometimes f2f teachers feel the need to be very subject-specific in their discussions; however, we need to make information meaningful to students, and they do not learn as well when it is not meaningful. Asynchronous discussions can actually provide a better atmosphere for responses then a f2f class as the students have the opportunity to respond and post at the best time available and after they have considered the topic instead of on-the-spot.

    I often think of the "little things" that are important in day-to-day communication as the same items that are important online - use people's names, try to be positive (and if something negative needs to be said then "sandwich" it between two positive comments), listen fully to others before responding (in the case of discussion boards you need to read fully before responding), and use proper grammar and etiquette (don't capitalize online nor use phrases that may not be understood by all). Create an open and respectful environment.

    Lezlie

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