Chapter 3: Facilitating FLO

Facilitating FLO

In this chapter, we dive into the details of what is involved in becoming a FLO facilitator. Subsequent chapters will guide you through the steps and considerations for facilitating each course.

Accessible design, inclusive facilitation

An important part of becoming a better online facilitator is to understand and integrate the principles of accessible design and inclusive teaching and facilitation. Many educators point to the Universal Design for Learning framework,[1] which focuses on providing multiple means of:

  • Engagement
  • Representation
  • Action and Expression

While FLO courses were designed to promote inclusive and participatory learning, particularly through encouraging multiple means of engagement, action and expression, there is always a need to review our materials, our design and our facilitation and teaching strategies. Ensuring accessibility of learning is an ongoing quest, as technologies change and we gain experience in online facilitation of FLO courses.

BCcampus Open Education has produced (or identified) several practical and helpful guides to help you improve the accessibility of each FLO course you offer. The current Accessibility Toolkit – 2nd Edition focuses on the application of Universal Instructional Design (UID) and includes an easy-to-use checklist (Appendix A) that will develop your understanding of the potential impact of various types of diversity (primarily cognitive and physical). The insights shared in the Toolkit will help you understand the importance of taking time to make changes to your content and delivery. Try to think proactively about the accessibility of your FLO course—both as you design it and during the facilitation of it.

Some basic questions to ask yourself as you facilitate FLO courses:

  • Do I have materials (visual, multimedia, documents) that present important concepts or information that not all students may be able to see, hear, or access?
  • Do I use facilitation strategies that may exclude some learners or present barriers to participation?
  • If I utilize new apps or tools to encourage exploration of online teaching and learning, do I have alternatives for those who can’t (or don’t wish to) use these technologies?
  • As I think about the diversity of my learners, can I imagine how they perceive the learning environment and experience my presentations, comments, interaction with learners?

Roles and functions of FLO facilitators

FLO courses are built on a foundation of social constructivist perspectives, infused with a recognition of the importance of evidence-based practices, the power of shared reflection and inquiry, and the need for personally meaningful learning experiences.

FLO facilitators adapt their roles to the needs of each cohort of learners as they progress through a course. During the first week of each course, facilitator presence is high as the facilitators take on the roles of a community builder and a guide. FLO facilitators welcome and engage learners, post frequent reminders, clarify curriculum, troubleshoot problems, and encourage each learner to participate and learn. They take time to develop connections with and among learners to help develop a sense of community and mutually supportive learning.

As the course moves on and learners become more familiar with the course expectations, content and environment, they become more active participants in the co-creation of meaningful learning. FLO facilitators take on the roles of coach and mentor. They step back and encourage learning through the use of different questioning strategies and proven facilitation techniques. They participate in discussions but don’t lead; instead, FLO facilitators highlight important concepts, weave together the ideas that participants share, and post frequent summaries to help learners keep track of the flow of conversations as they move in and out of the course environment.

FLO courses are designed to provide a structured yet flexible learning environment, respecting many of the core principles of BC’s Universal Design for Learning (UDL). FLO facilitators strive to identify and respond to the varying needs, abilities and interests of each learner. The courses are developmental in focus. Although FLO facilitators provide frequent and constructive (formative) feedback, they encourage participants to use the self-assessment rubrics and reflective practices embedded in each course to monitor and celebrate their own achievements. FLO facilitators help participants stay on track and make explicit links between course activities and learning outcomes.

As each course draws to a close, the FLO facilitators help individual participants complete activities and assess their progress. Participants share final reflections and often help plan and host a final wrap-up session to celebrate achievements and to look ahead to future connections and applications of new learning.

Developing FLO facilitation skills

Four groups of skills. Long description available.
Figure 3.1 [Long Descripion]

Developing skills in online facilitation is a journey, not something that can be accomplished over one iteration of a course! We encourage people interested in facilitating FLO courses to spend some time reading about online facilitation, open education practices and Universal Design for Learning, before facilitating FLO courses. We also recognize that you could gain online facilitation skills while facilitating – including reflecting on that facilitation. Working with others to co-facilitate FLO courses can also support the development of online facilitation skills as we watch and learn from what our colleagues do.

We’ve gathered a list of skills that we have found effective in facilitating FLO courses and grouped them under four main categories: Support Diverse Learners Online, Build and Sustain Online Community, Manage the Online Course, and Model Effective Facilitation.

Core FLO Facilitation Skills
Core FLO Facilitation Skill Description
Support Diverse Learners Online
  • Communicate goals and roles for learning activities for groups and individuals.
  • Invite participants to share cultural and acquired knowledge and perspectives.
  • Support learners to develop effective online learning strategies.
  • Encourage participatory, connected learning.
  • Encourage learners to take risks and try new approaches.
  • Promote reflective practice and critical/creative thinking.
  • Provide timely, formative feedback to individuals and group.
  • Assist learners in self-assessment of learning using rubrics.
Build and Sustain Online Community
  • Build a safe and supportive learning community.
  • Use strategies to build rapport with learners.
  • Develop guidelines for constructive feedback.
  • Model respectful, appreciative dialogue.
  • Encourage learners to identify norms of behaviour.
  • Assist learners to develop positive responses to conflicts.
  • Connect with external experts for selected topics or activities.
  • Explore open learning resources or communities.
  • Close community by supporting final reflections, individual self-assessments and shared learnings.
Manage Course Online 
  • Design functional learning spaces that are easy to navigate.
  • Select appropriate tools within the learning system.
  • Share content in varied ways.
  • Maintain currency and relevance of references and resources.
  • Aid learners by providing varied ways to participate in activities or complete assignments.
Model Effective Online Facilitation
  • Model a positive and professional presence throughout the course.
  • Plan effectively with co-facilitator(s).
  • Manage time effectively.
  • Seek regular feedback from learners.
  • Maintain a balanced presence throughout the course.
  • Use varied questioning techniques to extend and deepen discussions.
  • Develop strategies to monitor participation and respond to potential issues.
  • Engage in, and model, reflective practice.
  • Explore new pedagogical approaches to enrich facilitation practice.
  • Develop technical skills and explore new tools.

We know it’s a big list and probably not an exhaustive one, but it’s a start. To create it, we drew skills from the self-assessment rubric included in FLO Fundamentals and crowd-sourced ideas from people who have facilitated FLO courses. We also drew some inspiration from the International Association of Facilitators (IAF)’s list of Core Competencies.

The interesting—and most exciting!—thing about facilitating FLO courses is that, in addition to talking about online facilitation skills with our participants throughout the course, we also model those same skills. We want our participants to see us continually working on enhancing the skills in ourselves – to model reflective practice as an online facilitator and to bring an authentic presence to our courses.

Throughout the chapters included in this guide, we’ll dig deeper — and provide examples — into what it looks like to use these facilitation skills.

Our model

It is beyond the scope of this guide to delve into institutional adoption needs and processes. Instead, we offer an emergent model that has proven to be effective in preparing FLO facilitators. Your institution may wish to adopt a similar model or consider partnering with other institutions that already have.

Take FLO courses:  Experience the roles of online learner, collaborative team member, activity designer and facilitator, together with colleagues from a variety of disciplines. Complete FLO courses in any sequence.

Experiencing the role of participant in the course you wish to facilitate is one of the best ways to understand the structure, flow and resources that make up the course. You will also experience the value of facilitated learning.

Apply what you’ve learned:  Completing one or more FLO courses will provide you with new ideas to implement in your own teaching and to share with colleagues. Consider embarking on a scholarly research project to present your work to a larger audience!

In other words, practice any chance you get, and share with your colleagues.

Become a FLO facilitator:  Although the facilitators in FLO Fundamentals try to make their facilitation visible, a lot of planning and adaptation still takes place behind the scenes.  In our experience, the best way to learn how to facilitate a FLO course is to co-facilitate with a more experienced facilitator as a mentor.

Volunteering your time and expertise to assist — and be mentored by — experienced FLO facilitators is a perfect mutual exchange. We encourage mentees and facilitators to negotiate the level of commitment and tasks.

Adopt FLO / Become a lead facilitator and mentor:  An obvious next step for your institution to sustain or expand FLO offerings is to bring more facilitators on board. Once you have the experience of facilitating FLO courses you are ready to mentor incoming facilitators.

As open-licensed resources, FLO courses can be hosted in-house, and offer opportunities for cross-institutional collaboration and cost-saving professional development.

A photo of Leonne Beebe
Figure 3.3

Leonne Beebe

Leonne Beebe is a seasoned FLO participant and facilitator, having returned to FLO for every offering in some capacity, each time taking on more responsibility and new challenges. Leonne transitioned from being mentored to being a full-on facilitator by boldly accepting each invitation to take on more. She brings years of teaching experience and keen participatory observation skills to the workshop.

Leonne offers this for future facilitators:

“The FLO/FDO mentoring model for learning to facilitate online makes the learning both real and realizable. As a teacher, you have the concurrent experience of being a student while also being a teacher. Through your experiences, you will develop an awareness and empathy for the learning challenges and the strategies needed for student success. You may also find one time is just the beginning…”

photo of Rachel Loganberg
Figure 3.4

Rachel Loganberg

Rachel Loganberg from College of the Rockies volunteered her time and expertise by taking on an observer role in the FLO Design pilot. This role enabled her to provide feedback on the design of the workshop based on her observations of how learners were engaging. Rachel was also keen to understand more about the 5-week FLO Fundamentals course, and volunteered to co-facilitate so she would be ready to take the lead on a future FLO workshop. She then went on to co-facilitate the 2-week FLO Facilitator Development course. Rachel is now very well equipped to mentor future FLO facilitators! This is a terrific example of a mutual exchange model — learn and practice while giving back to the FLO community.

The next four chapters guide you through the facilitation of each FLO course.

Image descriptions

Figure 3.1 long description:

A puzzle with four interlocking pieces. The pieces read:

  • support diverse learners
  • build and sustain community
  • manage course
  • model effective facilitation

[Return to Figure 3.1]


  1. CAST (2018). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.2. Retrieved from http://udlguidelines.cast.org

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FLO Facilitation Guide by Sylvia Currie, Sylvia Riessner, Gina Bennett, and Beth Cougler Blom is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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