Chapter 6: FLO Synchronous

FLO Synchronous

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Synopsis/Abstract

Title: Facilitating Learning Online (FLO) Synchronous

Purpose: This course is intended to help participants develop knowledge and skills in planning for, facilitating, and following up after facilitating synchronously online.

Mode: A facilitated asynchronous online course with mandatory and optional synchronous sessions.

Length: Three consecutive weeks.

Expectations – Facilitators: FLO facilitators provide ongoing guidance and support throughout the course and model examples of synchronous online facilitation in three separate synchronous sessions. Facilitators attend and provide feedback on the facilitation skills of participants who are taking the Practicing Facilitator track.

Time Requirements for Facilitators: Time to prepare the course before the start date will vary depending on the facilitators’ skill with the technologies used. During the course, facilitators can expect to spend approximately 15 hours per week; more time may be required to attend Practicing Facilitator sessions in the final week. First-time hosters may need even more time. Facilitators should expect to be available to the course on a daily basis.

Expectations – Participants: Participants are expected to participate fully in course activities, which are a mix of asynchronous and synchronous online activities. There are two role choices (tracks) for participants in this course — Reviewing Participant and Practicing Facilitator — allowing for flexibility in learning outcomes. Participation expectations differ depending on which track participants choose to complete. Those in the Practicing Facilitator track can expect to spend more time.

Assessment: Facilitators attend or review all Practicing Facilitator sessions and provide informal feedback – using a structured template – to the Practicing Facilitator that is open to all course participants. All participants complete a self-assessment rubric at the end of the course specific to the track they chose to complete. Facilitators review these self-assessment rubrics before determining participants’ completion of the course.

Time Requirements for Participants: Participants should expect to spend approximately 6-8 hours for course activities each week. Participants who choose the Practicing Facilitator track or who have little previous experience can expect to invest more time.

Primary Resource for Facilitators: All materials for the FLO Synchronous course are included in an Open Learning Resource (OER) from BCcampus, available for viewing or download. This guide is based on the 2019 version of the course.

What is FLO Synchronous?

Facilitating Learning Online (FLO) Synchronous is a three-week online course that helps people develop synchronous online facilitation skills. Participants learn best practice strategies to plan for, facilitate, and follow up after synchronous online learning events. FLO Synchronous provides participants with opportunities to see and learn from examples of synchronous online facilitation and, if desired, to practice synchronous online facilitation skills in a safe environment. This course is designed for faculty and staff who would like to increase their teaching and facilitation skills within a web conferencing environment.

Participants have the option to engage with the course via one of two tracks: Reviewing Participant or Practicing Facilitator. This flexibility allows people to choose what kind of learning is best for them at the time they take the course. The Reviewing Participant track is focused on reviewing and discussing best practices in synchronous online facilitation, and providing feedback. The Practicing Facilitator track is focused on planning for, and facilitating, a short synchronous online event and receiving feedback.

In a nutshell, the first week of the course is spent exploring how to prepare to facilitate synchronously online. The second week of the course is focused on facilitation skills in online synchronous environments. The last week of the course is focused on following up after facilitating online. It’s important to note that, during the last week of the course, participants who have chosen the Practicing Facilitator track will facilitate a short online session and Reviewing Participants will need to attend Practicing Facilitators’ sessions and provide feedback.

FLO Synchronous works well with 10 or more participants and can accommodate participant numbers into the 20s, most likely with two facilitators.

Learning Outcomes

There are two different sets of intended learning outcomes for the two tracks:

Reviewing Participants track

By the end of the course you will be able to:

  1. Identify effective planning and facilitation strategies for synchronous online sessions.
  2. Provide effective feedback to facilitators of synchronous online sessions.
  3. Explain the importance of evaluation for synchronous online sessions.

Practicing Facilitators track

By the end of the course you will be able to:

  1. Apply effective design strategies to plan for synchronous online sessions.
  2. Lead synchronous online sessions using appropriate facilitation skills.
  3. Use a web-based platform at a basic level to facilitate synchronous online sessions.
  4. Use reflection and feedback gathering to evaluate synchronous online sessions.

Participants

Participants who take FLO Synchronous are typically full- or part-time instructors at post-secondary institutions who are new to teaching online or have already been teaching online for some time and would like to develop teaching skills in the synchronous online mode. Participants may also include those who support teaching faculty, such as instructional designers, educational consultants and learning technologists.

Other potential participants may include graduate students, consultants from the private sector, and trainers employed by for-profit or non-profit organizations.

Technology: Essential and Recommended

Essential

  • A learning management system or content management system to hold the asynchronous course content and activities.[1]
  • A web conferencing platform such as Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, Adobe Connect, WebEx, or other similar software, to host the synchronous course content and activities. Ideally, the platform would include more teaching-focused tools such as breakout rooms and the ability to write on a collaborative whiteboard, etc.
  • All facilitators should have a strong Internet connection, a webcam and a headset.

Recommended

  • Access to a shared collaborative space such as Google Docs for both facilitator and participant use.

The Course Content and Layout

The FLO Synchronous OER from BCcampus is a complete three-week course with a collection of content, activities and resources about facilitating in online synchronous (sometimes called web conferencing) environments.

The course structure itself is divided into four sections:

  • Hub
  • Week 1: Preparing for Synchronous Sessions
  • Week 2: Facilitating Synchronous Sessions
  • Week 3: Following Up After Synchronous Sessions

The Hub

The Hub is a general section that contains:

  • Traditional Acknowledgement: This item is optional but it is becoming a common practice in Canada to include in both online and face-to-face courses. It acknowledges the land on which the particular institution sits as the traditional territory of the local Indigenous Peoples. This could be a short paragraph of text or potentially a link to a video from an Indigenous chief or elder extending a traditional welcome. We recommend that you work with your own local Indigenous groups to respectfully craft such an acknowledgement if you choose to include one in your course.
  • Course Overview: This includes course syllabus information such as a course description, descriptions of the participant tracks and related activities and outcomes, details about the Practicing Facilitator sessions, participation expectations and information about providing effective feedback throughout the course, and information about privacy and confidentiality and the course license.
  • Course Schedule: This is a week-by-week schedule which is updated with new dates and times for each iteration of the course.
  • Open Forum: Any participant can post to this forum. This design choice was made to bring facilitator announcements and cafe-type conversations into one place.
  • A link to a Booking Calendar to allow Practicing Facilitators to book the use of the web conferencing platform.
  • Links to two web conferencing rooms that will be used by any participant.

Privacy and Confidentiality

A microscope iconHere is an example of the privacy and confidentiality statement that we have included in the FLO Synchronous Course Overview. Consider your own environment and context to create your version:

Understanding privacy

Trust is an essential part of any successful online course. Our learning relies on the exchange of honest, constructive feedback, and we need to agree that our online learning environment will be private and confidential. Always seek permission from the participants to share their posts or content.

If, during the course, you use free-online services or social media to complete course activities, please ensure that you are familiar with the levels of privacy available, how the information will be stored and shared, and that any participants you involve are also aware of these aspects.

Thank you for doing your part.

Access to this course space

This offering is accessible to the course participants, facilitators, special assistants (individuals who are supporting or preparing to facilitate the course in the future) and, occasionally, website administrators whom we may call upon to assist with technical issues and editing. You will continue to have access to the course content and participants’ contributions after the end date, and for as long as this website is supported.

The Hub also contains some resources hidden from participants. These resources are provided for facilitators and may also be helpful when many facilitators from the same institution take turns facilitating the course and want to share resources with each other. Examples of hidden resources include:

  • A Facilitator Resources Folder to hold lesson plans and slide decks for the three synchronous sessions that facilitators host for participants.
  • Instructor-only links for the synchronous online platform that you will be using for the course.
  • Any notes that past facilitators of the course want to keep inside the course for the next facilitators – or future facilitators – to see, such as recommendations for minor or major redevelopments of the course for future iterations.

Weekly Sections

Each of the Week 1 through 3 sections features a poll, pages that describe that week’s activities, details about the live synchronous session being hosted by course facilitators that week, weekly course content, and a discussion forum. Week 3 also includes an upload area so participants can submit their self-assessment rubric, and a course feedback survey.

Course Assessment

As noted above, all participants complete a self-assessment rubric at the end of the course specific to the track they chose to complete.

The rubric details:

  • The requirements ALL participants need to complete, and
  • The requirements they need to complete if they are Reviewing Participants, or
  • The requirements they need to complete if they are Practicing Facilitators.

The rubric is a three-point rubric with the categories of “did not meet requirements,” “met requirements” and “exceeded” requirements. Rubric criterion include the following for all participants:

  • Participation in the synchronous sessions facilitated by the course facilitators.
  • Participation in weekly discussion forums.
  • Participation in weekly activities other than discussions.

As well as (for Reviewing Participants):

  • Participation in synchronous sessions of Practicing Facilitators.
  • Giving feedback to Practicing Facilitators.

Or (for Practicing Facilitators):

  • Participating in synchronous sessions of Practicing Facilitators (note that the requirement is different than for Reviewing Participants).
  • Giving feedback to Practicing Facilitators.
  • Leading a synchronous online session
  • Reflecting on their facilitation of their session.

Participants are tasked with completing the self-assessment rubric (FLO Synchronous Self-Assessment Rubric) by the end of the course and submitting it to course facilitators.[2]

Facilitator Task List: What You Need to Do Before, During and After the Course

The successful hosting of FLO Synchronous requires an organized approach to planning and facilitation. A detailed facilitator task list has been developed for co-facilitators to support a successful delivery of the course.

See the FLO Synchronous Task List to review the detailed facilitator tasks alongside the following explanations. Note that not all items on the facilitator task list are further explained here, only those requiring some extra discussion and detail.

Before the course begins

Set up the two web conferencing rooms: We advise setting up two web conferencing rooms on your platform of choice because Practicing Facilitator practice sessions and real sessions may overlap, especially with a large class. Decide what type of links you want to give participants for the rooms. For example, for the first synchronous session that course facilitators will facilitate, you might want to give participants an access link that allows them to enter the room from a participant viewpoint only, and not give them access to moderator tools. Later, for the second synchronous session in Week 2, you might want to give them moderator links so you can scaffold their learning to now see things from a moderator’s perspective.

Create a booking calendar: The booking calendar is what everyone in the course will use to book space in one of the two web conferencing rooms to hold practice or real sessions at any time throughout the course. This should be a tool, such as a wiki, that everyone has access to update.

Schedule the three synchronous online sessions that you will lead (as a facilitator) into your calendar: Because there are three pre-planned synchronous online sessions in FLO Synchronous, it is important to pick times for these and book them well ahead of the course in your calendar. Advertise the dates in advance to the participants so they can register for the course because it is part of the course completion rubric to attend at least two of the three sessions.

Create/update the lesson plan and slide deck for the first synchronous session: It is important in FLO Synchronous to model the kinds of synchronous online facilitation skills that we hope participants will be able to learn and practice in the course. (This goes for all synchronous sessions that the facilitators facilitate, not just this first one.) This includes:

  • Creating and using lesson plans (not just slide decks) to model good design skills.
  • Creating sessions that model the kinds of sessions we’d like to see participants design and facilitate in the course, i.e. sessions that are interactive, participatory, etc.
  • Creating and including evaluations or feedback-eliciting mechanisms after each of the synchronous sessions to, again, model what we teach in the course. For example, after this first session we send out a short feedback survey to gather participants’ feedback on the first session.

If you are co-facilitating this course, it is important to plan together with your co-facilitator to prepare for this session. A sample slide deck for this first session is in the OER version of FLO Synchronous, in the Facilitator Resources folder.

Choose and set up the tool for the Video Introductions activity: For course introductions during Week 1, we ask participants to submit introductions by video. This activity serves a two-fold purpose: it helps facilitators and participants get to know each other, and it gives participants a chance to practice and get comfortable with recording and being seen on video.

Choose a tool that will allow participants to contribute short video clips (approx. 90 seconds) introducing themselves, and responding to one or two prompts that you provide.

iconIn 2016/2017 we used FlipGrid as the platform for the Video Introductions activity, which allowed us to embed one grid into our learning management system to house everyone’s videos. Participants’ videos show up together in a grid of thumbnails so you can see everyone in the course at a glance.

Of course, you may have another appropriate tool for this, or the capability for participants to record and include videos within their posts using tools embedded in your LMS. There are many ways to technically achieve this for your course!

It is important for facilitators to model good examples of your own video introductions within this activity. Good” examples include having an authentic and real presence, looking at the camera, not reading verbatim from a script, etc.

The Video Introductions activity also helps us achieve one more purpose within the course. In other FLO courses, such as FLO Fundamentals, we have seen that engaging in an introductions activity in the first week can sometimes take a lot of time when people are excited to begin the course and contribute a large amount of posts. This can sometimes be overwhelming for people, particularly those new to online learning. While FLO Fundamentals is a five-week course, FLO Synchronous is a shorter, three-week course. Asking participants to contribute timed video-based introductions, no longer than 90 seconds each, helps participants limit the amount of time they need to spend on an introductions activity – either contributing an introduction or responding to the introductions of others. While we still want to include introductions as part of community-building in FLO Synchronous courses, shorter video-based introductions allow us to make space for other content and activities that we also need to engage in during that first week of the course.

Decide on Tech Times sessions: Tech Times are informal times that we hold twice in the course – one in Week 1 and one in Week 2 – to allow participants a chance to informally explore and get to know the web conferencing platform that we are using. Tech Times are optional to attend and there is no set agenda. Facilitators do not need a lesson plan to host Tech Times; you simply need to show up at the appointed time and support participants to learn about aspects of the synchronous platform you are using for the course.

Not every participant needs to attend a Tech Time but we’ve found that they can be very valuable for participants who are quite new to web conferencing technology or technology in general. Facilitators should know the platform well enough to host these technology-oriented sessions themselves, but could also invite learning technologist or IT-based colleagues at your institution to support participants during these Tech Times. Tech Times can also be informal opportunities to build community and establish relationships with participants in the course. On a more practical note, Tech Times can also help course facilitators talk informally with participants about which track they might want to be on for the course.

Block time in personal calendars during Week 3: Week 3 of FLO Synchronous can be quite busy, particularly if you are facilitating the course alone. Book time in your calendar before the course begins to attend as many Practicing Facilitator sessions as you can at the end of Week 2/start of Week 3. While the course specifically indicates to participants that course facilitators may not be able to attend all sessions, it is a good idea – and a richer experience for all – if you attend as many as you can. Having a co-facilitator throughout the duration of the course helps for this with a big class! In our experience, and understandably, many more Practicing Facilitators tend to choose times for their sessions early in Week 3 rather than later in Week 2.

It may also be helpful for you to use a time tracking system to track the time you spend on the course, both while preparing in advance of the course and during the course itself. Time tracking helps you spend enough – but not too much – time on the course, finding a balance that is workable with the rest of your life and work commitments. Tracking your time on course facilitation tasks the first time you facilitate FLO can also help make you more aware of how much time you need to save in your schedule for the next time you teach FLO.

During the course

Week 1: Preparing for Synchronous Sessions

A drawing of a clipboard
Figure 6.1

Write a welcome post: We recommend that facilitators use the Open Forum throughout the course to let participants know what is happening and to build a sense of community. Posting a welcome post to participants on the first day of the course sets the tone and practice for many similar posts to come.

Video Introductions activity: Throughout the first week of the course, facilitators should regularly monitor incoming video introductions and make sure at least one facilitator responds to every participant video. Responding to participant videos offers a welcoming course presence and allows participants to begin to get to know you as course facilitators.

First synchronous online session: At the beginning of the course, facilitators should hold their first synchronous online session. We’ve found that if the course starts on a Monday, Tuesday is a good time. The first slide of the sample deck (found in the Facilitator Resources folder in the OER version of FLO Synchronous) lists the technical skills (such as knowing how to turn on microphones, type in the chat box and raise hands) that we want participants to learn during that session. While the web conferencing platform that you choose may have slightly different tools, the concept is the same: think about the basic technical skills that you’d like participants to build during that first session, and plan your lesson and slide deck accordingly.

This first synchronous online session also starts building community with, and among, course participants. Participants get to know each other a little, talk briefly about course overview details, find out what the course is all about, and start thinking about the track they’d like to be on for the course. (Remember, they can choose from Reviewing Participant or Practicing Facilitator; participants need to choose their track by the end of Week 1.)

In FLO Synchronous, participants must attend at least two of the three synchronous sessions led by course facilitators. You will likely want to post links to the recordings of the sessions after each one. It may also be a good idea to recap a few of the most important things that happened or were discussed in the session so participants who couldn’t make it don’t miss key course messages. An example of one of these posts is below.

Post Example: Link to synchro session recording

By Beth Cougler Blom – Tuesday, 29 November 2016, 7:12 PM

Thanks to all of you who came out to this afternoon’s synchro session to kick off our course. If you weren’t able to make it, you can view the recording via this link. (A link to the recordings page for Room 1 is also in the Quick Links block in the course).

Our main points in the session were some introduction, overviewing the course and getting clear on the Reviewing Participant versus Practicing Facilitator tracks and the group spent some time in triads in breakout rooms getting to know each other and discussing their tracks and possible topics for facilitated sessions.

I’m attaching a copy of the slide deck for your reference.

Additional Open Forum posts: As mentioned above, we recommend that course facilitators write posts in the Open Forum throughout the course to keep participants on track and to maintain instructor presence in the course. Opening and closing posts for every week are a good idea, and you might also need to add in extra posts for other reasons mid-week, such as:

  • Posting the link to the recordings of synchronous sessions and highlighting key information for people who weren’t able to make them.
  • Encouraging/celebrating participation in course activities.
  • Noting upcoming events, such as the Tech Times or Practicing Facilitator sessions.
  • Responding to poll results or other weekly activities.

A lightbulb iconWhen writing Open Forum posts you may wish to consider using different strategies to make your posts interesting and engaging. Options here include, but aren’t limited, to:

  • Including relevant Creative Commons or open-licensed images that may enhance the content of your post or provide a fun and light-hearted accompaniment.
  • Creating short informal videos instead of text-based posts.[3]
  • Incorporating other tech tools depending on what you’re trying to achieve (e.g. posting an annotated screen capture to show participants where something can be found in the course).
  • Sharing links to related or current events content that is relevant to course topics.

Be in touch with participants who haven’t logged in/aren’t participating: As facilitators of online learning, one of our roles is to maintain an awareness of how engaged our participants are in the course and to use strategies to support them if their attention appears to be flagging. We do this right from the beginning of the course. A good idea is to set expectations with participants right from Week 1 about their course contributions. This is a particularly important time to see if participants have logged in and, if they haven’t, reach out to them individually to see if they need help.

Checking in with participants who haven’t yet logged in – or who logged in initially but have taken a break of several days – is a good idea to make sure they are getting over any technological hurdles with the course platform. In some cases we’ve found out, after contacting an absent participant early in Week 1, that they never received the course registration email with login details! One strategy to use with participants who have logged in but not really engaged with any activity yet is to email them individually and invite them in (or back into) the course, so they know you have noted their absence. Often these kinds of emails result in a good exchange between participant and facilitator, and sometimes illuminate events going on in the participant’s life that have just temporarily gotten in the way.

FLO courses requires a lot of commitment and participation in order to be effective. If you find out a participant is deeply struggling, perhaps from an overwhelming schedule, your role is to help them decide if now is the right time to take the course. We strongly advise against allowing participants to audit FLO courses for many reasons, the least of which is that they will not be able to achieve course learning outcomes if they do.

In other situations, a direct connection between facilitator and participant can uncover the fact that the participant is struggling with the course platform or other technology. In this case, it is a facilitator’s role to attempt to support the participant as much as you can. Sending illustrative screen captures, meeting one-on-one in a web conferencing tool (if possible) where you can share your screen with the participant to show them things, or enlisting the help of learning technologists or IT professionals at your institution, are all options to draw from to provide early technological support to course participants.

Magnifying glassOne idea to help you track interactions with your participants to ensure you engage with them fairly equally throughout the course is to use a tracking matrix. This can be a simple spreadsheet with all your participants’ names in the first column on the left and many blank columns next to them on the right. Every time you respond to a participant, make a mark in a column next to their name. Over time, you can use this matrix to try to spread out your forum post responses to participants. This may help each participant feel heard by you as their facilitator throughout the course. Here is a simple example:

Fatimah Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark
John Checkmark Checkmark
Carlos Checkmark
Mei Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark

Help participants choose which track they want to be on for the course: By the end of the first week, FLO Synchronous participants must choose the track they want to be on for the course (by declaring their intention in a response to a facilitator’s Open Forum post). As mentioned above, the two tracks are Reviewing Participant and Practicing Facilitator.

Having two tracks of engagement for a course can be a bit of a dicey endeavour! Our aim is to ensure that enough people choose the Practicing Facilitator track so everyone has enough sessions to attend in Week 3, and to see several (or many) examples of synchronous online facilitation. Say, for example, that you have a class size of 20. You wouldn’t want only two of the 20 participants to choose the Practicing Facilitator track! Ideally 6-8 participants or more would choose to go that route in that size of class.

This means that part of our role as course facilitators is to encourage participants to take a risk and choose the potentially harder track of Practicing Facilitator, when their natural inclination might be telling them to play it safe on the Reviewing Participants track. Happily, the time that you spend in the first synchronous session and the Tech Time in Week 1 can help you uncover potentially keen participants whom you think may be willing to stretch themselves on the Practicing Facilitator track. You may be able to encourage participants on a one-on-one basis through emails or private course messages, but certainly an Open Forum post to encourage risk-taking is a good idea as well. See the image below for an example post that attempts to do just that.

Something else to keep in mind while helping participants choose their track is that FLO Synchronous offers a tremendous opportunity – because of the existence of the two tracks – for participants to take the course more than once. Some participants may wish to stay in the relatively safe zone of the Reviewing Participants track while taking the course for the first time, with the expectation and offer that if they take the course again, they could choose to challenge themselves a little more on the Practicing Facilitator track in the future.

Post Example: First Synchronous Session tomorrow at 12pm

 By Beth Cougler Blom – Wednesday, 25 October 2017, 4:36 PM

Consider this your encouragement! You know, for everyone “listening” here… the FLO courses are somewhat based on the ISW model… and one of the tenets of the Instructional Skills Workshop is encouraging some risk-taking to help us grow our teaching practice.

Risk-taking can look different for all of us, depending on where we are in our teaching practice. For one of us, risk-taking could be practising designing and facilitating more interactive lessons synchronous online. For another of us, risk-taking could simply be getting used to looking directly at the camera and feeling comfortable being on video.

It certainly would help our whole class out (in terms of opportunities to attend more sessions) if a few more people could be Practicing Facilitators… would anyone else be willing to take such a step, knowing that this is a safe environment and we are here to support each other’s success?

Week 2: Facilitating Synchronous Sessions

A drawing of an open laptop showing a presentation
Figure 6.2

Second synchronous online session: Early in Week 2, facilitators should hold their second synchronous online session. There are several purposes for the second synchronous session:

  1. Provide time for participants to talk about their synchronous online facilitation goals using the Facilitation Session Guide (found in the Course Overview) as a point of discussion.
  2. Create an opportunity for participants to experience a very active and participatory synchronous online learning environment, and see course facilitators modelling how to facilitate such an environment.
  3. Give participants a chance to see and learn about the web conferencing platform from a moderator perspective.

iconIn one version of FLO Synchronous we used a 1-2-4-All activity from Liberating Structures to involve participants in a discussion activity. This activity asks participants to think individually – in response to a question prompt we gave them – in silence for 1 minute, work in pairs (in breakout rooms) for two minutes, and work in foursomes (in new breakout rooms) for four minutes, then return to the larger group for a debrief.

In the second session we also have the opportunity to showcase and model a different kind of check-in activity, to continue building our participants’ toolbox full of synchronous online activities that they can potentially use in their own sessions or work beyond the course.

It is important to mention that the second session should also include a feedback-eliciting activity, to (again) model that we are asking for feedback from our participants – the topic of Week 2. Since we modelled the after-session feedback form after the first synchronous online session, in Week 2’s synchronous online session we have tended to include the feedback-eliciting activity within the lesson plan of the session itself.

iconOne example of an activity that you can use to gather feedback from participants at the end of the second synchronous online session is a modified User Experience Fishbowl from Liberating Structures. You can find instructions for this particular activity in the lesson plan and slide deck for Session 2 in the Facilitator Resources Folder in the OER version of FLO Synchronous.

There is a sample lesson plan and slide deck in the Facilitator Resources folder in the OER version of FLO Synchronous.

If you are co-facilitating this course and would like to practice facilitating the second synchronous session together, consider opening up that practice session for viewing to course participants! Put it into the Booking Calendar and mention it in one of your Open Forum posts that anyone is welcome to attend. Make it clear that your participants will be observers only if they choose to drop in. This could give your participants a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse into how experienced facilitators plan lessons and prepare to co-facilitate together online, and provide a rich learning opportunity at the same time.

Connect with Practicing Facilitators: Early in Week 2 it is important to connect with Practicing Facilitators – likely via an Open Forum post – to make sure they are aware of the requirements for their role and facilitated session. It may be worthwhile to point out the Participant Facilitation Sessions page of the Course Overview and the Facilitation Session Guide document located near the bottom of that page.

The Facilitation Session Guide is a form that you and other participants can use to capture and give Practicing Facilitators feedback after participating in their session. The Guide includes many skills, divided into sections, that have to do with facilitating synchronously online. It features blank boxes to jot down areas of particular skill and areas for improvement that you’d like to note for the facilitator.

Connect with Reviewing Participants: In the same vein, it’s important early in Week 2 to connect with Reviewing Participants to ensure they know they need to be an active participant in the course throughout; they have to give feedback to Practicing Facilitators as they prepare for their facilitation, and must also participate in at least two synchronous sessions of Practicing Facilitators and give feedback to them. An Open Forum post to Reviewing Participants is a great idea to reinforce these expectations with them in Week 2. They are definitely not just auditing the course!

Mention the Self-Assessment Rubric: Remember the self-assessment rubric we discussed above? Week 2 is a good time for course facilitators to remind participants that they will need to complete it at the end of the course. This is an opportunity for participants to evaluate – in an informal and formative way – their course engagement to-date and take action to potentially increase their course engagement and make more time for course activities. Reminding participants about course expectations half-way through the course is another great opportunity to set them up for success to achieve all the learning outcomes for their track by the end of FLO Synchronous.

Sample Synchros Activity: The Sample Synchros activity in Week 2 provides opportunities for course participants to watch short video examples of other people facilitating synchronously online. Over time, you may wish to replace the sample videos included in the OER version of the course with your own sample synchros, particularly as platform technology changes.

It is important to reinforce to participants that the sample synchros are not meant to provide expert examples of synchronous online facilitation. In fact, most of the sample synchros included in the OER course are recordings of faculty members learning how to facilitate synchronously online, just like your participants will be! However, providing samples of any kind allows us to facilitate a discussion about what strategies we saw the facilitators using that were effective and not. The samples provide a jumping-off point for a rich discussion about effective online facilitation strategies. (Discussion prompts are already included in the activity.)

Week 3: Following Up After Synchronous Sessions

A drawing of two people talking
Figure 6.3

Practicing Facilitator sessions: The first few days of Week 3 are usually a rush of attending Practicing Facilitator sessions. Ensure that all participants know the expectations around attending these sessions. That is, we don’t just want people to show up to the session; we want to see that they are actively engaging in it. (And of course, giving feedback on them later!)

Remember, you have not promised to attend all Practicing Facilitator sessions; however, you should try your best to make as many as you can (or split them up when co-facilitating so at least one of you could be at all sessions). If you need to miss a session, ensure that you watch the recording in a timely manner, fill out the Facilitation Session Guide and give robust feedback to the Practicing Facilitator by the end of Week 3.

If you have access to a scanner, you can scan in your completed Facilitation Session Guide full of handwritten notes and attach it for the particular Practicing Facilitator when writing your feedback post for them during Week 3. Alternatively, you could create an electronic version and input your comments electronically.

Final synchronous session: The final synchronous session that you will facilitate in FLO Synchronous is an opportunity to gather one last time with your participants, look back on everyone’s experience in the course and reflect on learning. Not surprisingly, with this session – as with all sessions – your purpose is to showcase activities that participants can take away and use on their own, and to model effective online facilitation.

The last session also allows you to offer one last facilitation opportunity to one or more of your participants. Late in Week 2 or early in Week 3 you could mention in an Open Forum post that you’d like to invite one or more participants to co-facilitate the final synchronous online session with you. In our experience, you won’t always find a participant to step up to accept this invitation but when they do, it can be a wonderful learning opportunity for both you and the participant.

Want to give your participants another chance at behind-the-scenes learning? Do your lesson planning for your final synchronous session in the open by posting the lesson plan in a Google Doc or other shared site. Then, give your participants access to it as you’re building it. Invite them to make comments in the document – likely using a built-in comment feature so they are easy to see – so they can engage with you and ask you questions during your preparation process. This is yet another opportunity for participants to see the preparation and lesson planning process – and all the inherent decision-making within – that you carried out along the way, in addition to your finished product of facilitation.

Write closing Open Forum post: Your closing Open Forum post is one of your last opportunities to make a connection with course participants and (hopefully!) leave them with a positive impression of the course. This post will likely contain last housekeeping bits of information, such as the need for participants to complete and submit their self-assessment rubric as well as the course feedback form. You should also include warm words of thanks to everyone involved for engaging in the course and wish them well on their online facilitation journeys in the future. As always, you will bring your own personal flair and authenticity to the crafting of this post.

After the course

Respond to self-assessment rubrics: While you may have had the opportunity to respond to participant self-assessment rubrics in the last days of the course – if they submitted them early – you may also need to spend some time after the course ends to finish up this last task. Remember that the self-assessment rubric is directly tied to the course outcomes. If you see an issue or a mismatch with how the participant perceives their course engagement and how you perceive it, you may wish to reach out directly by phone or email to that person to invite a discussion about their course completion.

Reading course feedback forms and reflect on own facilitation: Reflection on your facilitation practice is an important part of facilitating online. Ensure you make time to read course feedback forms and debrief with any co-facilitators that you worked with throughout the course. Make notes of things that you’d like to enhance or change for next time – especially while it’s fresh in your memory! Recognize both the strengths you brought to the course as an online facilitator and what you’d like to continue to learn about and practice as you go forward on your own journey in online facilitation.


  1. An OER version of FLO Synchronous is available for download for Moodle LMS use from BCcampus, so using a Moodle system may be advantageous
  2. The self-assessment rubric references the “Providing Effective Feedback” section in the Course Overview to further illustrate the expectations to participants around what effective feedback should look like.
  3. Keep accessibility top-of-mind: you may need to include a transcript of your video.

License

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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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