Best practices: Sharing the lanes of design and facilitation in online courses

Designing and facilitating an online course that is both meaningful and enjoyable is quite a journey. Typically online courses come to fruition through one of two scenarios. Either one person is both the designer and the facilitator or separate individuals take on the design and facilitation responsibilities. Both roles are of extreme importance to the overall product. While some people may tend to think of these roles as opposing lanes of traffic I tend to think of design and facilitation as side-by-side lanes – flowing in the same direction to achieve a meaningful trip for everyone involved.

There are many models to use when planning your adventures in course design. I personally use the ADDIE Model. This framework serves as a flexible guideline for building effective online learning opportunities and identifies five phases: Analysis Design Development Implementation and Evaluation.

I liken the cyclical process of online course design and facilitation to taking a long road trip. First you plan for your trip (design the course) next you actually travel (facilitate the course) and last you share memories as you begin planning next year’s adventure (evaluate the course). In thinking of design and facilitation as lanes of traffic knowing which sections of the highway are appropriate merge areas and which are no passing zones helps make the journey successful.

  • Safe merge areas
    • Analysis
    • Evaluation
  • No passing zones
    • Design (Designer Only)
    • Development (Designer Only)
    • Implementation (Facilitator Only)

The design lane

Designers must carefully consider many things when writing a course from scratch and working through all phases of ADDIE. Designers must have a rich toolbox which includes audience-appropriate motivators clearly defined course objectives successful content delivery methods and meaningful assessment strategies. As a designer you must always design with the end in mind. Meaning “How will I design this course to meet the learning and facilitation goals?” Consider including the course facilitator in these elements of the overall course design.

  • Analysis: Work with the facilitator to determine the audience and desired outcomes. Determine the method of facilitation that is expected (web-enhanced v. hybrid v. fully online).
  • Evaluation: Include facilitators in summative and formative evaluation of both the course content and the facilitation efforts.

The facilitation lane

Facilitators must possess a certain skill set in order to make the online environment conducive to learning. Facilitators must have a technique grab-bag which includes engaging and motivating learners questioning students to extend the learning experience listening to student concerns and providing constructive feedback posing clear directions managing online discussion effectively encouraging team work and relationship building and possessing a positive attitude toward online learning in general. As a facilitator you should understand how the course is built and why it’s built that way. Understanding the design process and playing a part in it increases course success. Consider including the designer in these elements of the overall course facilitation.

  • Analysis: Share previous facilitation techniques with the designer. Share what was successful and unsuccessful. Determine if this is how you will continue to facilitate the course or if the content dictates a different form of facilitation.
  • Evaluation: Let the designer know of any “bumps in the road” you experienced. Use evaluations from learners to determine how design/facilitation should change in the next iteration (i.e. “This assignment was difficult to provide authentic feedback on because…”).

Merging safely

To foster the symbiotic relationship between design and facilitation consider the following best practices:

  • Encourage the facilitator to participate in as much of the analyze phase as is possible. This will get your course off on the right foot. If logical have the facilitator serve as the SME for the course.
  • Every course needs to be tested for quality assurance before it goes live. Why not have the course facilitator serve as this “tester”? Enroll the facilitator into the course in the Student role allow them to provide feedback to the Instructional Designer on any errors that he/she finds and then change the facilitator’s role to Teacher upon course completion.
  • If the facilitator cannot serve as a SME or assist in the design process of the course coordinate a time for either the ID or the SME (or both) to complete a knowledge transfer to the facilitator so that he/she knows how to begin and proceed with the course and the content.
  • Ensure that evaluations included in the course pertain to both the quality of the content and the quality of the facilitation. This can be accomplished in one survey if data generated from it can be aggregated based on question type.

Consider these rules of the road as you begin to design develop and deliver your next Moodle™ course to help ensure your journey is a success. Best of luck and enjoy the ride! We at Open LMS look forward to hearing about your next great adventure.


- Laura Lea



Discover our solutions