An important consideration when facilitating online is, of course, the technology that you will be using. As we discussed in the Online Content module, creating an online course is not simply a matter of replicating face-to-face training in an online setting. Thanks to a myriad of new technologies, online facilitators have an exciting array of choices and options when it comes to how we want to deliver content.
As the facilitator, you do not have to be a technical expert, but you should have a working knowledge of the platform or software you are using so that you can use it effectively to deliver course content. Before you begin to plan your course, you will want to take the time to discover the various features and capabilities of the software you will be using as this can greatly impact the type of facilitation you offer. Will you use a discussion forum or live chat? Are there quizzes or test capabilities? Are there online journals or other ways that participants can track their progress and reflect on their learning? Are there ways for participants to interact with each other through file-sharing and messaging? Does your synchronous platform offer audio and visual capabilities so that you can interact with your participants in real time?
Knowing the software/platform and its capabilities will inform the type of activities that you can incorporate into the course you are facilitating. For example, most synchronous (live) systems will allow you to verbally ask a question and gather a quick yes/no response just as you would in a live setting. Within an asynchronous discussion you can pose a more complex question that requires an essay-type answer and participants can review the question, think about their response and type in a longer answer and even edit it at their convenience.
Sometimes, your decision about which activities to include will depend on whether you are facilitating in a synchronous or asynchronous setting. For example, if you engage participants in a problem-solving activity in a synchronous setting, you will be more likely to initiate an immediate brain-storming exercise. On the other hand, an asynchronous setting generally allows more time for reflection and fine-tuning of responses.
Many online learning activities can be adapted for either synchronous or asynchronous settings. For example, a discussion forum can be used in real time as a text-based "chat" or it can be used to post questions and ideas that participants respond to at their convenience. Quizzes can be set up to be time-limited and accessible during a certain period of time or again, they can be made available for access at the participants' convenience.