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The Importance of Facilitator Credibility in Online Courses

by Rosemary Reigle, studioD

The credibility of online course facilitators is important because facilitators do more than present material -- they promote the growth of the learner-centered environment, which is key to the success of the online educational process. Credibility is mandatory if a facilitator is to be effective. To earn the trust of students, credible facilitators ensure that the online environment is not a barrier to knowledge, but instead the setting for an enriching learning experience.

Makes Effective Use of Technology

Credible facilitators of online courses understand technology, including the specific learning management system they are required to use. A facilitator is effective in helping their online students navigate the system and efficiently locate information, especially at the start of a course. According to “Facilitating Online Learning: Tips and Suggestions” by Gail Matthews-DeNatale and Sue Doubler, “The first week is the most important time in terms of establishing healthy rapport, group trust, and confidence in being able to master new technical skills.” During technology blackouts, credible facilitators know how to contact students, relieve them of technology-related distress and help them continue their coursework.

Provides Ongoing Feedback

Credible facilitators of online courses recognize the necessity of continuous feedback and assessment for student success. A credible facilitator will encourage, and participate in, peer reviewing. Credible facilitators know how to effectively allow students to share experiences and ideas that help them establish a sense of cohesion without fear of condemnation from other students. And, effective facilitators understand that acknowledging receipt of assignments and providing constructive comments enhances students’ confidence in their facilitator’s reliability and in their own success.

Encourages Interpersonal Interaction

Credible facilitators of online courses will identify the shy students and encourage them to participate. The facilitator will also ensure that no bullying takes place -- and if it does, she will deal with it swiftly. Credible online facilitators use the variety of communication tools available in the learning platform to communicate with individual students and groups. And, they further use their knowledge of platform tools to optimize the students’ learning experience and help them work cooperatively.

Employs Flexibility

Credible facilitators of online courses recognize that teaching online courses is not a traditional 9-to-5 job. The facilitator understands that time is at a premium for online students. Flexible facilitators check their online course on a regular basis, looking for student questions, submitted assignments, participation in the student discussion forums and so on. According to the Illinois Online Network, “An online instructor must be able to compensate for the lack of physical presence in the virtual classroom by creating a supportive environment where all students feel comfortable participating and especially where students know that their instructor is accessible.” Credible facilitators are available at least one day on the weekends for students who cannot contact the instructor on weekdays.

Recognizes Student Differences

The credible facilitator of online course recognizes and accepts that not all students are the same in personality or character. Each online course has student leaders who are highly visible, zealous students who actively engage whenever possible; moderate students who do the required work but are not interested in actively participating; and non-participants who may eventually withdraw from the course. Effective facilitators monitor the tone of their communications with students and ensure that all students understand and comply with the rules of “netiquette” when communicating with each other.

About the Author

Rosemary Reigle holds a doctorate in education from Argosy University. She has worked as a professor of composition and literature at several U.S. colleges and universities.

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