Week 7: Foundations of Online Facilitation


In this module, we are going to shift our focus from online design to online facilitation. A well-designed online learning experience can fail to be successful if it is not facilitated effectively, and if learners are not engaged and supported in the learning environment. The presence of a skilled online facilitator is an essential ingredient in creating a meaningful online learning experience. Online facilitation involves supporting and guiding learners by promoting interaction and communication (Salmon, 2006). Educators making the transition to teaching online are often required to shift their traditional facilitation techniques in order to adapt to the online environment. This module will provide an overview of online facilitation and will introduce both the Community of Inquiry framework and the Five Stage Model of E-Moderating and discuss their application to online facilitation. It will also provide you with the opportunity to explore examples of effective online facilitation and to examine a range of online facilitation strategies.

Learning Outcomes

When you have completed this module you should be able to:

  • Describe the key components of the Community of Inquiry framework and the Five Stage Model of E-Moderating and their application to online facilitation.
  • Identify examples of effective online facilitation.
  • Discuss online facilitation strategies for common teaching and learning scenarios.

Topic 1 – The Community of Inquiry Framework


Online facilitation involves the strategies, techniques and communication an educator employs to support and guide online learners. According to Huggett and Wilkinson (2014), facilitation is “the act of engaging participants in creating, discovering and applying learning insights.” Kaner (1996) states that “the facilitator’s job is to support everyone to do their best thinking. To do this, the facilitator encourages full participation, promotes mutual understanding and cultivates shared responsibility” (p. 31). Essentially, online facilitation is focused on engaging, guiding and motivating learners, and creating a conducive environment for online learning and communication exchange (Australian Flexible Learning Framework, 2003).

Please read the following article:

The Community of Inquiry (COI) framework is one of the most widely cited models in the field of online education. This theoretical model was developed by Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2000), and it proposes that learning occurs within a community through the interaction of three core elements: cognitive presence, social presence, and teaching presence. The first element, cognitive presence, is the extent to which the members of a community are able to construct meaning. Social presence is the second element, and represents the ability of learners to project themselves socially and emotionally into the community. The final element is teaching presence, which encompasses the design and facilitation of the educational experience as a means to support cognitive and social presence. The COI model suggests that deep and meaningful learning results when there are sufficient levels of all three presences.

Please read the following chapter:

This chapter focuses on how facilitation supports teaching, social, and cognitive presence. The authors claim that of all factors within the COI framework, facilitation is the most critical as it manages the overlaps between all three presences, and is at the core of a community of inquiry. Although facilitation is encompassed within the teaching presence component of the COI framework, facilitation also ensures that social presence is established among community members and, in turn, that cognitive processes are supported. Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes and Garrison (2013) describe teaching presence as “the effort and activity around the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes in learning communities created to foster inquiry, for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning” (p. 46). It is the role of the facilitator in a COI to encourage, model, and support activities that set the climate and encourage community development. Table 3.1 on page 50 of the chapter presents some helpful strategies for facilitating social presence in both the face-to-face and online environment.

Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes and Garrison (2013) explain that facilitation of academic interaction and critical discourse moves the community from social presence to cognitive presence and suggest that the following indicators of facilitation can be used to support inquiry face-to-face and online:

  1. Maintain a comfortable climate for learning.
  2. Focus the discussion on specific issues.
  3. Identify areas of agreement/disagreement.
  4. Seek to reach consensus/understanding.
  5. Encourage, acknowledge, and reinforce contributions.
  6. Draw in participants, prompting discussion.
  7. Assess and make explicit the efficacy of the process.
  8. Refer to resources, e.g., textbook, articles, Internet, personal experiences.
  9. Summarize the discussion.

These strategies, and others, can be used to support required facilitation of cognitive presence. Table 3.2 on page 55 of the chapter provides strategies for facilitating cognitive presence in both the face-to-face and online environment.

Learning Activity 1 – Community of Inquiry Framework

Please examine the online course that you are using for the Online Course Audit Assignment and identify at least one example of teaching presence, cognitive presence, and social presence along with the educational technology supports used. Share your examples on your blog with the tag “EDDL5141.”

Please review the examples shared by your peers and identify one strategy for each of the presences that you would like to implement within your own online facilitation. For each strategy, describe how you would implement it within your own practice and post your description in the appropriate discussion forum.

Topic 2 – Five Stage Model of E-Moderating


Please read the following article and watch the following video:

Salmon (2006) proposes a model for online facilitation that she refers to as “e-moderating” that includes five stages:

  • Stage 1: Access and Motivation— The role of the facilitator in this stage is to welcome and encourage participants to interact. In this stage, any technical or social issues that might restrict participation are addressed, and students are encouraged to share information about themselves to create a virtual presence. The facilitator takes on the role of the host who eases the participant’s access to the course and welcomes participants to the online learning space.
  • Stage 2: Online Socialisation —The role of the facilitator in this stage is to help participants get to know each other and to develop online socialization by “building bridges between cultural, social, and learning environments” (p. 26). The facilitator takes on the role of a community builder and a guide.
  • Stage 3: Information Exchange —The role of the facilitator in this stage is to facilitate learning tasks, moderate content-based discussions, and bring to light student misconceptions and misunderstandings. The facilitator takes on the role of coach and mentor in this stage.
  • Stage 4: Knowledge Construction —In this stage, learners focus on creating knowledge artefacts and projects that collaboratively and individually illustrate their understanding of course content and approaches. The facilitator maintains the role of coach and mentor in this stage.
  • Stage 5: Development —In this stage, learners become responsible for their own and their group’s learning by creating final projects, working on summative assignments, and demonstrating the achievement of learning outcomes. Learners and the facilitator engage as peers within an online community of practice.

Each stage identifies technical and e-moderating skills required, with an interactivity indicator that specifies the varying amounts of interaction expected between the learners at each stage. This is seen as greatest towards the end of stage three (Information Exchange), throughout stage four (Knowledge Construction) and into stage five (Development). Learners are expected to progress through each of the five stages as part of an online community. The structure is designed to support a constructivist approach to learning (Moule, 2007). Although Salmon’s (2006) model is presented as being sequential, it may need to be customized to meet the unique needs of each online learning community. For example, learners may enter an online learning experience with a background in online learning and strong technical and social experience in which case you may decide to skip the first stage of the model. Also, leaners may already be familiar with each other and may have worked together in the past, so the second stage of the model may not be needed depending on the group of learners. Salmon (2006) claims that the 80:20 rule applies to online facilitation and she presents a figure on page 40 that describes the e-moderating essentials that lead to the best results.

Learning Activity 3 – Five Stage Model

Please compare and contrast the Five Stage Model and the COI framework, and reflect on the similarities and differences. Review the e-moderating essentials that were provided on page 40 and identify at least one additional strategy that you might be able to apply within your own practice. Please share your comparison of the two modes and additional strategy on your blog with the tag “EDDL5141.”

Topic 3 – Online Facilitation Strategies


There are a wide range of online facilitation techniques and strategies that can support teaching, social, and cognitive presence, and that can be used within the five stages of e-moderating as was outlined in Table 3.1 and Table 3.2 in Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes and Garrison (2013) and Figure 1 in Salmon (2006). When transitioning to the online environment, it can be helpful to be aware of some online facilitation strategies for common scenarios that may arise in the online environment. Just like in the face-to-face environment, the strategy that you select will depend on the specific instructional context, and you may have to experiment with a range of strategies before you find the right one, however being prepared with a few techniques in your toolkit can be useful.

Learning Activity 4 – Online Facilitation Scenarios

For this activity you will work in a group or pairs to brainstorm common facilitation scenarios that may arise in the online environment. As a group, you will select one scenario and will write a short (max. 500 word) case study that describes the scenario in detail. You will add your case study to the Google Doc provided.

A case study is a story that presents a realistic situation. It often involves a dilemma, conflict, or problem that one or more of the characters in the case must negotiate. The material for your case study can be drawn from actual or fictionalized real-world situations and can be inspired by your own personal experiences. The best cases are based on real-life events that are typical of everyday life, ones that everyone can recognize and to which they can add their own experience or insights. Your case study should contain a description of the setting (time and place), the characters, and a sequence of events that are present in the problem situation. Cases are usually presented in a narrative or story format. A narrative is a story of an event. It includes what happened, who was involved, when it happened, why it happened, and how it happened.

Each group will be assigned a case study written by your peers depicting an online facilitation scenario. As a group, you will work collaboratively to analyze the case study and discuss potential online facilitation strategies and educational technology supports that could be used to address the scenario presented using the information from the readings, previous activities, and your own personal experiences. You will add your suggested online facilitation strategies and educational technology supports to the Google Doc.


In this module, we shifted focus from online design to online facilitation, which are both required to create and support meaningful online learning experiences. Online facilitation is aimed at engaging, guiding and motivating learners, and creating a conducive environment for online learning and communication exchange (Australian Flexible Learning Framework, 2003). You were introduced to the Community of Inquiry framework that places a strong emphasis on online facilitation as it helps to bridge the gap between teaching, social, and cognitive presence, which are necessary components of an online community. The Five-Stage Model was also introduced, which identifies the technical and e-moderating skills required to support a constructivist approach to online learning. You also had the opportunity to develop a case study describing a common online facilitation scenario, and worked collaboratively to discuss online facilitation strategies and educational technology supports that could be used to address common scenarios. The next module is devoted to working with your group to plan and prepare for your Online Facilitation Assignment.


Australian Flexible Learning Framework. (2003). Effective Online Facilitation . Retrieved from “http://ldt.eworks.edu.au/Default.aspx”

Carr, T., Jaffer, S., & Smuts, J. (2009). Facilitating online: A course leader’s guide . University of Cape Town. Centre for Educational Technology. Retrieved from “http://dev1.oerafrica.org/resource/facilitating-online-course-leaders-guide”

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education model. The Internet and Higher Education , 2(2-3), 87-105.

Garrison, D. R. (2007). Online community of inquiry review: Social, cognitive, and teaching presence issues. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks , 11(1), 61-72. Retrieved from “https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ842688.pdf”

Huggett, C., & Wilkinson, M. (2014). (2014). Keep participants engaged. In E. Biech (ed.), ASTD handbook: The definitive reference for training & development . (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.

Kaner, S. (2014). Facilitator’s guide to participatory decision-making . John Wiley & Sons.

Moule, P. (2007). Challenging the five-stage model for e-learning: a new approach. ALT-J , 15 (1), 37-50.

Salmon, G. (2006). 80:20 for e-moderators. In The challenge of ecompetence in academic staff development . CELT, NUI Galway, Galway, Republic of Ireland, pp. 145-154. Retrieved from “https://eprints.usq.edu.au/18862/2/Salmon_Ch16_2006_PV.pdf”

Salmon, G. (2006). Climbing the learning mountain [Video file]. Retrieved from “https://youtu.be/GbwJMKWFfbI”

Vancouver Island University. (2018). Facilitating + moderating online . Retrieved from “https://ciel.viu.ca/learning-technologies-innovation/online-blended-learning/facilitating-moderating-online”

Vaughan, N. D., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, R.D. (2013). Facilitation. In Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry (pp. 45-62). Athabasca, AB: Athabasca University Press. Retrieved from “http://www.aupress.ca/books/120229/ebook/03_Vaughan_et_al_2013-Teaching_in_Blended_Learning_Environments.pdf”

White, N. (2015). An overview of online facilitation . Retrieved from “http://www.fullcirc.com/resources/facilitation-resources/an-overview-of-online-facilitation”

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