Module 3: Facilitating for connection

3.1 Module overview

Flow diagram illustrating Module 3: Facilitating for Connection as the first section of Part 2: Delivery and Facilitation
University of Waterloo

Learning outcomes

What you can take away from this module:

  • Strategies to signal your presence as an instructor to help humanize your online course.
  • A plan to build a connection between you and your learners that feels authentic to you.
  • A few personalized strategies you would like to try in the current or next offer of your course and a schedule for when you will implement them in term.
  • A plan for a live session to build community in your course.
  • Customized materials and resources you can use to humanize your course when teaching during a term offer.

With a well-designed course in hand, you are now ready to get started actively teaching online during a term offer. Many of the most essential opportunities for humanizing your virtual course come in the context of teaching it, whether or not you have designed the course yourself. Ideally the design you are working with has been carefully crafted to support the dimensions of significant learning and creates opportunities for your learners to interact with you, the content, and one another (see Module 1). This might not be the case, however, for many reasons, for instance

  • you may not be the course author and can’t make changes to the course design,
  • you are unable to revise the design of your course right now, or
  • it is already the first week of term and you and your learners are already feeling isolated and disconnected and you are looking for some tips (fast!).

The good news is, there are many ways you can humanize and enhance learning through virtual course delivery and facilitation strategies. In fact, research shows that what instructors do in term (presence and interpersonal interactions) has the greatest impact on learner outcomes, relative to other course design factors (Xu & Smith, 2013; Jaggars & Xu, 2016).

In this module you will learn about a number of essential considerations that you will want to keep in mind when teaching your online course (Key principles), and you will see a wide selection of examples (Strategies in action) to give you a window into what humanizing your online teaching actually looks like in practice. You will also be guided through some activities to help you develop and customize strategies for your own use (Reflect and apply) and there are several resources for those who want to learn more (Going deeper).

The most essential thing to keep in mind when looking to humanize your online teaching is simply that your learners are all real people with a variety of experiences and backgrounds. They may be taking your course primarily to master a large amount of content, or they may be there mostly to create new ideas and interact critically with existing ones (such as in a graduate seminar), or something in between. But no matter the nature of your course, helping your learners to connect in meaningful ways with the course content, and with one another and you as people, rather than feeling like isolated learning machines, will invariably produce better results for your learners as well as a much more satisfying experience for you as an instructor.

To help get you there, this module will delve into

  • some of the ways that you can create a sense of instructor presence for your learners online,
  • some key considerations for creating learner–learner interaction in your course,
  • a few tips on some of the things you can do during term to help promote more effective and humanized learner-content interaction, and
  • finally some of the ways that you can make your synchronous (live) sessions most effective if you are using them.

Sections in this module

You can jump to any of the sections in this module by clicking the links below or using the left-side navigation menu.

3.2 Instructor presence during term

3.3 Encouraging learner–learner interactions during term

3.4 Supporting learner–content interactions during term

3.5 Synchronous (live) sessions

Strategies in action examples

Below are links to strategies, examples, instructor testimonials, and templates for those who would like to jump right to exploring humanizing principles and strategies in action applied in real virtual courses.

3.2 Instructor presence during term

3.3 Encouraging learner–learner interactions during term

3.4 Supporting learner-content interactions during term

3.5 Synchronous (live) sessions

Reflect and apply activities

Reflect and apply

Below are links to all the Reflect and apply activities for those interested in diving right into applying principles and examples to their own course design and teaching context.

3.2 Instructor presence during term

3.4 Supporting learner-content interactions during term

3.5 Synchronous (live) sessions

Going deeper resources


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