Online Facilitator

Online Facilitator

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The term online facilitator is used interchangeably with terms such as e-tutor, online tutor, online instructor and e-learning facilitator. An online facilitator is seen as a person who regulates discussions to provide consistent opportunities for communication and collaboration. This can take the form of asking questions or suggesting alternative approaches- whilst also accepting the views presented- to stimulate discussion. Online facilitators need to judge when to intervene and when to alter their approach in relation to a group’s functioning in an effort to promote independent thought, discussion and knowledge construction.

In the event that an online facilitator also acts as a tutor, it is imperative that he/she is knowledgeable about the subject matter. They also need to acknowledge the specificities of working with participants that are connected virtually and may be very diverse in terms of location, language skills and cultural backgrounds. Thus, online facilitators need to be flexible in their approach to engaging learners in a virtual environment, be perceptive to gauge their progress and be receptive to their particular needs. In this sense, the online facilitator’s role is a fundamental one which can affect how positive the learning experience for participants is.[1]

See also: Online Facilitation, Facilitator.


Toolkit.png Roles and Responsibilities of an Online Facilitator

Key attributes of an Online Facilitator

  • Competency in the subject matter, as a minimum, at the same level of the themes that are covered in the online course especially if he/she also acts as a tutor;
  • Certain degree of familiarity with information technology and managing online communications in general;
  • Openness to receiving additional training in relation to the particular Learning Management System being used for the online course that is to be facilitated;
  • Being motivating, respectful and sympathetic towards participants;
  • Willingness to adapt facilitation style depending on the course structure and/or participants’ needs;
  • Seeking and responding to external feedback on facilitation skills, and self-evaluating one’s facilitation style, for improving the provision of online tutoring support.

Recommendations for an Online Facilitator to perform effectively

  • Address participants by their names to overcome physical distance and create a convivial group environment;
  • Communicate clearly and in simple language, omitting slang words, that can be understood by a global audience;
  • Ask direct and specific questions in forums to prompt a higher response rate;
  • Provide responses to participants that are rich in content than length;
  • Be approachable and have a regular online presence by logging in at frequent intervals.

Primary tasks of an Online Facilitator


  • Become familiar with the technological aspects of the course environment in the Learning Management System;
  • Review the course content and tasks involved, including taking note of deadlines for both participants and the facilitator.

Start of the course:

  • Ease participants into the online environment with Icebreaker activities and/or initiating a round of introductions among the group;
  • Set ground rules for online interaction, including tips on netiquette.

During the course:

  • Foster learning among participants through open discourse and experience-sharing;
  • Respond to forum postings regularly, and summarise postings in each discussion forum in a concise manner to provide a sense of the key elements surrounding a topic (bringing out both commonalities and differences in student views);
  • Provide clarifications on course content, and refer participants to additional resources in the subject area when needed;
  • Mediate as necessary to initiate discussions, or resolve disagreements, and to keep participants on track in relation to course objectives;
  • Provide timely feedback on assessments whether these activities are graded or not;
  • Remind participants of deadlines at required intervals;
  • Support participants, especially those less familiar with technology, in their use of online communication methods when they face difficulties;
  • Pay attention to participants’ lack of engagement and follow-up with those who don’t regularly participate to minimize the dropout rate.

After the course:

  • Provide requested feedback to course administrators for course evaluation purposes;
  • Remain accessible for clarifications required on any-course related issue like grading.

How can Course Administrators support the Online Facilitator?

  • Provide clear materials to familiarise the facilitator with the course content, the methodological approach and course deadlines;
  • Invest time to train facilitators technically for using the Learning Management System prior to the start of the course;
  • Share the burden of providing technical support to participants with the online facilitator;
  • Remind participants, if and when needed, that the facilitator can be expected to have a regular online presence but will not be constantly monitoring online activities and that they should also take account of time zone differences;
  • Set reasonable and realistic timeframes for the online facilitator to complete tasks such as grading assignments.

Job Aid

Pdf.png Online Facilitator.pdf‎

Link icon.png Web Resources
Below are additional resources on facilitator competencies:
Link Content
IBSTPI Instructor Competencies This resource lists key competencies that have been internationally endorsed for instructors, including those teaching via the online medium.
E-Moderator Competencies This model provides a useful illustration of the role of e-moderating in different stages of online activities for supporting knowledge construction.
Great Teachers Using a humorous/informal writing style, the author of the article provides a succinct outline of some key instructor/teacher qualities.


  1. Effective Online Facilitation, Online Facilitation (7 December 2010); Tools for Development, eTutoring (2 December 2010); Online facilitation and the role of the Tutor, Wearing Four Pairs of Shoes: The Roles of E-Learning Facilitators, Running E-tivity plenaries (29 November 2010); E-tutoring in higher education (6 December 2010); Facilitating Online, The Non-Drowsy Virtual Classroom (29 November 2011); Facilitation Online, Online Facilitator Skills (26 January 2011); Best Practices in Online Conference Moderation (1 January 2011); What’s Different about Teaching Online? How are Virtual Teachers Changing Teaching?, Facilitation Techniques (1 February 2011); Naidu, S., E-Learning A Guidebook of Principles, Procedures and Practices, Commonwealth Educational Media Center for Asia (CEMCA), 2006; Lehmann, K. and Chamberlin, L., Making the Move to eLearning, Putting your Course Online, Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2009; Murphy, P. and Pratt, K., Building Online Learning Communities, Jossey-Bass, 2007; Christopher, D., Facilitating in the Global Virtual Classroom, Infoline, November 2011, Vol. 28 (1111)