Facilitation Blog Series: Part 1 –
Getting Started

You’ve finally rolled out that corporate learning course you’ve been slaving over for months. You’ve made custom videos, got buy-in from all of your key stakeholders, and even told your friends about it. But as soon as it launches your engagement is low and learners are dropping like flies. What are you missing?

The answer is engaging and effective facilitation!

As Learning Experience Designers at NovoEd, we are huge fans of online facilitation. Not only have we trained countless L&D professionals to become effective facilitators, but we also hone our skills in our free online Foundations of Learning Experience Design (LXD) course, which is run once a quarter. Each LXD iteration leads to higher global enrollment and increased completion and engagement. In our current LXD cohort, for example, we have learners from 36 different countries spanning 6 continents!

In this 3-part blog series, we share the key facilitation questions we’ve asked ourselves to become better facilitators and provide you with answers backed by learnings from our LXD course. Let’s dive into the basics with the first set of questions on the most important stage of facilitation: planning.

Question #1:  What does an online facilitator do?

While online learning can offer great opportunities for self-directed learning and flexibility, sometimes you need to have a human (or a team of humans) on the other side to encourage, guide, and create opportunities for connection and deeper learning. This is where facilitators come in.
As online facilitators in NovoEd’s LXD course, our main goal is to get learners into the course more frequently and for longer periods of time. On a typical day of facilitating we may be giving thought-provoking assignment feedback, responding in discussion boards, or measuring engagement data.

Question #2: How do we prepare for a successful facilitation experience?

As the famous basketball coach John Wooden said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” In this way, facilitation of online courses is no different than coaching a great game of basketball.

The best facilitation experience begins with a detailed plan, with clear roles and responsibilities and a timeline created weeks before the course launches. For LXD, we even draft out all of our course communication before any learners set virtual foot in the course.

A few key questions you’ll want to ask yourself while you are planning for facilitation include:

  • What training will your facilitators need?
  • How many hours will you be devoting to facilitation each week?
  • How will you measure the effectiveness of your facilitation?

Question #3: How can our facilitation have the biggest impact with the least time commitment?

As busy professionals in the L&D world, we are constantly strapped for time. That’s why it is crucial to implement the facilitation actions that lead to the biggest increase in learner engagement. One thing we have found through facilitating the LXD course is that high facilitator engagement during the first-week skyrockets learner engagement throughout the remainder of the course. During this crucial time period, we pull out our facilitation big guns by:

1. Host a webinar

Host a live event to increase energy and clarify course expectations, timeline, and to address any concerns. 

2. Use course-wide communications

Keep your learners on track by guiding the community with reminders of pacing, pointing out exemplary student work, and addressing any misconceptions about your material. 

3. Send intervention emails

In a classroom, you can see who’s on their phone or sleeping. In our online world, we need to use data to see who is falling behind and reach out to encourage engagement. See an example of a real intervention email we send in the LXD course below:

Question #4: Our course just launched. What metrics should we care about right off the bat?

Collecting and analyzing data is incredibly important to the success of any project, including running an online course! In the first week of LXD we focus on two key metrics that are most closely linked to maximum engagement and ultimately course completion:

1. Signing in

The most important metric by far is LOGGING IN! It’s a necessary prerequisite for, well, everything. We monitor this closely each day during the first week of the course.

2. Completion of the first assignment

One of the best indicators of a learner’s level of commitment to the course is if they submit their first assignment on time. Ideally, this assignment is low-stakes and gives learners a real sense of progress toward a learning goal.

Start Getting Better Engagement Now

How often do you get to experiment in your L&D projects? When do you try new things to push the boundaries of how things are done? Start today by incorporating these facilitation best practices to immediately get more engagement in your courses or have our team to do it for you.


Stay tuned for Part 2 of our facilitation series which will focus on the best practices you can leverage once your course is live. Fill out the form below to sign up to receive part 2 of this blog series and other L&D resources from NovoEd.

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