Facilitation Principles

Topic Progress:

Recall from Lesson 1 that Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes, and Garrison highlight seven principles for establishing teaching presence. The first and second principles are focused on the design of the learning environment and the third and fourth, below, are focused on the process of actually facilitating the experience so that students feel socially connected and are also encouraged to engage in the cyclical process of critical inquiry.

Principle 3: Establish community and cohesion.

As previously mentioned, interaction is the key driver of the sense of community and cohesion in a CoI. However, it is critical that interactions are meaningful and purposeful, meaning that they are clearly aligned with the intended learning outcomes in the course. Students (and faculty) who choose to engage in self-paced learning experiences often do so because they don’t want to participate in discussion forums and have to wait for a reply that may never come.

Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes, and Garrison, in Table 3.1 1(pp 50-54), detail eight strategies for facilitating social presence online.

  1. Provide opportunities for initial introductions and ongoing social interaction.
  2. Set agreed-upon, shared norms for operating together in the learning community.
  3. Discuss the unique nature of [online learning].
  4. Outline required activities and arrange support for students concerned about role requirements.
  5. Discuss the unique nature of [online learning].
  6. Provide explicit directions for all course activities; outline and discuss course content, skill and activity goals, and expectations.
  7. Be clear about learner choice and flexibility.
  8. Provide activities for instructors and students to share experiences and support one another.

The result of developing a sense of community and belonging is the opportunity to push the community beyond social interaction and into the process of critical inquiry central to cognitive presence and deeper learning.

Principle 4: Establish inquiry dynamics (purposeful inquiry).

Facilitating cognitive presence requires directing discourse towards increasing cognitive effort and complexity. In the early stages of the critical inquiry process, facilitation is key as students are challenged by a trigger and begin to explore their understandings and alternate explanations. As complexity increases and students move towards integration and resolution, the instructor may have to take a more direct role in guiding the students to the intended learning outcomes.

Again, Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes, and Garrison provide a helpful table highlighting strategies for facilitating cognitive presence online.

  1. Use collaborative learning principles in small group discussion and joint projects, to facilitate collaboration and discourse.
  2. Model  responsiveness and immediacy  through your interactions with students.
  3. Model and encourage affective expression by sharing experiences and beliefs in discussions.
  4. Share the facilitation of discourse by having students summarize discussions.
  5. Model and encourage critical questioning, divergent thinking, and multiple perspectives in discussion through provocative, open-ended questions.
  6. Model and request practical applications of knowledge and/or formulate and resolve a problem in small group discussions.
  7. Encourage and support the progression of inquiry in discussion and small group activities through triggering events, exploration, and integration to resolution.
  8. Use development or scaffolding of both content and processes to support behaviours that move discourse through integration to resolution.
  9. Use discussion summaries to identify steps in the knowledge creation process.
  10. Use discussion material to illuminate course content and encourage students to incorporate content from discussions in their assignments.
  11. Use peer review to engage students in a cycle of practical inquiry.
  12. Maximize virtual connection and collaboration by including synchronous communications; chat, collaborative whiteboards, interactive video, blogs, wikis, YouTube, Flickr…


  1. Vaughan, N., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. (2013). Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry. Athabasca: AU Press. Retrieved from http://www.aupress.ca/index.php/books/120229