Online Facilitation - No Need to Panic!

Online Facilitation - No Need to Panic!

Tanis Harms, Community Learning Network

0 2 10 May 2022

Online…. Facilitation…. do either of those words bring you discomfort? Thoughts of boredom? Uncertainty?

Depending on your skills, training, and experience in either of these areas, these concepts may cause a lack of confidence in your ability to offer online workshops and courses. In order to understand these better, let’s break it down a bit…


OnlineOnline: communicating “live” in a virtual setting (eg. Over Zoom, Teams, Google Classroom, or others).

By the way, I didn’t consult Merriam Webster for this…it’s my own informal definition specific to what this blog is addressing. To feel confident in this area, the trainer or instructor needs to understand and have practice using the online platform. Lots of training videos are available via YouTube or the platform websites themselves for how to use the software - check them out! (And, of course, be sure to take the CLN Tech Talk training to learn tips and tricks for navigating technology when it is next offered!).

Once you know what the platform you’re using can do, or the tools available in it, the door to creativity in how you facilitate using it opens wide! For example, CLN currently uses Zoom primarily for online workshops and training. If you have attended any of these sessions, you are probably familiar with activities using the Zoom tools of the chatbox, whiteboard, annotating, and polls. Even with these few tools, the facilitation possibilities are endless!


Facilitation: guiding one or more people online for the purpose of learning (again, Merriam and I never deliberated over this casual definition).

There’s a reason you have the job you do. You are probably amazing at working with people and have a heart to help them! Facilitation is the opportunity to help (others and yourself) learn and grow. Before the big “C” virus, you may have never tried meeting with anyone online before. Now, it seems that meeting online is expected and desired! So how can you transfer the amazing skills you have in-person to a course, tutoring, or coaching activity online without having your fun and confidence fade away into the online space world? Read on….

How to Transfer Facilitation Skills and Activities to an Online Platform

Here’s where the fun begins! We don’t need to re-invent the wheel when it comes to online facilitation of activities. Why not use many of the activities that you already use in person, but adapt them with the tools you have online? Here are a few examples to get (or keep) your creative juices flowing…

Flipchart Activities

Option 1: Whiteboard

  • Share your whiteboard where you or others in the group can add text using the annotation feature

Option 2: PowerPoint Slide

  • Share a blank PowerPoint Slide where you or others can add text using the annotation feature

Option 3: Word Document

  • Share your screen with Word open, and you and others can add text by annotating, or you as the host can type into the document and save it for future reference/use

*Bonus: many platforms give you the option of saving a picture of your screen, so you can come back to view the document again

Group Discussions

Option 1: Breakout RoomsCreate the rooms manually or randomly

  • Provide the participants the option to choose their own room
  • Title the rooms specifically for the topics to discuss
  • Choose to pop in to the different rooms to hear the discussions or to answer any questions that arise

Option 2: Chatbox

  • Invite participants to share thoughts and questions in the chatbox, and you can invite others to share their responses in the chatbox as well, or on their microphones

Option 3: Microphones

  • Invite participants to talk! In order to keep the order, you can share the method of how that will happen (eg. Raise your hand physically or using a reaction, verbally say that you would like participants to unmute and chat)

Q&A Times

Option 1: Polls

  • Ask questions to evaluate understanding
  • Ask questions to gain input
  • Ask questions to focus discussion topics
     …and so much more!

Option 2: Chatbox

  • Type a question within the chatbox for participants to answer
  • Ask a question verbally and invite answers from participants in the chatbox
  • Do a “waterfall chat” where a question is asked and participants all share their answers at once

Option 3: PowerPoint or Whiteboard Annotation/Stamping

  • Use a pre-made PowerPoint Slide or Whiteboard with a question written on it and invite participants to annotate text directly on it
  • Ask a question, and share a PowerPoint slide with possible responses (words or pictures). Participants can use the “stamp” annotate option on or by their answer.


What other ways have you used the online platforms and tools
to facilitate activities and interaction?

Please share below!

Tanis Harms
West Regional Support Staff


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