My Course Is Starting – Now What?

For many years I taught adults in the college and university setting, both in the classroom and online. I learned the hard way how to prepare for teaching others (even if my curriculum was all written) and run my course like a cool cucumber (though I was very alert all the time.)

If you plan to be hands-on with your online students in some manner (i.e. via a discussion board, group calls or one-on-one session) you will be interested in my facilitation tips.

TIP #1 – Get to know your students. Create community.

Your students are people, not just customers, and they have fascinating stories. Take some time to get to know them using simple exercises like the following icebreaker exercises:

  • Fun question: Have everyone post in the webinar chat/ discussion forum their answer to this question: If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
  • Interview game: Have everyone interview one other student and share an interesting fact about them in a discussion post or live call.
  • Memorable name: Have everyone pick an adjective to place before their name and use it to describe themselves, like Krazy Kelly. Use the same letter for both the adjective and name.

Additionally, see your group of students as an active learning community that will support each other during the course and time together.

To build a great learning online community, do the following:

  • Set the tone of sharing and supporting each other from the beginning.
  • Set ground rules on critiquing other’s work and self-promoting.
  • Engage with the students regularly without draining yourself or your time.
  • Quickly help students who make be stuck.
  • Have students post all their questions in the forum so others can learn, too.

TIP #2 – Do not wing it. Plan ahead for live sessions.

By this I mean, don’t quickly review chapter 1 or module 1 the same day or an hour before you are meeting up with students. Or quickly scan the discussion forum for questions that students are asking or that reveal where they might be stuck.

For best results, you need to sketch a basic lesson plan on what you plan to say, share, instruct and engage with students. It’s the same as if you were preparing to present at a conference or important meeting.

Students can become frustrated with poorly delivered live sessions – they’ve booked off the time to attend and expect a good experience.

Below is a typical lesson plan for a live teaching session:

Click here to download the lesson plan

How to Use a Lesson Plan

  1. Determine the purpose of getting together with your students. Many state it’s to field questions but even this needs to be planned so the time together is useful.
    1. Add more value by sharing relevant information, stories, ideas, examples and/or richer explanations.
  2. Write down at least one goal (learning outcome) that you want students to attain by the end of the gathering.
    1. Maybe you need them to better understand one of your topics, start or finalize a big project, understand a concept more fully, or share their work to date.
    2. Learn more here on how to create course goals.
  3. Teach them something new and complimentary of the course content. Add value by increasing their knowledge and skills.
    1. Share slides or images, or take them on a virtual tour to relevant websites by sharing your desktop.
  4. Have students do something for 10 or 15 minutes and then share what they have created.
    1. This is very effective for live teaching sessions, because it is learner-centric and not merely one-way communication (read, boring lecture.)
  5. Check they understand and have reached the goal(s) you determined in Step #2.
    1. Will you poll their understanding, ask for a few to share their insights, or ask them questions to check their understanding?
  6. Summarize what you have taught them and what they have learned.
    1. Recaps really do help with retention and provide students with a focus on what was important to pay attention to from the session.

TIP #3 – Keep the momentum going for students.

Motivating students to complete a course is a common challenge among all course deliverers. There is usually a flurry of activity at the start of the course, but then it tapers off.

Here are some motivational strategies to keep students coming back each week for lessons and engagement:

  • Reduce the amount of content and activities you have students complete. Overwhelm can set in quickly and can create paralysis. Learn how here.
  • Cut to the chase, drop the long background informational pieces, and show them HOW to do something. Learn more here.
  • Have automated Monday morning emails that encourage students to move to the next lesson in the course. Add a quick refresher/review of the week before to connect the learning. Also, indicate how the new lesson is important and beneficial to them.
  • Pick one student a week, connect with them and showcase their work or share their course challenges and how they overcame them. Post this anywhere.
  • Build a course that has them experiencing first, then learning deeper next. See how here.


To build a course is one major feat; the next challenge is to run or facilitate a course so well it delights students. This is what they want – not buckets of info coming at them. They want to learn, be guided and experience new growth with their facilitator and other students.

Therefore, consider these 3 strategies to enrich your course: Build a rocking online community that is worth engaging in, plan live sessions that create a great experience, and spend energy on motivating students to return to the course every week.

Now that is a recipe for a wonderful course.

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