Management is not the same as facilitation, but every facilitator must manage.
We cover the facilitation process elsewhere.
Below is a summary of the basic tasks for management of an online course. The process has certain parallels to the face-to-face classroom, where someone must be responsible for erasing the chalkboard, running the slide projector, and passing out the blue books.
Post course materials.
Keep track of when you have scheduled the distribution of the various readings and other materials and see that they are posted on schedule in the appropriate location.
Open and close discussions.
Post regular discussion questions according to your schedule. When you feel that a topic has run its course, close the topic by alerting participants a few days in advance that access to that particular discussion will be terminated or, when you can’t control access, make the next topic the new focus.
As your course progresses, the number of messages and topics can become unwieldy if you don’t organize them.
As the facilitator, you will undoubtedly perform some of these organizational tasks yourself, especially at the beginning of the course. However, in time you may want to assign some of this work to your students as part of their learning experience.
In either case, capturing completed discussion threads in a file and adding that file to the Web site links is an efficient way of organizing messages and archiving them for future reference. (See “Harvest and Weave.”)
Remove inappropriate messages.
An offensive remark that might pass by with only a few embarrassed titters in a face-to-face classroom becomes a permanent part of the written transcript of your online course. You may have to enforce your discussion guidelines from time to time by removing unacceptable messages.
Whenever you remove a message, for whatever reason, it is good practice to email the original author, attaching a copy of the removed message and explaining why you removed it.
Dealing With Unacceptable Messages
Here are the guidelines FutureU™ provides its course facilitators for dealing with unacceptable messages. You may use these to create your own policy, provided that you follow the FutureU copyright guidelines, giving appropriate credit where due.
1.7 Material Subject to Removal from the Module Forums.
1.7.1. Copyrighted materials
Participants may not post copyrighted materials without permission of the copyright holder. This is the responsibility of the person posting the material. If a facilitator discovers a violation, s/he must remove the posting and (gently) notify the participant that this has been done.
1.7.2. Material to remove
(1) copyright violations;
(2) postings that endanger the lives/well-being of an individual or the group;
(3) postings not relevant to the purpose of the module, as determined by the facilitator;
(4) postings that are inflammatory or disruptive to the purpose of the module as determined by the facilitator.
1.7.3. Procedure for removing material
(1) The facilitator first asks the poster to remove the postings;
(2) If no response comes in a reasonable amount of time, or if time constraints exist, the facilitator must remove the posting, sending a copy of the removed posting to the original poster via email;
(3) The facilitator must also post an explanation to the original poster;
(4) The facilitator must provide a copy of the deletion, and an explanation of why the item was removed, to FutureU™ Technical Support, where the action will be brought to the attention of the senior staff.
1.7.4. Notification of this policy
The facilitator must post a copy of sections 1.7, 1.7.1, 1.7.2, and 1.7.3 to the module forum on the first day of the module. Such a posting should be introduced in a tactful but clear manner, such as: “Here are the obligatory guidelines about materials that should not be posted to our forums.