Last week the Lab delivered a brand new training programme to 24 current course reps on how to be an ‘Online Facilitator’.  This crucial role will form part of the new online programme for pre-arrival students this summer.  The newly trained reps will essentially be the first ‘human’ contact our new students will have.  So here is where the challenge lies, how do we ‘virtually’ instill a feeling of community amongst thousands of new students from all over the world who have yet to meet?

Answer: By opening up 13 group discussion forums and managing the pre-arrival students in groups per school. In recruiting course reps to facilitate from each school, it will be easier for them to form relationships with and instigate conversation between the students they will go on to meet when the term starts.

With the practicalities sorted the training session was created and delivered with the aim of getting participants to get in the frame of mind of their ‘to be peers’.

After brief introductions, Debra James and Lauren Heywood kicked off with a starter activity asking the reps to find ten things they have in common with each other in 10 mins (the only rule being no clothes or body parts as that’s too easy).  Ten things in 10 minutes is a lot harder than it sounds!

After looking deeper into the role of an online facilitator we then asked the reps to answer: What makes a good conversation​? Think of a time when you felt comfortable to join a conversation with people you didn’t know. How did others make you feel welcome?

By doing this we were able to look at the behaviour and characteristics important in making others feel welcome.

To bring the afternoon to a close and all the previous conversations together, our final activity asks the reps to create a pool of ‘conversation starters’. These conversation starters will be used as pinned posts each week to get the conversation flowing whilst informing pre-arrival students of social activities they can get involved in.

The types of questions our lovely reps came up with were:  ‘How are you feeling about joining Coventry University?’ & ‘What do you think makes a creative person?’

With everyone trained and prepped we eagerly await our next cohort of students to see how they engage with the forum and what we can learn for future developments of the programme.

A huge thank you is needed to our colleagues over at the Student Union (CUSU) who made all of this possible too, it has been a pleasure working with them and we hope this partnership will continue for a long time to come!

The DMLL is leading the universities’ ‘Digital Leaders’ programme offering students a way to learn valuable digital fluency skills and in turn raising the digital capabilities of the Coventry University community.  The Online Facilitators programme is one of the ways students can get involved with the Lab and learn new skills.  If you are a student interested in becoming a Digital Leader at Coventry please contact: