I am studying another course at present (Constructing courses to Enhance Learning) and at the workshop I attended the other day we looked at some excellent examples of courses which were constructed to be as flexible as possible and user friendly for students who were not familiar with online study.
Contributions to the Discussion Board were amazing. Granted this was part of the assessment but I think after a while the students enjoyed contributing & reading the contributions of others. The Facilitator was very good: kept asking questions like what are your thoughts on this or do you think this is a reasonable statement or how would you change it. Students were divided into 3 groups & asked to write about a given topic (all different) & then they needed to comment on the contributions to the other topics. I thought this was a useful approach as although they only thoroughly researched 1 topic they learned something about all 3.
It is continuous communication which is the key to being a successful online Facilitator, perhaps not the method of communication.
I have participated in 2 online course so far. The 1st was great & I learned much more than I thought I would because the Facilitators were continuously suggesting resources or methods which could be useful. This motivated me to learn & I really enjoyed the learning.
The 2nd course was not so motivating as it was a face-to-face course which had been put online. There was not much communication & I just filled out the worksheets & submitted them. The course was not designed to maximise learning & I believe online courses should be: give the student an idea & let them do the learning themselves.