Active participation and motivation are two of the more important aspects of learning that help students to be successful. In online learning, just like in face-to-face classrooms, one of the best ways to engage learners is to allow them to interact with you as the instructor, but also with other students, and even others from outside the safe boundary of a course, such as subject experts and other learners. An instructor who is skilled in facilitating online interaction and communication is critical for making this a valuable part of the learning process for everyone involved. We will look at models for online facilitation or e-moderating that have been described by prominent educational researchers including Gilly Salmon, Zane Berge, Andrew Feenberg, Cindy Xin, and Ed Hootstein.
Gilly Salmon’s 5-Stage Model
Gilly Salmon refers to online teachers as electronic moderators or e-moderators. E-moderators preside over online meetings that occur through some type of software platform or computer-mediated conferencing (CMC) software. Elluminate would be an example of such software that focuses on synchronous interaction, while platforms such as Blackboard and Moodle focus more on asynchronous interaction.
The 5-Stage Model
Gilly Salmon’s 5-stage model represents a progression for learners through which the e-moderator must act as a helping guide. Each step has a technology component and a moderating component, with a move from a cooperative environment where participants are willing to support each other’s learning goals, to a more collaborative environment, where discussions occur toward a common understanding.
The following slide presentation was presented by Carol Blenkin, Joyce Bruce, and Denise Nelson at the Canadian Network of Innovation in Education conference in Banff, AB, in 2008. The presentation shows a case study of how Salmon’s 5-stage model is being used in the nurse practitioner program at the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology.
On her website, Gilly Salmon provides a description of the 5-stage model that is illustrated by cartoons to better help you understand how the process works.
Zane Berge: eModerators—The Role of the Online Instructor/Facilitator
Zane Berge discusses the instructor’s role in computer-mediated communication with a particular focus on computer conferencing and providing a rich environment for interpersonal interaction. Berge makes recommendations for online facilitators in four distinct aspects of online communication:
He emphasizes that each online learning experience is different, and the instructor, as facilitator, needs to be able to adapt to work effectively and to ensure that everyone is learning through the process. There will be challenges for both instructor and students, but a skilled facilitator will help students learn by clearly articulating the goals and objectives of the online communications and by promoting two-way communication between all participants in a congenial, trusting environment.
Zane Berge’s article on the role of the online instructor is posted on this website.