Continuing our stories from the front line blogging project around the five main chapters from E-Tivities 2nd edition- due out in June/July, is Anita Monty, Founder and owner of Expect Learning in Denmark. We thank Anita for her passionate contribution to the deliverables of e-tivities and the five stage model.
Founder and Owner
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your relationship to e-tivities:
I am the the founder and owner of the consultancy company Expect Learning, which is based in Denmark. Expect Learning help universities, educational institutions and companies with Learning Design for online learning and training teachers and consultants for moderating online.
I graduated from the University of Copenhagen with a M.A. in Pedagogy and elearning. I specialize in E-learning. Formerly I worked at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark as a Learning Designer. Together with teachers I developed 100% global online courses based on Gilly Salmon’s five stage model. The courses are running today. I have been highly involved in the change management process for more online teaching at the university.
I have also presented the online courses at national and international conferences about e-learning.
As well as also having much experience in teaching adults at The National University of Education and Frederiksberg University College (today Metropolitan University College).
Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Interview Questions: Experiences and Reflections of implementation (planning) of the Five Stage Model to E-tivities.
1. When were you first introduced to the five stage model and the use of e-tivities and what was your first experience like with them?
My story goes back to 2002 when I graduated from the University of Copenhagen with a M.A. in Adult Education and elearning. I was employed in my first job at the National Library of Education in Denmark, and here I bought Gilly Salmons books for the library. The books were interesting to me, since the five-stage model is research based on the social learning theories. I believe very much in dialogue in teaching, which is the main point in the social learning theories. In order to make sense, people need to share their experiences, discussing the content and the disciplines they learn, not just acquire the content passively. They need other learners to be a scaffold for their cognition, since the others add new perspectives and provides new information to learn from.
2. In what form do you use the five stage model and subsequent e-tivities today (feel free to give examples/case study summaries)?
I find the model easy to understand and implement. This is important when you train teachers in designing online teaching. I had my chance to work with the five-stage model and e-tivities in 2005, when I became employed as a Learning Designer at the IT Learning Center (ITLC) at the University of Copenhagen.
The university had decided to work strategically with building up online courses. Together with professor Carsten Smith-Hall, my first task was to transform his course on Tropical Forestry to an online course. You can read about it here http://www.kursusinfo.life.ku.dk/Kurser/LNAA10093.aspx
From the beginning, we were eager to design high quality online teaching. We wanted the online students to have the same level of teaching as they get in face-to-face teaching, and it was our conviction that we should design courses based on dialogue and interaction. I suggested we use Gilly Salmon’s five-stage model. Thus, we agreed to base the course on the model and we designed with e-tivities and e-moderating. Our results were low drop-out from course, high averade grades and active participation from students, so we can now say that we really succeeded in doing high quality university teaching online.
I was also involved in the developing of a global online course in Climate Change. You can read about it at www.climate-change.dk
Together with Christian Bugge Henriksen and Alejandro Ceballos, and a lot of other teachers from the University of Copenhagen, we decided to run the climate change course for 19 weeks. We scaled it up and up and today up to 90 students from all over the world are connected and work with case study and problem-based learning about climate change. I was a little bit afraid whether we could motivate students for that long online. On the other hand, I knew that it takes time for students to go through e-tivities from stage 1 to 5, also because it’s important to leave time for students to feel safe, to connect and to start to respond to each other. This is what participants must learn in e-tivities at stage 2.
I stayed at the university for six years, helping other teachers develop online courses. Today I have my own company, and I work with educational institutions and companies, who also want to develop online learning. I train teachers and consultants in Learning Design based on the five-stage model.
3. The five stage model is based around the importance of social learning theories. What has been your experience with approaching online learning design/facilitation around these theories, and what role did the Five Stage Model play in this?
Let me start by telling you, that I believe people need to be involved in interaction with other people in order to understand who they are and why they are here in the world. Jerome Bruner, the American psychologist and author of several books about the human self, describes how we have an innate need to organize our experiences in a story about ourselves in order to make sense. This very fundamental thing about humans is the critical factor we have to stick to when we design for learning online. It is the reason why no technology, not even Apple’s, can create a culture online for interaction between humans. Technology and machines can not make sense of things like we can. We therefore we need good and powerful e-moderators, in conjunction with a strong well rehearsed and successful learning design, who will help our learners to participate online in a way that makes sense to them.
4. What do you think is important about the role of the five stage model in online learning design today?
When I use the e-tivities to structure courses around, the e-tivities design provides a path and guide for participants to follow. This makes it easy to start on the course, and make participants feel safe from the beginning. Normally, when a student begins on a course, he will have other students to ask. But being an online student, you have no one sitting beside you to ask.
When I train teachers, I show them how they can use structured e-tivities and design them in the learning platform. The University of Copenhagen use the platform “Itslearning”, which is easy to use and well suited for student-centred design. This is the key to making new online students feel safe and not confused. The e-tivities have the start time, deadline, task, link to discussion forum, link to learning resources, etc. It makes sense to people, since this is what they know from live education, when they had to show up in lecture halls or classrooms ready to participate in teaching. Throughout the years, I have helped teachers to design the e-tivities so they automatically help students go from being dependent learners to independent learners. This is what teaching is about; facilitating learners to progress in their learning.
5. What downsides, if any, of the Five Stage Model have you experienced and what would your advice be to others who have had the same situation. Or perhaps what would you like to see the Five Stage Model develop/change/add to?
Actually I still think it’s difficult to design e-tivities for stage 2. Even though I have tried it for years, I feel I have something to learn, and I keep trying. When I help teachers with the design, I recommend them to create tasks related to the subject or discipline they teach in. But it’s always difficult at stage 2, because the questions you ask in the discussion forum are supposed to open up for more information from learners about cultural background, dreams, experiences, home university etc. So we try to find a good question where you can balance it between personal things and discipline related things. We tell students only to reveal information they feel comfortable with. Once we designed an e-tivity about their favourite meal and in which country they had it. It was amazing how much they shared about themselves, so maybe food is a good theme for students to start from, an invitation to tell more about themselves and their cultural background
6. What do you think are important considerations for using the five stage model and designing e-tivities to suit each level, in learning design in the future?
Stage 2 is very important since students begin to feel connected when they share a little bit more about themselves. We always ask students at stage 2 to respond to other students posts. This is a way to show them how to connect online and share with each other. Later on, at stage 4, students get very involved in discussions, and sometimes persons from other cultures can have very different views and perspectives than you. But that is a good thing! It provides online students with a broad and nuanced knowledge. They get a lot of different perspectives and new information which they could not have found themselves. That’s the reason you should establish a very good online environment, with mutual respect between students and their cultural differences. You can do that with your e-tivities at stage 2.
In my experience of using this model students post up to 90 % of all posts in discussions, the completion rate is between 72 and 100 % (which is high) and the students get high average grades. I’m convinced that these good results are because of a good learning design with e-tivities and active e-moderators, who encourages in discussions, help and ask new questions. We add some requirements for students in order to motivate them. They have to complete some test and participate in some discussions. It’s a balance how much you can require, I think. Throughout the years, we have experimented with different combinations. Finally, we realised that a combination of active participation in group discussions, and participation in two team work assignments with peer-to-peer assessment, was a good balance. The author Daniel Pink writes in his book “Drive” how we should not believe that rewards, which are extrinsic motivations, would mean greater motivation. It is better to organise the environment so it triggers intrinsic motivation, because it lasts longer. Therefore, in the future, we will continue to design with the right balance between extrinsic and intrinsic, and the best would be to design for intrinsic motivation.
7. What advice or reflections do you have to give future learning designers and facilitators of e-tivities embedded within the five stage model? I believe that the e-moderator plays an important role in online learning in discussions with students and participants.
As an example- Merete Badger from DTU Risø (The Technical University of Denmark) is an excellent e-moderator. Together with Merete and her colleagues, we have developed an online course for the Wind Energy Industry. The course builds upon a successful physical course, which has been offered to the wind energy industry for more than 20 years.
We based the design of the course on e-tivities and e-moderating. A trial run has been performed with 24 participants. The participants were divided in two groups to facilitate team work and networking. The trial run showed that participants were very active in the discussion fora. The fraction of participants who completed the course and received a diploma was close to 100%. Another outcome of the intensive contact between participants in the course, who all shared an interest in wind energy, was that new networks were established and information exchanged openly.
To sum up, I today realize that Utilising these strategies created a big shift from low student interaction online and high drop out to a new situation with high student satisfaction, high average grades and high completion rates. I believe it was the excellence of the e-moderation used and the application of the five stage model that has enabled to have such a high success rate. Therefore my advice would be to utilise these strategies in any way you can.
Here I provide you with examples of excellent e-moderator communication
(Learning platform: Itslearning. With permission from Merete Badger, DTU Wind Energy):
My reflections throughout my answers have been an eight year story of experiences with online courses in Denmark based on Gilly Salmons research based five-stage model. Sometimes, one of my friends calls me mini-Gilly. Not, I think, because Denmark is a small country and part of the Nordic countries, but because she has been a witness to my smile, joy and happiness since I started working with the five-stage model in online teaching.