Our third participant in our stories from the front line blogging project around the five main chapters from E-Tivities 2nd edition, due out in June/July, is Ken Giles, E-convener at All Things In Moderation Ltd . We thank Ken for this thoughtful contribution and resources :-)
Ken Giles, E-convener
All Things In Moderation
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your relationship to e-tivities:
I worked with Gilly Salmon for a number of years in the UK Open University’s School of Management. Part of my work at the School involved the development of training materials for tutors. The student perspective was an essential element in the materials. Latterly, my interest was captured by Gilly’s development of online learning and stimulated by attendance at international events such as the Online-Educa series. Immediately after my retirement, I spent time literature-searching for Gilly. Since retiring, my interest and involvement in the field has continued; I have moderated countless presentations of the ATIM course ‘E-moderating’, usually with a multi-national enrolment across time zones. I have also mentored neophyte e-moderators and contributed to various editions of the ‘E-moderating’ course. I am currently working with ATIM’s David Shepherd on induction materials for e-moderators.
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 introduction to the model was when Gilly Salmon first devised it. It was in the 1990s, so I’ve grown up with the model.
2. In what form do you use the five stage model and subsequent e-tivities today (feel free to give examples/case study summaries)?
As e-moderator on ATIM ‘E-tivities’ courses
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?
It’s central to the ‘E-moderating’ course. I have found it works well with multi-national enrolments – even, given encouragement, with those who come from a more top-down educational environment and who expect to be ‘told’.
4. What do you think is important about the role of the five stage model in online learning design today?
The encouragement of course designers and e-moderators to think ‘participant/student’ stands out form me. These latter are the dynamic. The emphasis on socialisation before getting down to business – establishing a comfortable environment, group-building and openness; the emphasis on the e-moderator as facilitator/role-model/coach, not ‘teacher’, all represent the first, essential stage in this approach.
Perhaps there should be a foundation 0 stage for the model. Thought of in input-output terms, the inputs are givens - participant’s prior experience (both that of the ‘students’ and the e-moderator), their cultural backgrounds, the courseware and the platform. The output is developed e-learners – those who have progressed successfully through the five stages. We are all creatures of our own history – and as Karl Marx wrote, ‘Men (sic) make history, but not in circumstances of their own choosing’. The level 0 represents the circumstances in which participants and e-moderators make e-learning history!
I often find participants show great keenness to have photos posted. Indeed some softwares provide these almost as a matter of course. I personally prefer not to look at photos of participants to avoid any chance of ‘stereotype-threat’ (Steele and Aronson, 1995; see also Lee Wong, ’Armor against Prejudice’, Sci Am, June 2013, pp 68-71.) I can then react to participants solely in terms of their online personas.
Stage 1 access is crucial – get it wrong and it takes a great deal of effort to get people back on track. You only have one chance to make a first impression! It’s surprising how many participants struggle with the first hurdle – logging on to the site and finding ‘Arrivals’. Written instructions need backing up with illustrative materials, screen shots and so on. .
The socialisation process (stage 2) is a logical corollary, with its emphasis on the e-moderator as friendly, relaxed, encouraging and approachable – and only an e-mail away. (The Appendix A: E-moderator Intervention Table at the bottom of this post illustrates the approach.) That said, a balance needs to be struck between being under- and over-active in intervening to allow participants sufficient ‘space’. In a friendly, relaxed environment, it’s easier for participants to express their needs – and there may be some who have special needs, particularly where they have physical handicaps that impact their participation.
Once these two stages are effectively accomplished, the rest just follows naturally.
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?
No real downsides. I’ve never had the model criticised by course participants. It is after all in the mainstream – Maslow, Garrison et al’s ‘Community of inquiry’ (in ‘A study of the Characteristics and Qualities of Text-Based Computer Conferencing for Educational Purposes’, project running from 1997-2001 http://communitiesofinquiry.com/welcome). That said, see my remarks above about a stage 0 as part of an input-output model.
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?
The need to integrate a multi-media approach - the written word is fine, but participants expect more than that now, but text is still paramount! The need for effective developmental testing is crucial before a course goes live – think ‘readability (Fog index); style of questions (Are they ‘open ‘what do you think?’ type to encourage discussion/debate); structure (Do ‘e-tivities’ build on one another?). A situation where there are likely to be large numbers of participants needs special consideration - small groups, ‘goldfish bowls’ and other such approaches. Finally, make space for regular reflection as key to the learning process (Schoen, Donald, 'The Reflective Pratitioner: How Professionals Think in Action', Basic Books, 1983).
7. What advice or reflections do you have to give future learning designers and facilitators of e-tivities embedded within the five stage model?
Developmental testing is crucial. Never allow a course to go out that contains errors that should have been spotted before it went live. If a second opinion provider can’t understand something, sure as eggs are eggs the participants won’t!
Think ‘time’ – the participants’ time and the e-moderator’s time. Is what you intend realistic?
Emphasise stages 1 and 2 as crucial to success. Don’t hurry them! Make stage 1 as trouble-free as possible and don’t assume all are highly computer-literate.
Construct e-tivities to encourage discussion by making them ‘grab’ participants’ attention, at the same time paying attention to the questions you ask. Be aware of what you are asking – questions can be open, probing or closed. Don’t inadvertently ask a closed question that can be answered by yes/no when you intend an open ‘what do you think?’ one.
Appendix A: E-moderator Intervention Table