Monday, September 17, 2007

Online facilitation and Gilly Salmon

I have taken all day to 'catch up' on blogging about my various virtual experiences over the last few days. As you may have sensed in my previous posts, I have been rushing around the Internet, installing programs and getting the hang of various devices but have done little or no reflection, and certainly no reading. This illustrates one of my main concerns about the implementation of e-learning: playing with the tools is very exciting but we need to understand the theoretical underpinnings before we rush off left, right and center. We also need to understand that e-learning isn't just about putting lectures onto PowerPoint slides and posting them on the Internet with, maybe if you're lucky, an email discussion group to go with it.

One pioneer of online learning and teaching is Gilly Salmon. Gilly has developed the 5 stage model of online facilitation which can be found in her books:

Salmon, G. (2000 & 2004) E-moderating: the key to teaching and learning online, London: Taylor and Francis.

Salmon, G. (2002) E-tivities: the key to active online learning, London Taylor and Francis.

Gilly's model takes the facilitator from stage one where there the facilitator is heavily involved in providing both technical support and welcoming participants, to stage five where the facilitator is working with participants to think outside of their current learning environment.

I have become cognizant of Gilly's work in connection with e-mentoring. I have set up an e-mentoring system that matches mentor with mentee via email. These are one-to-one dyads as opposed to a community. I have been very disappointed to find that people have not conversed with each other despite being very enthusiastic about the principle of e-mentoring. What I have realized is that a more proactive moderator is required to facilitate the relationship, just as Gilly describes. This has been the conclusion of other researchers who have developed e-mentoring systems (Headlam-Wells, Gosland & Craig, 2006). That facilitation may take place on line but I am keen to provide support to my e-mentoring participants by phone - this adds another element of personal support as I cannot do face-to-face work with participants.

What I need to keep reminding myself is that people do not necessarily have the same technological knowledge or enthusiasm for online learning as I do. The 5 stages of moderation reminds me of the importance of the initial work one must do to help people find their way around the online learning environment. I also think its important not to forget the telephone, which may be an old fashioned technology these days but is one that everyone knows and understands. Maybe in the early days phone contact between moderator and students will enhance learning.

Headlam-Wells, J., Gosland, J., & Craig, J. (2006). Beyond the organisation: the design and management of e-mentoring systems. International Journal of Information Management, 26, 372-385.

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