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E-Moderating - and I'ts Role in Teaching

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

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The excerpt below discusses the role of faculty as e-moderators, and

the resulting ability to foster better on-line learning communities.

It is from: E- MODERATING The Key to Teaching and Learning Online, by

Gilly Salmon.

Copyright ? Gilly Salmon, 2000, Stylus Publishing, 22883 Quicksilver Dr.

Sterling, VA 20166. Reprinted with permission.


Rick Reis

UP NEXT: Making Changes in the Post-doctoral Experience

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

-------------- 1,563 words ---------------


E- MODERATING The Key to Teaching and Learning Online

by Gilly Salmon.


This book is set in the context of the rapid development of

Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Its key focus and

emphasis is on the changes to learning made possible by ICT, but I

look at these changes through the eyes of online teachers, for whom I

have used the term "electronic moderators" - "e-moderators". This

chapter introduces e-moderating to you and explores the contexts and

environments in which it thrives.

The term "online" came from the days of the telegraph, when messages

could be tapped directly onto the line rather than prepared "offline"

on perforated tape, for sending when the machine was connected later

to the telephone line. Today, "online" covers a range of

technologies. In education and training, technologies that

concentrate on computer mediated communication are commonest. They

fall into three broad categories as defined by Santoro (1995):

1. Informatics, particularly involving electronic access via

telecommunications to catalogues, library resources, interactive

remote databases and archives, including those on the World Wide Web.

2. Computer-assisted instruction, also known as computer-assisted

learning and computer-based training, which may or may not require


3. Computer-mediated conferencing, which is the medium, based on

computers and telecommunications, that is explored throughout this

book and within which e-moderators do much of their work with


A moderator is a person who presides over a meeting. An e-moderator

presides over an electronic online meeting or conference, though not

quite in the same ways as a moderator does. Computer-mediated

conferencing (CMC) actually requires the e-moderators to have a

rather wider range of expertise, as I shall explain and demonstrate.


The learners of the near future will be what Greg Dyke, current

Director-General of the BBC, calls the "playstation generation". They

will be accustomed to highly immediate, interactive, visual

electronic resources. They will want learning that is:"Just in time,

just for me, just a keystroke, just for now" (Spender, 1999).

In future, even more than in the past, the kind of businesses and

organizations that develop, and how people earn and spend, will be

intrinsically bound up with how and what people learn. The pressure

on educational institutions to respond to rapidly evolving business

environments will build up (DiPaolo, 1999). Career switches will be

frequent and training and education a constant and lifelong

requirement. Distinctions between work and learning will blur.

Cosmopolitan communities will create openness about race and belief,

with less hierarchy and with members who desire to learn more widely

scattered and less formal sources. Long-living, long-working,

independent learners will be mobile and pragmatic. They will become

comfortable and skilful in choosing from a vast electronic array of

opportunities. The idea of a requirement for qualifications to enter

courses will seem to be quaint (Spender, 1999). As students and

informal learners become more discerning, they may start to demand

control not only over when and where they learn, but also over the

content (Young and Marks-Maran, 1999).

Skills need for work and learning will embrace self-direction

together with a willingness to support others, the ability to work in

multi-skilled teams (which are likely to operate without regular

meetings), to co-operate rather than compete, to handle information

(rather than know everything) and to become critical thinkers

(Salmon, 1996b). Regy Loknes, Senior Learning and Development Advisor

for Shell, explains that a change of learning mindset is needed. He

wants future recruits to be able to "know how they learn, know what

they need to learn and be open and receptive to learning from others

without negative responses or criticism" (Loknes, 2000).

CMC's characteristics are those of openness and participation but

achieving learning outcomes through CMC works best within structured

programmes and with careful and frequent e-moderation. Most

professional education and training to date has focused on discrete

courses. In the OUBS and most of the case studies in this book, the

teaching processes were quite strictly scheduled. They began at a

certain time, with learning and assessment methodologies built in,

and they finished with tests or examinations. Within the programmes,

along the way, participants experienced small successes, which they

deemed to be very important. Will future education include such

discrete structured courses? As individuals become more and more

networked, they demand very much smaller "chunks" of relevant

learning, backed up by connections and explorative opportunities with

like-minded others. The assessment of knowledge and competence then

becomes an issue as I indicate later in this chapter. Charles

Jennings offers us a radical view of the professional learner of the


There is a distinct trend away from "courses" towards performance

support models in professional development. I think that CMC

environments will be important in this new "knowledge-driven" world.

However, these CMC environments will overwhelmingly be used for

formal "courses". The conference e-moderator will transmogrify into

the online mentor and support agent? the online conference will

evolve into a self-structuring searchable knowledge-base, and

learning peers will become fused into a "permanently on" digital

world. We won't just access this through our computers, but through a

wealth of digital devices including our telephones, our wristwatches,

our Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), and even our household


(Jennings, 1999)

But whatever happens to course and programme structures, we can be

sure that the human factor - the role of the e-moderator - will be

critical in the acceptability and success of online learning

communities. Who otherwise will support newcomers to a body of

knowledge or practice? Newcomers might otherwise treat, with equal

deference, bizarre as well as sane contributions and the tendentious

in addition to well-evidenced pieces of information.

Interaction for online knowledge construction gets to the heart of

what most CMC participants consider important. They feel intuitively

that knowledge is not just about data or information but is much

richer, broader and linked with personal experience in complex ways.

In a world where knowledge is the key resource for the future, a

primary ingredient of everything "we do, we make, buy and sell"

(Stewart,1997), the issue of how it can be surfaced and articulated

for learning will become even more important. Links between learning

and knowledge management systems will be made more explicit. I

anticipate that understandings of the social origin of psychological

processes (Vygotsky,1978) and how these occur in the online

environment will grow through research. The role of the university

will change from "ivory tower" to "market place", from sole provider

of knowledge to synergizer of multiple sources (Haddad, 2000).

Professor Tim O'Shea, Master of Birkbeck College, University of

London, suggests that research-rich institutions will be those that

grow, thrive and have the most to offer to the networked world of

online learning. E-moderators will enable knowledge sharing, and,

wherever possible and appropriate, knowledge generation.

Online learning communities and associations will not be based on a

sense of place but of purpose or profession and more emphasis will be

placed on building trust, resolving conflict and solving problems. As

Dr Andy DiPaolo of Stanford Center of Professional Development says:

E-moderation for creating a sense of a learning community is the key

to success!?we should help learners to truly feel part of their

course, to feel special and to experience a unique and integrated

world around the topic under study. They can join a discussion group

with active professionals from the field, they can undertake

electronic field trips, and they can engage in activities

orchestrated by a skilled e-moderator which will make the experience

of learning both richer and more relevant to the world of work.

(DiPaolo, 2000)

Individuals will develop skills in socializing in many different ways

simultaneously and be able to adopt appropriate roles online.

Cross-cultural awareness stimulates recognition of the need to

understand cognitive processes better, to become more receptive and

more accepting of differing intellectual styles and modes of thought

and to reduce the arrogance sometimes associated with traditional

thinking. Groups from very different understandings, backgrounds,

cultures and "voices" (Latchem and Lockwood, 1998) will learn

together and gain access to competing or contradictory ideas. A major

role for e-moderators will be to enable surfacing, understandings,

and collaboration across cultures.

Globally, 700 million people use English, with half of these with

English as their second language. Significantly for CMC, English has

become the main language of the Internet. In the future, we will need

to understand better the impact of using English online. Does the use

of English imply acceptance of certain cultural traditions? In the

United Kingdom, for instance, the model of teaching and learning is

based on the acceptance of a certain level of independence. Other

cultures' teaching traditions may give the impression that the

"teacher is king", thus posing a challenge to e-moderators aiming for

democratic and collaborative approaches.

As the use of media other than onscreen text becomes commoner, will

the models change again? The implications for education as a whole

could be profound. In the more distant future, dramatic changes will

doubtless occur across a range of economic functions, new concepts of

space and time will be created, novel forms of communities will be

established and ultimately human thinking will change. The power of

CMC for learning could mould, shape and construct changes rather than

merely be responsive to them. The distances involved in like-minded

groups wishing to interact may finally defeat the notion of

"attending" for learning.


DiPaolo, A. (1999) Online education: Myth or reality? The Stanford

Online Experience, Proceedings of Online Educa, Berlin

Dipaolo, A (2000) Personal telephone conversation, 11th January

Haddad, W.D. (2000) Higher education: The ivory tower and the

satellite dish, TechKnowLogia, 2(1)

Jennings, C. (1999) personal e-mail, 19 December

Latchem, C and Lockwood, F. (eds) (1998) Staff Development in Open

and Flexible Learning, Routledge, London

Locknes, R.L. (2000) personal telephone conversation, 11 January

Santoro, G.P. (1995) What is computer-mediated communication?, in

'Computer -mediated Communication and the Online Classroom', eds ZL

Berge and MP Collins, pp 11-27, Hampton Press, NJ

Spender,D. (1999) Personal e-mail:, 17 December

Stewart, T. (1997) Intellectual Capitol, Nicholas Brealey, London

Vygotsky, L.S (1978) Mind in Society, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA

Young, G and Marks-Maran, D. (1999) A case study of convergence

between conventional and distance education, in The Convergence of

Conventional and Distance Education, eds A Tait and R Mills,

Routledge, New York