Thursday, January 05, 2006

E-moderating: The Key to Teaching and Learning Online (2nd edition)

Education In The North, number 13, 2005-2006

E-moderating: The Key to Teaching and Learning Online (2nd edition)

Gilly Salmon

Taylor & Francis, (2004). Pp. 256. Pbk. £23.99

Reviewer: Panos Vlachopoulos, University of Aberdeen

Gilly Salmon first introduced the term 'E- moderating' in 2000 when she published her first edition of the book reviewed here.
Within the growing area of e-learning and the debate about the role of the teacher in the new technological era which appears more controversial than ever, the book found its place in the market and became a bestseller. (It was printed twice in one year).

Back then, I found Salmon's ideas on computer-mediated-communication and the role of the moderator, as described in her five-stage model, fascinating, very well presented and most importantly simple to understand and easy to follow. Since then I have been systematically reviewing her writings and publications. I must admit that it was partly her first edition of e-moderating (Salmon, 2000) that inspired me to start a PhD in the area of electronic tutoring.
Almost four years later, Salmon's work and ideas are still around and still valued. Her experiences of e-moderating courses in the UK Open University are still inspiring the work of many tutors who work online. However, e -learning has moved forward.

Salmon's model has been tested in different educational contexts, from the OU as well as in other contexts (such as work-based learning situations), with some or limited success. Her work needed to be updated to catch up with the current developments in e-tutoring, but also to provide some answers to criticisms with more examples and new ideas. Perhaps this is the reason why Salmon decided to release a second edition of her e-moderating book. However, to uncover the new ideas and answers, the reader of the new edition must read each section carefully and reflectively. If you are someone who has already read the first edition, then perhaps you need to adopt a comparative approach to your reading. This is how I read and reviewed it.

What is new in the second edition?

The only obvious new contribution is Chapter 6. Although Chapter 6 comes under the same title as in the first edition, 'E-moderating: the key to the future of
online teaching and learning', the content is different. Salmon introduces to the readers her 'Scenarios': four allegoric stories about learners, teachers and technology in different 'Planets'(pp.136-147). With some good imagination and creativity any e-moderators can find themselves involved in one of these stories. Also, Chapter 3 comes with added details on e-moderating through synchronous conferencing. But for me, an active researcher in the field of e-learning, the important 'new' elements are the small added details or modifications in most of her chapters. A careful reader will definitely pick up the new points.

The definition of the e-moderator remains the same as in the first edition: 'A moderator is a person who presides over a meeting. An e-moderator presides over an electronic online meeting or conference, though not in quite the same ways as a moderator does' (p.4). However, Gilly Salmon expands this definition with three new paragraphs where she invites the readers to 'see the word e-moderating as an active verb - like learning and teaching' (p.4). She also suggests for the first time here that from her point of view an e-moderator is mostly a manager 'of online learning and group working' (p.4). Some disappointment results from this statement from readers who, like me, would like to see more educational concepts discussed in this book. In fact there is nothing mentioned about course tasks, the relation of these tasks to the intended learning outcomes and the purposeful activity of a tutor or e-moderator? The statement is clear and this is how she wishes it to be perceived: e-moderating is mostly about effective management.
The heart of the new edition is still Chapter 2 (pp.24-50): the five-stage model. The structure of the e-moderating model remains the same: Access and Motivation, Online, Socialization, Information Exchange, Knowledge Construction, Development.

However/ the chapter is enriched with new examples and many new references. For example, Stage 2 of the model (online socialization) is totally updated with extra four pages. In this second edition, 'online socialization' is associated with the development of a 'community of practice' (p.34)/ the promotion of an 'emotional literacy' and 'reflection' (p.37). Salmon also tries to give a global dimension in her model using examples from different cultures (p.35). Another noticeable difference in the second edition is a recapture of the role of the moderator in the later stages. Salmon suggests that the e-moderators should 'continue to both design and e-moderate for active participation and workable online relationships' (p.38), and she encourages e-moderators to use 'supportive/ formative feedback' (p.40). Concepts like 'formative feedback' and 'workable relationships' were missing from her first edition. However, I would expect here a better elaboration of these concepts, which was not provided. In summary, this is an easy-to-read-and-follow book, written in the format of a 'manual'. It introduces the idea of e-moderating from a variety of personal reflections and experiences from the author, but it does not elaborate the concept of moderation more deeply. I would have liked to see her five-stage model to have included coverage of the three aligned elements of learning, activity and assessment: how should an e-moderator intervene in any of the stages to support learning and meet a learning outcome? Also, in order to be convinced about the importance of a linear model with a ‘start’ and an 'end', I would have liked some evidence from the analysis of interactions between participants and e-moderators in different stages. It is important for the reader to understand the context within which the concept of 'e-moderating' was developed. This context is the Open University with its own educational characteristics. It would be unwise, though, simply to apply the model to any online learning situation. Read it, test it, evaluate it, and modify it!

Some suggestion for the readers:

• If you are interested in e-tutoring as a practitioner and still haven't bought any of the two editions, buy the second. It is updated with more examples and new concepts.

• If you have already bought the first edition, I can't see why you should buy the second edition. Encourage your library to obtain one for you, borrow it, and look for and think about the changes I have mentioned here.

• If you are looking for answers to deeper pedagogical and educational questions with regards to tutoring online, neither of the two editions will provide you with answers. There is very little direct enquiry and reporting of any identifiable effect of e-moderating on learning and development.

Friday, September 23, 2005

A review of studies on learning from human tutoring.

The literature reveals that specific tutoring tactics and strategies may cause learning. However it is revealed that not all learning opportunities meet their main purpose: the construction of new knowledge and learning. As VanLehn et al (2003) argues ‘a learning opportunity is only an opportunity to learn’ and that some learning opportunities seem to result in no learning. According to their research, people best learn when they meet an impasse or make an error and get stuck and ask to receive a tutorial explanation. For his research team, a tutoring session consists of ‘asymmetric collaboration where the tutor helps the students as they learn’. However, they showed that wordy explanations have limited effect. Moreover, they tried to test whether there is any association between mentioning ‘learning goals’ in the beginning of the learning activity and gaining the goals. Goals were associated with learning, but it wasn’t the setting of the goals that caused the learning. Students only learned from goals, when they achieved a high level of self-regulation and reflection in their learning.
Similarly, Chi et al (2001) explored in three case studies tutor effectiveness. They tested some common tutoring tactics and strategies like scaffoldings, feedback and explanations from three perspectives: tutor-centred, student-centred and interactive.
Regarding the tutor-centred perspective , her initial hypothesis was: Tutoring effectiveness arise from the tutors’ pedagogical skills. Chi et al (2001) suggested that if a tutor starts a tutoring session with an initiation question followed by confirmatory (negative or positive) feedback on student’s answer and then scaffolds to improve or elaborate the student’s answer in a successive series of exchanges, student may learn. In reality, this is a common strategy for tutors, despite its controversial effectiveness. They found that during this tutor-centred approach, there were many occasions in which learning opportunities remain ‘only opportunities’ as tutors were ignored by students or tutors ignored students’ confusion and they lost the chance to maximize their effectiveness within the best learning condition: the impasse. In addition, when long-winded didactic explanations as feedback were given to the students , no evidence of deep learning was occurred. It was assumed, therefore, that it is unwarranted to hypothesize that tutoring effectiveness arises solely from the tutor’s skilful use of tutoring tactics. It worth mentioning that tutors themselves learn the subject matter and it was found that tutoring is effective even when the tutors have no special tutoring skills. This latter finding, according to Chi et al (2001:478) ‘ is consistent with the interpretation that effectiveness of tutoring derives from their elicitation of construction, which requires tutors to have domain knowledge but not any special tutoring skills’

As far as the student-centre perspective is concerned, it was hypothesised that students’ constructive responses to tutors comments and questions should correlate to learning. This approach emphasises that tutoring is effective, not necessarily because tutors select and execute a specific move in a precise and skilful manner, but because these moves encourage the students to respond in ways that might cause learning. It was found that students were being more constructive in tutoring than a traditional classroom teaching. Moreover there is evidence to support that students who actively construct knowledge learn more than students who do not (Chi at al. 1989).

Finally, the third perspective, the interactive, hypothesises that tutoring effectiveness arise from the joint effort of both tutors and the students, in the sense that tutors move by taking into account the specific students’ moves and that students’ constructive responses on learning are elicited by the tutors. Both tutors and students construct an understanding or a shared meaning that neither partner initially understands. It is their interaction, negotiation of meaning that constructs the knowledge. However, as Chi et al (2001) said: ‘ no studies have directly examined how much interaction occurs in tutoring and what its implications are for learning’. This approach is close to the socio-constructivist learning of Vygotsky, which is in the centre of the learning technologists that try to better understand e-tutoring techniques.

To sum up, the literature shows that there are tutoring tactics and strategies that are associated with students’ learning. It is suggested, however, to test all those strategies in different contexts before any generalisation. As Online learning becomes common practice in Higher Education and CMC and Online Discussions a powerful tool to facilitate learning, but a highly problematic context as well, there is still the question of effective pedagogy to be answered. What is known about e-tutoring, e-moderation or e-facilitation? How can we best ‘teach’ and ‘learn’ on-line? These are some of the questions I partly try to answer in my PhD thesis.


Chi, M., Bassok, M., Lewis, M.W., Reinmann, P., & Glaser, R. (1989).’Self-explanations: how students study and use examples in learning to solve problems’, Cognitive Science, Vol.15, pp.145-182

Chi, M.(1997) Quantifying qualitative analyses of verbal data: A practical guide. Journal of the Learning Sciences, Vol.6, pp.271-313.

Chi, M., Siler, S., Jeong, H., Yamauchi, T., & Hausmann, R. (2001).’Learning from human tutoring’, Cognitive Science, Vol. 25, (special issue), pp.471-533

VanLehn, K.; Siler, S.; Murray,C.; Yamauchi,T & Baggett,W.B. (2003). ‘Why Do Only Some Events Cause Learning During Human Tutoring?’, Cognition and Instruction, Vol.21, no.3, pp.209-249

Free online resources in e-learning

1. The Chronicle of Higher Education.

2.International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning.

3. Theory and Practice of Online Learning

4. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning

5. Education Technology

6. Instructional Design

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Online Assessment tools

Here is a list of online assesment tools:

• AuthoLearn (TrainVision Ltd.)
• Design-a-Course (MindIQ Corporation)
• Edufolio (Terra Dotta)
• Eedo ForceTen (Eedo Knowledgeware)
• Exam Engine (Platte Canyon Multimedia Software Corporation)
• Experience Builder (Experience Builders LLC)
• Firefly (Knowledge Planet)
Hot Potatoes (free download)
• Kallidus Authoring System (e2train Limited)
• Lectora Publisher (Trivantis Corporation)
• Macromedia Breeze Presentation (Macromedia)
• PedagogueTesting (Pedagogue Solutions)
• Performance Analyzer (XStream Software Inc.)
• Questionmark Perception (Questionmark)
• Red inQ (Hurix Systems)
• Seminar Author (Information Transfer)
• Siebel SimBuilder (Siebel Systems Inc.)
• SimShop Developer Tool (Strategic Management Group Inc.)

Has anyone used any of the above tools?
do you have any other tools to suggest? Please leave your comments!

Educational Blogging

Educational Blogging
article by Stephen Downes

The process of blogging—of reading online, engaging a community, and reflecting it online—is a process of bringing life into learning.
Download it from here

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Internet/ Broadband TV: The future of 'Internet'? Posted by Hello

Click here for more info.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Research in E-Moderation: how shall we proceed?

Having examined issues on learning and teaching from their philosophical and psychological roots (learning theories) to recent models and frameworks in different learning contexts, it could be said that there are many factors, that influence the educational process online, one might need to take into account before any further examination of the complex issue of e-moderation. Many of those factors, such as motivation, goals, interactivity as well as technology, pedagogical skills and tutoring tactics and strategies are still under 'investigation' from the related research community . Nevertheless, e-moderation is still an ill-defined term open to further clarifications.

If a researcher is to proceed with further exploration of e-moderation, it would be helpful to define e-moderation, and amplify that definition with perhaps two or three examples of activities from studies and perhaps with a couple of examples which are not quite covered by the definitions existed already. It would be helpful to build upon other frameworks of e-moderation and test them in different contexts. However, what we really need is to test more frameworks, preferably in naturalistic contexts. There is a need for more researches from which more findings, not necessarily generalisable- just particular ones may occur.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Poster (The nature of e-moderation) Posted by Hello

Theoretical assumptions on e-moderation (from the literature review):

A. Many tutors new to online teaching and without the appropriate background or any experience of online learning are now asked to contribute to the development of their institutions’ online courses. However, as Bennet & Marsh (2002:15) stated ‘ most of those tutors are literally being asked to run before they can walk, with little clear image of how the route to their educational aims and objectives may be different from that followed in established, so-called traditional teaching and learning contexts’.

B. While some authors recognize the issue of effective tutor interventions and different learning contexts (Rourke et al, 1999), little is known about the range of effective e-moderation strategies available or about their relative effectiveness in maximizing the learning opportunities for students where directive and non-directive intervention takes place.

C. The literature review has identified a series of researches and studies in CMC and e-moderation that have suggested models and frameworks .(Paulsen, 1991,1994; Mason, 1991; Berge, 1995; Salmon, 2000; Anderson et al , 2001).However most of those models appear to offer limited transferability to different contexts, and to lack a clear pedagogical understanding of the teaching and learning process online. When ‘roles’ of the e-moderators are mentioned, the question of ‘how’ (that focuses on the process of doing e-moderation) remains without answer and in almost all of the cases further clarification of the pedagogical interventions, tactics and strategies adopted by the tutors is necessary to ‘illustrate’ the still fuzzy landscape of e-moderation.

D. A question arises as to how study e-moderation as an educational practice not only ‘in action’ but also ‘for action’ (Cowan, 1998). That means that it is important to study and research e-moderation while doing it ( in action/ research) and come with suggestions and recommendations but it is equally important to inform educators/moderators’ future practice (for action) by making use of existed theories and learning and teaching strategies as well as of their own experiences. As Kansanen (2003:221) comments: “ the totality of the educational process is too often forgotten and should more often to be taken into consideration”. He also reveals that “ examining learning is a wide and open topic …learning is based on particular relationships between teacher, the students and the content that is studied in the instructional process”(p.221). It could be added that this relationship is mostly ‘educational’ and it is regulated by pedagogical context. However, when moving online, the crucial ‘issue’ of educational practice is often missed or misunderstood.

E. There is a need for a more systematic evaluation of the CMC messages within the context where these messages were generated. Many researches stop with quantitative analyses based on number of messages sent, and by whom, or on frequency of logons, or on message maps showing numbers of replies and message chains. Statistical analysis of numeric data tells nothing about the quality and the development (the process of development) of the learning. On the other hand, when qualitative approaches, i.e content analysis, are adopted, a methodological problem arises as to how identify the appropriate ‘units’ and code those units, as well as how to examine the messages within a specific context.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

E-Moderating in On-Line Problem Solving: a new role for teachers?

Panos Vlachopoulos & Ray McAleese
University of Aberdeen
Hilton Campus, Aberdeen, AB24 4FA, Scotland.


( Proceedings of the fourth Hellenic Conference with International Participation ‘Information & Communication Technologies in Education’ 29 Sept- 3 Oct 2004, Athens, Greece)

Within UK higher education there is a great deal of interest in the role of the on-line moderator (e-moderator). Many tutors new to on-line teaching, without the appropriate background or any experience of on-line learning, are now asked to contribute to the development of their institutions’ on-line courses (e.g. Bennet & Marsh, 2002). While the idea of e-moderation appears as a design challenge for tutors and teachers who want to move online, there are many unanswered pedagogical questions regarding the role of the e-moderators and their effectiveness in different learning contexts. This paper reports on issues arising from a pilot study, as part of a Ph.D programme, that tested two different e-moderation styles: ‘Low’ or non-directive style and ‘High’ or directive style. Research on e-moderation was carried out in a Scottish university with a sample of 38 undergraduate students in a problem solving course .The course was taught with a mixed instructional strategy which included an on-line asynchronous discussion system. The research focused on the way moderation style (High and Low) influenced the learners and the process of learning.
You can dowload your FREE copy from here or e-mail the author at: