ZML Didaktik / Innovative Learning Scenarios

How to moderate the beginning and the end of a shared learning experience

Posted on: Juli 7, 2012

My personal involvement in this topic

At the moment I’m confronted with the beginning of a new learning experience – the Betreat of Etienne and Bev Wenger (an intensive training around social learning theory which will be carried out  between 30. July and 3 August)  – and with the end of the Change MOOC („the mother of all massive online courses“ where more than 2000 persons learned together online).

My perception of the opinion of Gilly Salmon, the Queen of e-moderation about beginning and closure of an online training

According to Gilly Salmon –  Salmon, G. (2002). E-tivities. The Key to Active Online Learning. London: Kogan Page Limited. – a course should start with a small „Welcome“ message and end with the Reflection of the whole course and the „Farewell“ messages. As I’m in these weeks again the moderator of Gilly’s original e-moderating course and „my“ participants are practicing  „Welcome“ messages I sharpened my understanding of the first phase of a training. According to Gilly Salmon at the beginning the learners should arrive well in the virtual room, say „Hello“ to each other and start to socialize. Therefore „Welcome“ messages shouldn’t include too much informations concerning organizational aspects or too many tasks (f.e. upload a photo, write about oneself, read something, check the calendar, …).

In the last week of Gilly Salmon’s e-moderating course the participants are summing up what they have learned from different perspectives and work on a development plan. So the last tasks – the reflection of week 4 and the whole course and the farewell messages – are rather informal, quick and easy contributions.

The start message in the BEtreat

More or less a month before the start of the BEtreat I got a rather long e-mail with „a number of things to do in preparation for our start“ – it was so much that I immediately closed the message, to deal with it in future. Some days later in the evening at home I opened it again and tried to do it point by point – I enjoyed a very nice „Welcome“ video but then I didn’t succeed to enter the WIKI, I didn’t understand the time differences, and I was unable to cope with all the „what to bring“, and „what to check“ and „what to do“.

It was strange that I who are preparing virtual rooms for others, who support participants to get familiar with the virtual room, the tasks, the other learners, … got a strong feeling of helplessness, of being stupid. Ok, the next evening I tried again to access the room and do the work (having received an e-mail that the WIKI should now work for me). I succeeded to enter the WIKI which has 10 sections – and everywhere I should become active. I tried to get an overview and didn’t succeed with it – so I started to fulfill tasks, here and there. Until today I didn’t enter again, but I have the feeling I should return, look around, hopefully find what I have missed.

Thinking about my courses I believe that all „my“ participants would run away if I start with such a Welcome message. It seems to be in my nature that I want to serve my participants well. What I’m curios about is how many mails asking for help Etienne and Bev received or if really all participants of the BEtreat succeeded to deal with their complex „welcome“ message and WIKI without problems.

The non-existing farewell in the Change MOOC

When you click on the website of the Change MOOC you arrive at the website of Week 35 with Terry Anderson which since Friday 11. May 2012 hasn’t been changed. The facilitators Stephen, George and Dave didn’t close the MOOC, they didn’t write a final message maybe saying thank you to us learners (??), reflecting their experience as facilitators to carry out the Change MOOC, posting a link to the group who evaluated the Change MOOC and where probably some results are made public until now.

For me as moderator I’m  missing something at this Website and I’m kind of sad that the Change MOOC wasn’t closed with respect.

Cultural Changes

It could be that the culture in the web is changing, that for new generations of learners „delicate“ Welcome messages are not necessary and that they move quickly to the next learning opportunity without waiting for closure messages. Maybe my approach is old-fashioned – but I’m convinced it is important how I start and finish a course and I will continue to say Hello and Goodbye.

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8 Antworten to "How to moderate the beginning and the end of a shared learning experience"

I love your last paragraph. Heck, I love the whole post. Again I feel as a kindred spirit!

I was just prepping material for an organization’s „facilitating online learning“ course and when I got to „welcomes“ I asked myself, have things changed? When is this typical welcome model (which is in Salmon’s and others long-time recommendations, including my own) useful? What is it pointless? What are the generative alternatives to „saying hello!“ (Right now I’m participating in e/merge – an online gathering of African elearning folks and the volume of hello is going to go over the top really fast! Same thing with #BonkOpen)

What hasn’t changed is that initial entrance/overwhelm issue. I’m designing another course and yet again, week one is INSANE!! Why do we do this? How do we shift this pattern? Is it necessary to push everyone into the ice cold lake and THEN throw them a life ring?

As to goodbye, I deeply resonate with this one. I felt like I had lost the tribe w/ #Change11 with the fade away. The missed opportunity to weave some reflections. But I realize I am mostly to blame for that. I could have done my own reflection, linked, woven. MOOCs are trickier like that, eh?

Ah well, enough Saturday morning rambling. Time to go out and enjoy the beautiful day. I put in my work time!

Great post. It’s honest. I develop online courses and help instructors and faculty „learn“ to do the same. I also help them learn how to teach online. I myself have spent a lot of time online in different settings and for various purposes over the last 15 years. For me, it’s simply another modality to work and play. But it’s not simple. And the more I do it, the more sensitive I become to the kinds of experiences you’re describing. Mine are of frustration and impatience. I think naming these experiences is important. I see them often with the people I work with.

I think naming these experiences is important.

The designer, teacher and user in me wants to DO things whose outcomes lead to my goals. My time and effort are valuable because they’re exhaustible. If we counted the hours we spend dealing with the mechanics of online tools and modalities I think we’d shutter, particularly if we put a price (value) on our time and effort. I increasingly do this, because here in the States, we believe that online (education) is somehow „cheaper“.

I’m not a naysayer, I just like honest experiences and appraisals.

Nancy asked above, „Why do we do it?“ Nancy, yeah why?

I used to embrace all the mechanics I needed to do to be online. I wanted to learn (through experience) as much as I could. I wanted to develop confidence. I also wanted to instill it in others, and to model life long learning.

Now I tell people that every technology is like an iceberg, there’s a lot more to it below the surface, so beware.

Personal Disclosure 🙂
Alongside my professionally-oriented opinions :), sit my sensibilities of what it means to be human. I’m a rather embodied Mensch. I can only take so much of the virtual with its limited sensory and visceral experiences. And after all these years, being online doesn’t facilitate the psychological and social depth I need. I don’t connect (deeply) because I don’t desire to connect with other human beings solely online. It’s always a kind of surrogate experience, a simulation

Hi Suzanne!
Such an interesting comment, thank you! We share common experiences, I started to develop online courses 2001.
I love: „every technology is like an iceberg, there’s a lot more to it below the surface, so beware.“ – I will quote you in my courses!

I’m thinking about your statement „I don’t desire to connect with other human beings solely online. It’s always a kind of surrogate experience, a simulation“. I feel it different. I love my virtual groups and I enjoy our discussions, reflections, our development through discussing and reflecting and I value it as much as I value f2f workshops. Maybe this is as it is, because until now my courses were constrained to 15 persons (training) or 28 persons (students) so I really am in good contact with the learners (and I’m a learner as well).
This winter I developed the first small „open“ course with about 60 persons. In this case the relationship with the participants was not that close of course.
Bye, jupidu

Hi Nancy,
with regard to „I felt like I had lost the tribe w/ #Change11 with the fade away. The missed opportunity to weave some reflections. But I realize I am mostly to blame for that. …“ – no, we the learners – or at least some of them – said their goodbye, but these goodbyes where spread around the web and not done by the facilitators directly at the Change11 website.
And I have some questions to your comment as I didn’t understand it entirely (sorry): „… an online gathering of African elearning folks and the volume of hello is going to go over the top really fast!“ By the „volume“ do you mean that there were to many hello’s? A whole and confusing bunch of hello’s? Or do you mean something else?
„I’m designing another course and yet again, week one is INSANE!!“ – why insane? In what respect?
I’m really curios, bye, jupidu

I very much go along with your article because I’m confronted with some of the matters you mentioned as well. As I attend from time to time reading circles moderated by authors I experienced the fact that most of them give a short welcome message and ask us readers for a short overview about our person (reading taste, how we found out about the book, the reading circle, if we know other books by the same author…)

Then we spent around 2 up to 4 weeks together with the author talking about several chapters of the book, discussing our thoughts about the story, asking questions about the purpose on the plot or characters and while so – getting really close to the author and his/her work.

A fact I truly enjoy.

Usually the reading circle is finished when all of the readers put their review on the book online. And that’s it.

Today I saw – for the very first time since I’m moving in the literature-community a farewell-message from an author – on Facebook. She was very kind and respectful and thanked her readers for their thoughts, opinions and at last their Reviews which in general helping her a lot with carrying on with her work and as well changing her writing expertise.

Reading this message I found out for myself how unsatisfying my former reading circles ended so far. We all made our reviews an left the room with no „goodbye“ for each other and no „goodbye“ for and from the author.

My thoughts on the issue. 😉

Hi Erika,
thank you for your comment – interesting your description of the reading circles. I love to read and all the time am reading a lot but it never crossed my mind to discuss about „my“ books in a reading circle …
Bye, jupidu

I too had a regret about #change11 finishing without despedidas but only realised it later. I could have blogged much more reflectively about my experience but the end came at the same time as the craziness of the end of the academic year.
But are we becoming hardened (more confident?) with online relationships?

Hi George!
„But are we becoming hardened (more confident?) with online relationships?“ – hmmmm, I don’t like „hardened“ I would prefer „confident“. When I think at my students who omit writing Hello and Bye in their online messages I think they are used to do it in this „lazy“ way and sometimes I’m imitating them but I’m never that happy with it.
How do you write? with hello’s and goodbyes ore without?
Bye, jupidu

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