A PRACTITIONER S EVALUATION OF SALMON S FIVE-STEP MODEL FOR THE USE OF CMC IN HE

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1 A PRACTITIONER S EVALUATION OF SALMON S FIVE-STEP MODEL FOR THE USE OF CMC IN HE Maggie McPherson Department of Information Studies University of Sheffield Regent Court, S1 4DP, Sheffield Miguel Baptista Nunes Department of Information Studies University of Sheffield Regent Court, S1 4DP, Sheffield ABSTRACT This paper discusses the need for appropriate strategies for facilitating online learning in Higher Education (HE). The research presented in this paper results from the action research into online tutoring and learner support in a postgraduate continuing professional distance education (CPDE) programme. Gilly Salmon s five-step model was selected as a possible methodology to deliver a online learning course, that would enable online tutors to address how participants would exploit the learning environment and avoid common pitfalls in computer mediated communication (CMC). The selection of such a methodological approach is particularly important when changing the mode of delivery in HE from a traditional approach to and e- learning mode of delivery. This paper discusses the fact that the MA in ITM used the five-step model as a general guide, but found the need to develop its own online learning course implementation model. Keywords E-learning, Online Learning, Online Learning Support, E-tutoring, E-facilitating, E-moderating. 1. INTRODUCTION Most traditional universities have a tendency to subsume open, distance and flexible learning activities within the resources of the broader campus-based remit [1]. This poses a major problem for online learning courses that often fall outside this traditional view of education. In fact, the online learning implies much more than a simple technical exercise in which some materials or processes are simply transferred from the offline world to some ready-made online realm [2]. To compound this situation most online learning initiatives start as small-scale departmental projects Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and the full citation on the first page. To copy otherwise, to republish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specific permission. 4th Annual LTSN-ICS Conference, NUI Galway 2003 LTSN Centre for Information and Computer Sciences [3]. Therefore, the implementation of online learning faces high level of risk because of its uncertain status and unfamiliarity. The consequence of this is that these initiatives commonly focus on the design and development of the online learning environments and therefore insufficient attention is given to the delivery process. These efforts have little chance of succeeding without a tutoring team that has appropriate online tutoring skills necessary to explore and maximize the designed environments. For that reason, the tutoring team is at least as important as the design team and requires a careful selection process. This does not simply mean selecting a tutoring team with subject matter expertise and/or technical skills, but choosing educationalists with information and communication literacy skills that are required to manage and facilitate online learning. Thus, the choice of a suitable tutor team with appropriate skills, or at least the willingness to acquire these, is critical to the success of online learning. Furthermore, tutors teams must adopt appropriate delivery methodologies that prepare learners for the difficult task of learning and interacting online. This paper uses a case study in continuing professional distance education (CPDE) to illustrate the discussion of these issues. 2. ONLINE TUTORING Online tutoring and leadership have been widely considered as a crucial factor in the success of computer-mediated collaborative learning activities. Different and alternative names have been used in the literature referring to the role of the tutor in online interaction, such as coach [4], leader [5], tutor [6], moderator [7], facilitator [8], motivator, mentor, mediator and even production coordinator [9]. Nevertheless, most studies focus on online tutoring as provided by an assigned e-moderator [7]. These moderators were divided into institutional interveners, appointed interveners and natural interveners by [5], that is, tutors, experts, and learners. This paper focuses on the institutional interveners, i.e. the academic tutors that support the students throughout their learning process. In fact, 212

2 by deciding to adopt online learning delivery, educationalists will need to re-evaluate their roles as academic tutors, since familiar face-to-face (f2f) teaching solutions may not work in an online learning environment. This, in essence, means that professional practices are indeed changing. As McMann [10] points out, roles that have to be performed as part of online tutors tasks are actually not very dissimilar in nature in relation to the traditional f2f tasks. Nevertheless there are significant differences that were identified from the very start of online learning as a delivery mode. Authors such as Mason [11] discussed the roles of tutors as involving responsibilities at both technical and educational level. Mason [11] focused on the discussion of the educational role of the on-line moderator that involves three categories: the organisational, the social and the intellectual. Berge [8], based on a thorough literature review, further developed this characterization and identified four main online tutor roles: Pedagogical or intellectual roles are some of the most important for the online learning process [12]. The online tutor uses questions and probes for learners responses that focus discussions on critical concepts, principles and skills [13]. These roles may include a number of tasks such as: opening the discussions, focusing on relevant content and issues, intervening in order to promote interest and productive conversation, guiding and maintaining learners involvement in discussions, and summarising debates. Social roles involve the creation of friendly and comfortable social environments in which learners feel that knowledge acquisition is possible. McMann [10] considered the social role to be one of the critical success factors in online learning. In this context, online tutors are responsible for: guaranteeing opportunities for participants to introduce themselves; identifying and dealing with lurkers who are reticent and sometimes reluctant to participate; ensuring that appropriate communication takes place; taking into consideration cultural and ethnic backgrounds by minimising humoristic, offensive and disruptive behaviour; promoting interactivity between students; and finally, dealing with flaming, should this occur, by reminding participants of the appropriate netiquette. Managerial or organisational roles involve setting learning objectives; establishing agendas for the learning activities; timetabling learning activities and tasks; clarifying procedural rules and decision-making norms [11] [12]. Technical roles, possibly the most daunting for academics, involve becoming familiar, comfortable and competent with the ICT systems and software that compose the e-learning environment. The interpretation of these roles may vary considerably according to different pedagogical views. However, and similarly to all other educational practitioners, online learning tutors and designers always make use of theories of learning, both implicitly or explicitly expressed [14]. They call on prior knowledge and experience when developing and using their courses and environments. They call to mind previous solutions and strategies they have used, have experienced, or have seen that fits the particular constraints of the current situation [15]. These previous experiences play a central role in specifying the structure, contents and delivery strategies. Thus, if no explicit methodology and pedagogical delivery strategies are consciously considered and planned, the online tutor/facilitator will tend to incorporate their own model of learning, which may be incorrect, inadequate or even incompatible with the planned learning activity. Furthermore, the lack of an overall methodology implies a lack of a consistent and adequate educational approach throughout the online learning delivery. 3. ONLINE TUTORING STRATEGIES The online learning delivery strategies must address issues relating to: online learner skills; online learning facilitation, tutoring and support; the effective and appropriate use of online learning materials; the use of computer mediated communication (CMC) tools to enable both peer-totutor and peer-to-peer interaction; as well as tutor strategies, skills and training. Often, online learning makes use of virtual learning environments (VLE), which then imply an extra level of complexity for the learner and additional problems of maintenance, communication and support for tutors. In order to address some of these issues, Salmon [9] proposed a model developed through action research. This five-step model provides a set of constructs that can be used as a guide to online tutoring: providing Access and Motivation of learners; Online Socialization with learners in order to enable participants to gain familiarity with the online environment; enabling and facilitating Information Exchange; facilitating and encouraging Knowledge Construction through the designed environment; and finally providing scaffolding for Development of online skills and behaviours that enable learners to pursue their learning objectives. This model and issues of online delivery were in at the core of the concerns of the team that implemented and managed the change process for the MA in ITM from a traditional distance education (DE) model to an online learning approach. 213

3 4. THE MA IN IT MANAGEMENT The MA ITM is a part-time CPDE programme that aims to develop more qualified and experienced information technology (IT) managers and consultants. The course aims to prepare IT and Information Systems (IS) managers to bridge the substantial gap existing between professional systems developers and potential users within organisations, in order to solve the problems arisen from the introduction of IS in the workplace. Emphasis is placed on improving students knowledge, understanding, practical skills as well as developing confidence and competence to apply these in the world of work. Both authors are actively involved in the programme, both as coordinators and tutors, and have evaluated this programme over a five-year period, as part of an indepth study using an action research approach [16, 17]. 4.1 The Students This programme attracts students from all over the world. The course is primarily aimed at professionals with a technological background who need higher skills and qualifications specific to the management of IT environments. Students enrolling on the MA are required to have a relevant first degree or a minimum of three years experience in the field. 4.2 Course Delivery Mode The MA ITM was designed as a flexible part-time programme, delivered via distance learning. Conceived in the early nineties, initially the programme did not require access to online facilities. The teaching and learning strategy was therefore a traditional approach combining paperbased delivery with f2f components. However, as a consequence of the home personal computer (PC) boom and the fast development of the word wide web (WWW), it was decided that an online learning solution should be adopted. It is now a requirement that these DE students have access to computer facilities that include all the standard desktop processing, as well as access to the Internet. Consequently, all students are required to make use of online information and communication technologies (ICT). The online version of the MA in ITM uses WebCT, a VLE, which is a tightly integrated system facilitating the creation of web-based educational environments, developed by the University of British Columbia in It adopts a virtual classroom metaphor, composed by a number of ICT tools, which allow educators to build collaborative learning environments. 4.3 The Implementation Model When changing to an online learning approach, there are normally three main factors to be taken into consideration [15]: Instructional Design - focused on identifying and implementing a learning environment combining pedagogical, subject matter and tutoring issues [18]. Instructional Technology - which may be defined as the theory and practice of design, development, utilisation, management and evaluation of processes and resources for learning [19]. Learner Support Systems - which include tutoring and counselling [20], as well as specially prepared self-study learning materials, already available learning resources (including webbased resources), locally accessible resources (e.g. local library), local face-to-face teaching from travelling teachers and/or local tutors, teaching by correspondence or electronically mediated, and even student group activities. This paper concentrates on the latter, i.e. on the learner support systems and the strategies required to maximise the effectiveness of learning environments. These strategies, aiming at supporting both tutors and learners, strongly influence the design and development of online learning environments, and are usually interpreted by designers as implementation models. Instructional designers and developers use implementation models in order to be able to understand, discuss and apply the adopted strategies and pedagogical models required by a particular educational setting [21]. Accordingly, these models incorporate the available learning support systems and required instructional technology. The model in Fig. 1 represents the implementation model for the MA in ITM course. The MA in ITM students learning activities are supported by a networked web based environment designed by the course team, using facilities offered by WebCT. This enables both peer-peer and tutorpeer interaction by means of already built-in CMC facilities. In this case, WebCT has been chosen centrally as the University s adopted VLE and is an integral part of the educational setting and therefore was not an optional variable for the instructional designers. It is now clear that these CMC facilities are a prime factor for learners to be successful in their studies in DE. VLEs, such as WebCT, offer both synchronous and asynchronous communications modes, namely: , electronic bulletin board, chat, and personal web space. The real educational problem here is how to use these facilities effectively. As stated above, Salmon [7] proposed a five-step model to 214

4 teach using these facilities. Her framework proposes a set of stages to introduce tutors and learners to the online environment (Access and Motivation, Online Socialization and Information Exchange) and a further set of steps to facilitate and encourage Knowledge Construction and finally providing scaffolding for Development of higher level skills and behaviours. Tutor Delivery and Support Fig. 1 MA in ITM Implementation M odel N I C L S Web CT M odule 1 Web CT M odule 2... Web CT M odule x Alum ni Involvem ent Online Access, Motivation, Socialization and Information Exchange Indications from both the literature review and the MA in ITM tutor s practice seem to confirm that Salmon s familiarisation and socialisation stages are indeed necessary. In fact, and before addressing this in an appropriate manner, chat facilities were usually only well used by selected cohorts of learners who had built a sense of community throughout a longer period of contact, whereas learners coming to the environment in the first year were not using the CMC facilities to the same extent. There is also evidence that some individuals are much more active on-line than others, some of whom never contribute to on-line discussions. This phenomenon is supported by evidence emerging from the literature as discussed by Carr [22]. The main reason for this phenomena is that at this point in time, adult learners are not always equipped with the necessary skills to succeed in this new type of learning environment, having been taught in a traditional schooling system based reading and numeracy literacy skills via face-to-face (f2f) teaching [23]. In fact, student are expected to V S S developed high cognitive skills such as negotiation of meaning, long-life learning, reflective analysis and meta-cognition without being properly trained in low-level skills such as the basic use of computer mediated technology, online etiquette, web navigation, and web searching. These skills were identified by [24] as Networked Information and Communication Literacy Skills (NICLS). NICLS have a dual nature: technical - knowing how to use ICT from a technical point of view; and social - knowing how to use ICT in a networked learning situation. This confirms Salmon s proposal of steps 1-3. These skills are not only required to succeed in the online learning environment to which students are exposed, but are also an essential part of all aspects of daily networked activity. Thus, before starting the course, students must be offered an induction course on networked learning skills [23] and need continuous further scaffolding from both tutors and environment during the learning process. This is represented in Fig. 1 by the NICLS block. During this induction course, learners are asked to introduce themselves, to exchange both synchronous and asynchronous messages, to engage in small scale activities in order to become familiar with WebCT as a learning environment and are asked to debate issues online in order to exchange information and ideas. The NICLS course proved ideal for to provide this initial support to learners and avoids repetition of this process at each and every module level Further Socialization However, DE has not been very conducive to the building of strong learning communities and therefore often results in feelings of isolation and disorientation in learners [21]. Despite addressing and minimising this problem through the use of CMC, CPDE courses usually comprise a number of independent modules, each with its own individual online learning environment and assigned tutors. To reflect this, VLEs such as WebCT have a modular architecture. This causes learners to jump from one module environment to the next. These module environments are normally insulated subject areas and with no direct connection between them. Consequently, learners often lose a holistic view of the programme. This makes building a course learning community extremely difficult. In early versions of the MA in ITM course, students regularly transferred from one module environment to the next. As a consequence, socialising and study mechanisms (e.g. non-module specific topics, discussion threads, well known environments, link facilities) were disrupted by these changes. Furthermore, students lacked an overall anchoring space that brought the different modules, cohorts and tutors together. Thus, there the module team 215

5 identified the need to provide a persistent course area for administrative support, general course and university information, as well as online peer-to-peer communication and socialising in a familiar setting. This resulted in the Virtual Social Space (VSS) component presented as a complement to the course in Fig Knowledge Construction and Development In the MA in ITM, Knowledge Construction is done at module level, using a situated and active learning approach. Development and social negotiation of meanings adopts a problem-based approach using both case studies and contextualised authentic activities Tutor Support Finally, inexperienced online learning tutors face exactly the same problems, difficulties and anxieties as students. They are often not prepared to engage with students in this new type of learning environment and similarly lack both technical and social skills required. Therefore, a course model for this type of CPDE requires a facility to train and support these tutors. In the model in Fig. 1, this tutor support takes the form of an induction course, offered prior to the start of the module/course, and supplemented by a just-in-time self-learning facility, which is available to tutors at any time during the delivery of the programme. 5. CONCLUSIONS Salmon s [7] five-step methodology proved to be a extraordinary useful guide and provided a solid basis for the development of a specific implementation model for the design and development of the MA in ITM online learning environment. However, it appears to be oriented towards individual learning activities or modules rather than a whole programme. The application of this methodology without a holistic and inclusive view of the programme could result in unnecessary repetition of a number of activities, i.e. steps 1-3. The implementation model proposed in this paper aims at providing such a holistic view. 6. REFERENCES [1] Cornford J. and Pollock N. Putting the University Online: Information, Technology and Organisational Change, 2002, Buckingham, UK, SRHE and Open University Press. [2] Ibid, 12 [3] Robinson, B. Innovation in Open and Distance Learning: Some Lessons from Experience and Research In Lockwood, F. and Gooley, A. (editors) Innovation in open and distance learning: successful development of online and web-based learning. London, UK: Kogan Page, 2001, pps [4] Murphy, K.L, Drabier, R., and Epps, M.L. A Constructivist Look at Interaction and Collaboration via Computer Conferencing, International Journal of Educational Telecommunications, 1998, vol 4, no 2/3, pps [5] Hotte, R. and Pierre, S. Leadership and Conflict Management Support in a Cooperative Telelearning Environment, International Journal on e-learning, vol.1, no.2, April-June 2002, pps Also available online at: Last accessed on 10/03/2003. [6] Gerrard C Promoting Best Practice for E- tutoring through Staff Development, In Proceedings of Networked Learning 2002: Third International Conference, Lancaster University and University of Sheffield 26th March 28th March Also available online at proceedings/papers/15.htm. Last accessed 10/03/2003. [7] Salmon G E-Moderating, The Key to Teaching and Learning Online, London, UK, Kogan Page, [8] Berge, Z.L. Facilitating Computer Conferencing: Recommendations From the Field, Educational Technology, 1992, vol 35, no 1, pps [9] English, S. and Yazdani, M. Computer Supported Cooperative Learning in a Virtual University, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 1999, vol 15, no 1, pps [10] McMann, G. W. The Changing Role of Moderation in Computer Mediated Conferencing, In Proceedings of the Distance Learning Research Conference, San Antonio, TX, 1994, April 27-29, pps [11] Mason, R. Moderating Educational Computer Conferencing, DEOSNEWS, 1991, Vol.1, No.19. Also available online at mason.html. Last accessed on 10/03/2003. [12] Paulsen, M.F. "Moderating Educational Computer Conferences" in Berge, Z. L. and Collins, M. P. (editors), Computer Mediated Communication and the On-line Classroom in Distance Education, 1995, Cresskill, NJ, Hampton Press, pps [13] Zafeiriou, G. Students Perceptions of Issues Arising from and Factors Influencing Group Interaction in Computer Conferencing: A Grounded Theory Approach, PhD Thesis, Sheffield, UK: Department of Information Studies, University of Sheffield,

6 [14] Bigge, L and Shermis, S. Learning Theories for Teachers, 6th edition. New York, Addison, Wesley Longman, Inc, [15] Roberts, L. A Transformation of Learning: Use of the National Information Infrastructure for Education and Lifelong Learning, In Educational Media and Technology Yearbook , 1996, Englewood CO, Libraries Unlimited. [16] McPherson, M.A. & Nunes, J.M. (2001) The Role of Evaluation Processes in Professional Continuing Education Programmes: A Case Study. In Proceedings of UNESCO Conference on The University of the 21st Century, An International Conference, March 2001, Al Bustan Palace Hotel, Muscat, Oman, [17] McPherson, M.A. & Nunes, J.M (2002) Supporting Educational Management through Action Research, International Journal of Educational Management, 16(6), [18] Croft, R. Adapting Software Design Methodologies for Instructional Design, Educational Technology, August 1993, [19] Seels, B. & Richey, R. Instructional Technology: The Definitions and Domains of the Field, 1994, Washington, DC, Association for Educational Communications and Technology. [20] Burge, E.; Snow, J.; & Howard, J. Developing Partnerships: An Investigation of Library-based Relationships with Students and Educators Participating in Distance Education in Northern Ontario, 1988, Toronto, The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Distance Learning Office. [21] Nunes, M. & McPherson, M. Pedagogical and Implementation Models for E-Learning Continuing Professional Distance Education (CPDE) Emerging from Action Research, International Journal of Management Education, 2002, 2(3), [22] Carr, S. Learning to Communicate Online is a Challenge for New Distance-Ed Students, In The Chronicle of Higher Education, Also available online at: tm. Last accessed 17/03/2003. [23] Nunes, J.M.; McPherson, M. & Rico, M., Instructional Design of a Networked Learning Skills Module for Web-based Collaborative Distance Learning, In Proceedings of the European Conference on Web-Based Learning Environments (WBLE 2000), 2000, Faculty of Engineering, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal, 5-6 of June 2000, [24] Nunes, J.M.; McPherson, M. & Rico, M. Design and Development of a Networked Learning Skills Module for Web- based Collaborative Distance Learning, In Proceedings of 1st ODL International Workshop, 2000, Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Centro de Formación de Postgrado, Valencia, Spain, July 2000,

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