As an online educator (and someone who researches online education), I’m always coming across new model to describe the online learning process. Personally, I gravitate to the Community of Inquiry framework because I see the need to foster social presence in online learning environments. A colleague shared another framework recently and I’m still working through its applicability.
In her 2013 book E-tivities: The Key to Active Online Learning, Gilly Salmon offers a five-stage model of e-moderation that scaffolds students through increasingly complex technological ability and interactivity. Salmon’s stage model is relatively new to me but I can see that, in many ways, it reflects how I create my online courses. To dig deeper into the model, I thought I’d outline each stage and discuss a little about the ways I meet (or don’t meet) each stage in my online classes.
Stage 1: Access and Motivation
This stage focuses on helping students understand the learning environment and how to technically engage with the different tools. In all of my online classes, I offer short online orientation that help students develop basic proficiency with the learning management system and understand how I plan to use.
Stage 2: On-line Socialization
Stage 2 targets developing a social space for students to interact with their peers and with the course instructor. In my online classes, I always include some sort of icebreaker to get the students sharing short introductions with one another.
Stage 3: Information Exchange
This stage has students interacting with course content and reflecting on what they’ve learned. To make this process a little more transparent in my online classes, I have students post short reading summaries before they begin discussing what they’ve learned with their peers (Stage 4).
Stage 4: Knowledge Construction
If Stage 3 is about accessing information, Stage 4 focuses on building knowledge through social collaboration. This stage is highly interactive with students sharing their ideas with one another. In my online classes, I usually post a few open-ended discussion board questions to foster conversations with the hopes that the class will use the content as a springboard for sharing additional ideas and content.
Stage 5: Development
If there’s a stage that I haven’t done a great job meeting, it’s Stage 5. This stage focuses on the students’ reflecting on and evaluating their own learning. The goal with this stage is to foster more independent learning and increased self-regulation. In a way, Stage 5 reminds me a little of Level 6 of Dee Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning. In Fink’s taxonomy, Level 6 has students focus on the metacognitive process of “learning how to learn.” Across my online and face-to-face classes, I don’t feel like I offer enough opportunities for students to do this. It definitely provides some opportunities for growth.
Regular readers know that I subscribe to the Community of Inquiry (COI) framework when I build and facilitate my online classes. While I don’t necessarily see Salmon’s stage model replacing my use of the COI, I do see its applicability. I really like how the model focuses on students learning to navigate the technical aspects of their online classes before they gradually engage in more interactive processes in the class. This scaffolded approach is critical to online student success and reflects research I shared a few years ago about online orientations. For this reason alone, I feel like the Salmon’s stage model deserves a little more attention.