Salmon (2011) presents a five stage model to be used when creating online learning opportunities. Using this model should result in higher participation rates and increased student satisfaction” (Salmon, 2011, p.30).
I found this article to be very easy to read and helpful. In fact, I was able to link my own experience in this program with the different stages. I thought it would be fun and hopefully helpful to share this with all of you.
The purpose of stage one “is to expose participants to the platform (not train them), and to enable them to become successful in using technology and see the benefits” (Salmon, 2011, p.30). “The participant needs information and technical support to get online, and strong motivation and encouragement to put in the necessary time and effort” (Salmon, 2011, p.31) and “this can be fairly daunting to start with” (Salmon, 2011, p.31). When I started my first class in this program (seems like yesterday but is actually over three years ago now!) I was so terrified. My first class was Quantitative Research Methods. I sucked at math and that was the first class I decided to take and I had never taken an online class before and had no idea what to expect. I kept wondering what was I doing?! I remember logging into BlackBoard the first time. I had no idea what was going on. Thankfully the link for the course was obvious so I clicked and clicked and clicked within the course shell. Eventually I came across the Discussion Board; the syllabus said I had to post to that 3-4 times a week. I kept thinking “What am I going to say about math 3-4 times a week? How many times can I say what does this mean?” I did not post, I just couldn’t. I did browse though and read all about my fellow students. Good thing that was not intimidating (sarcasm here). These people all knew what they were doing! I had a scheduled class the next day and thought how am I going to go to class when this is an online course…. that lead me to stage two.
“In stage two, participants get used to being in the new online environment” (Salmon, 2011, p.33). I eventually arrived in class and was told to do the audio set up wizard….the what? I found it and was able to do it although I sounded really tinny. Who knew I needed a microphone? Where was the supplies list, like I used to get in grade school? And then class began. All these people started introducing themselves. It was so nice to hear how many of my fellow students were scared of math too. Alas I was not alone; if I could just get my mic to work, when I tried to introduce myself. Thankfully my instructor and fellow classmates were very understanding and applauded and gave me smiley happy faces when they could finally hear me. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief at that. Who knew smiley faces could be so encouraging J
In stage three “participants look to the e-moderators to provide direction through the mass of messages and encouragement to start using the most relevant content material” (Salmon, 2011, p.39). Once I attended class, I felt a little better about posting and I was able to make my first introductory post. Then it came time to start posting about the course materials and what I thought about them. I remember writing my first post five times. I was so scared I would say something “wrong” and misinterpret the readings and then it would be obvious to everyone that I did not belong in this class (and maybe even this program?) I finally posted that first post and waited and waited from my instructor to respond. I was hoping to be told that I did it right. Days went by and no comment from the instructor. I was pretty disappointed. In fact, I was so needy for some direction I searched the entire discussion board for his name. He had commented on a few peoples post, just not mine. Did that mean I was “right” or he had not got to it yet? I was so confused. Classmates replied to my discussion and no one told me I was wrong. So I just hoped for the best and read everyone else’s posts.
After three weeks of trying to keep up with the posts, I was exhausted! How was I ever going to get enough time to do the readings, create my own response, and read all the posts in the discussion board? How did people do this? Once the panic set in, I was not sure what I was going to do. Luckily I had a meeting with my group at about this time and we had one person who was not new to the program who told us we would probably never be able to keep up. She suggested that we read a few posts and reply and then move on to the next week. That was very helpful. I was back to thinking I might just be able to do this. I stopped looking for my instructor to tell me I was right and just enjoyed the conversations and the learning. Salmon (2011) states that in stage four it might be necessary for the e-moderator to explain that their role is not to provide the “right answers” but instead to encourage participation in discussions (p.45) and I really wish I had known this. I would have gotten over my desire to see approval a lot sooner.
Over the next few weeks, I realized I gravitated to the same six or seven people when it came to posts that I understood and could identify with. So, for the remainder of the class, I really focussed on the posts on these people and of course my own. This is stage five where “participants become responsible for their own learning through computer-meditated opportunities and need little support beyond that already available” (Salmon, 2011, p.48). I kept this up and was able to complete the course quite successfully. I was finished my first graduate class and I had learned. Now three years later, I am still learning and the light at the end of the tunnel is visible. I am a successful online learner!
Salmon, G. (2011). E-moderating: The key to teaching and learning online (3rd Ed.) New York and Abingdon: Routledge.