sábado, 24 de octubre de 2009

Managing and moderating the online learning environment

Task 4.2.3. Managing and moderating the online learning environment

The 30 most important factors in managing and moderating the online learning environment in order of priority (the most important first)
1. Set clear objectives for the session.
2. Be prepared, well in advance.
3. Be objective.
4. Value participation.
5. Create a friendly, social environment.
6. Become familiar and proficient at the use of the technology – practice in advance.
7. Be prepared for technology failure – have a backup option (email, fax or telephone).
8. Prepare new students in advance and allow them to set the pace.
9. Provide an overview of timetable, procedures, expectations and decision-making norms where appropriate.
10. Encourage participants to introduce themselves.
11. Take note of students who don’t participate during the first session and contact them privately to determine why.
12. Enable students to experience the moderator role for themselves.
13. Create opportunities to sustain discussions and interactions.
14. Create a policy on communications.
15. Try different communication styles
16. Promote healthy and respectful social interactions.
17. Encourage participation through use of questions and probing.
18. Facilitate discussion – present conflicting opinions, or ask open-ended questions.
19. Ask a lot of questions, and review answers or comments providing summary comment.
20. Model appropriate online behaviour.
21. Model online intellectual discourse.
22. Contribute your own special knowledge in a collaborative fashion – don’t lecture.
23. Be responsive – remedy issues as they arise, help participants with information overload.
24. Make sure participants are comfortable with the system – hold practice sessions.
25. Build relevancy into the materials.
26. Recognize and deal with appropriate and inappropriate student input.
27. Accept ‘lurkers’, reluctant or timid students – help to draw them comfortably into discussion.
28. Don’t rely on offline materials – bring them into the online environment for discussion.
29. Be flexible in schedule to accommodate student direction, need and interest.
30. Maintain a non-authoritarian style.


LaBonte, Randy et al (2003) Moderating Tips for Synchronous Learning Using Virtual Classroom Technologies. Odyssey Learning Systems Inc. Retrieved from
http://odysseylearn.com/Resrce/text/e-Moderating%20tips.pdf [Available as an Eresource]

How to humanize an online language learning environment

Task 4.2.6 Assessed Written Assignment 4

The Right Environment For More Humanized Online Language Learning
The Web offers online language students the perfect technology, but sometimes not the right environment for more humanized online learning where learners can be uniquely identified, content can be specifically presented, and progress can be individually monitored, supported, and assessed. Nevertheless, technologically speaking, language teachers are making rapid progress towards more humanized learning on the Web using adaptive technology. However, missing still is a whole-person understanding of how individuals learn online (Dotson, 2003), more than just how they process, build, and store knowledge. Cognitive solutions designed for the classroom solutions and facilitated by the teachers are often not enough to meet the individual needs of online language learners.

It is important to offer an alternative perspective about language learning on the Web that supports individual differences from a more personal level. There must be more discussion among teachers on issues such as the sources for individual language learning differences, specific reasons why some learners may be more self-directed or self-motivated than others, and design guidelines that have to do with the dominant influence of emotions, intentions, and on social aspects on online language learning. These insights from teachers can offer simple ways to enhance and evaluate contemporary online instructional designs so that they support personalized needs and instill the right habits for improved online language learning and performance.

Teachers who deal with problems or issues usually associated with online language learning environment should aim at seeking new perspectives for understanding individual differences and personalized language learning on the Web, because after years of research focused on primarily cognitive models, experience has shown that these solutions have often proved unpredictable and unstable, especially for online language learning (Reeves, 1993). What is needed is more reliable theoretical foundations that look at the person as a whole in order to set and accomplish personal short and long term challenging goals that maximize the students’ efforts to innovate and reach personal goals and that help them commit to make bigger efforts to discover, elaborate, and build new knowledge and meaning in terms of language learning.

Learners’ needs, desires, and intentions as well as emotions and feelings are attributes that are more stable over different online learning situations. Consequently, online language teachers should realize that conventional cognitive solutions are not enough. They must discover the need to increase their focus on the affective factors that influence language learning. In this context, the purpose should be to examine higher-order human characteristics and psychological influences on learning since this perspective leads to an examination of the dominant impact of emotions and intentions on the cognitive process of the students (Hargreaves, 2009). Online instructors should therefore take more into account vital relationships between key psychological factors (affective, cognitive, and social) which influence language learning differently; also critical links between online language learning environments, learning differences and learning ability, and supportive online language learning environments that match individual learning differences.

Today's teachers and online language environments designers alike must seek more sophisticated learning theories based on proven research showing how the human brain works and understand how individuals really learn because this will lead the way for personalizing or adapting online language learning environments and instruction. An important consideration in humanizing online learning is determining dominant or higher-level sources for individual learning differences. This involves understanding how the brain's emotional system influences cognitive processes or how different learners think and learn (Reeves, 1993). Much of the present understanding on individual learning differences remains focused on cognitive interests and mechanisms for information processing and knowledge building, but consideration of an important piece of learning is missing, since cognitive solutions often overlook fundamental whole-person learning needs such as the dominant influence of emotions and intentions that is crucial for self-directed and self-motivated language learning. The cognitive aspect generally supports traditional online teacher roles where an online instructor manages emotions, intentions and social issues.

Traditional cognitive classroom solutions are not always viable solutions for the language learner. Online learners need to want and intend to become more self-supporting and self-directing learners, independent of the instructor (Reeves, 1993). There are many students who come from classroom environments that are not equipped to handle online language learning environments. Online teachers must recognize the online learning ability gap and provide solutions that consider the whole-person perspective so that they can really help the online language student to gradually move to a more successful, self-directed online language learning. It is a pity to see that still a good number of today's language learners are conditioned to rely on their online instructors. Schools require a more sophisticated understanding of the student as a human being and his/her psychological characteristics of learning to change this conditioning (Weiss, 2002). Online language learning must be transformed into learning the helps learners want to improve their performance and negotiate constant improvement and change, independently, passionately and productively. More humanized, personalized learning is a step that has to be taken in this direction. As schools decide on next-generation e-learning alternatives, they need to first understand the dominant power of emotions and intentions on language learning, and second, seek humanized solutions that use this understanding to revolutionize the presentation of language learning (Weiss, 2002).

As a conclusion, it is important that online teachers come up with suggestions that contribute to more successful online language learning and a greater understanding about fundamental learning differences influenced by human affective influences. When teachers design an online course with only a universal type of learner in mind, all with similar emotions and intentions, they unintentionally set learners up for frustration and possible failure. If teachers become more serious about providing good online language instruction for learners, they must provide multiple ways to provide instruction and environments so that all learners will want to learn on the Web and continue to have opportunities for success. The benefits of humanizing online language learning to individual differences address important human issues such as frustration, lack of confidence, mistakes, impatience, reactions, and boredom. Instructional design for online language learning should address the unique sources for learning differences from a whole-person perspective. Online language sessions should emulate the instructor's experienced, intuitive ability to recognize and respond to how individuals learn differently, foster interest, value, as well as encourage more self-motivated, self-directed learning and a more humanized solution to individual differences.


Dotson, Tim (2003). Why Johnny Won't Post. Converge Online. Retrieved from
http://www.centerdigitaled.com/converge/?pg=magstory&id=65480 [Available as
an E-resource]

Hargreaves, S. (2009). Humanizing language teaching. Retrieved October 20, 2009, from http://www.hltmag.co.uk/oct09/index.htm

Palloff, Rena and Pratt, Keith (2007). Building Online Learning Communities, Wiley.

Reeves, T. (1993). Pseudoscience In Computer-Based Instruction: The Case of Learner Control Research, Journal of Computer-Based Instruction, Vol. 20, No. 2, pp. 39-46.

Snow, R., & Farr, M. (1987), Cognitive-Conative-Affective Processes in Aptitude, Learning, and Instructi: Conative and Affective Process Analyses. Vol. 3, pp. 1-10, Hillsdale, NJ, Erlbaum Associates.

Weiss, R. (2002). Humanizing the online classroom. Retrieved October 21, 2009, from http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/101523966/abstract

Synchronous and asynchronous communication

Taking into account that synchronous communication is simply communication that happens at the same time -a casual conversation, a phone call, a discussion session, exchanges in an AOL chatroom- and that asynchronous communication, on the other hand, is communication that can wait in which no reply is required at that moment - a voice mail message, a mail to a friend, or comments on a paper (Haefner, 2000), I think that the best thing to do is to look for a balance or mix of real-time, synchronous interaction and asynchronous communication by offering teachers better guidance for the appropriate use of computer-mediated communication, so that it is easier for them to decide how to balance synchronous and asynchronous modes in their online classes.

Many teachers nowadays are very committed to using digital technology in the classroom and in my opinion, the most appropriate kind of virtual education for them is one that includes both synchronous and asynchronous information exchange. In this way, students are given different and more varied opportunities to express themselves, share with others, and produce new knowledge. So, balancing synchronous and asynchronous exchanges in today’s classroom is key for the educational community to succeed in modern education.

It is true that the great advantage of an asynchronous class is that students can do the work at any time of the day, but computer-mediated communication is not for everyone and that convenience and flexibility carries liabilities such as a sense of disconnection and isolation for some students. What teachers need to do is to find ways to energize and motívate their students trying to maintain the humor, the energy, and the excitement of the real life classroom.

The profile of the online learner population is changing and this change in profile poses considerable pedagogical challenges that can be addressed through a better understanding of the emerging online learner who is someone who has a strong academic self-concept; is competent in the use of online learning technologies, particularly communication and collaborative technologies; understands, values, and engages in social interaction and collaborative learning; possesses strong interpersonal and communication skills; and is self-directed. In order to support and promote these characteristics and skills more effectively, the online course developer, instructor, or teacher should focus on designing online learning environments that support both synchronous and asynchronous communication. Environments that help engage learners in online learning activities that require collaboration, communication, social interaction, reflection, evaluation, and self-directed learning.


Haefner, Joel. (2000). The Importance of Being Synchronous. Academic.Writing.
Retrieved from http://wac.colostate.edu/aw/teaching/haefner2000.htm [Available
as an E-resource]

LaBonte, Randy et al (2003) Moderating Tips for Synchronous Learning Using
Virtual Classroom Technologies. Odyssey Learning Systems Inc. Retrieved from
http://odysseylearn.com/Resrce/text/e-Moderating%20tips.pdf [Available as an
Palloff, Rena and Pratt, Keith (2007). Building Online Learning Communities, Wiley.