Moderating in the digital sphere: a recurring topic with borderless learning gaining popularity and educational resources dwindling. But what exactly is e-moderation? And what pros and cons does it come with?
E-moderation or tele-tutoring means: to fill an educational role in a digital environment. This includes teaching at school or university, as well as guiding participants through corporate trainings, workshops or seminars. An e-moderator is, just like a “regular” tutor, responsible for setting tasks, monitoring progress and evaluating results.
E-moderation consists of two main fields:
- Virtual front-to-back teaching (instructing)
- Group work moderation
In case one, the teacher offers the relevant input – e.g. via video reading. As such, he or she would appear as an e-instructor rather than a guide. Since the audience is not physically present at the time of recording, there are important points to consider. In-lecture questions, feedback and understanding and their technical feasibility need to be considered. Furthermore, the teacher has to offer subsequent clarification. To ensure accessible lectures, a transcript of the video should be provided, as well.
Case two applies if studying material is to be developed by the students themselves. This can be group work, presentations or research. In this case the lecturer adopts the role of a supervisor and moderator to support studying success. Tasks are e.g. answering arising questions, clarifying or correcting wrong turns in time. Organizing and settling certain discussion points is also elementary to this job.
A turn in communication
The “e” implies new channels supporting communication and interaction*. Students and trainees communicate via chats or online boards. Teachers can additionally use e-mail lists to set tasks or offer instant messaging for real-time communication during business hours.
One major advantage of communication via boards or chatrooms is their recordability. Issues resolved and unsolved are much easier to track or reconstruct. Students can easily consult each other and learn from each other’s successes and failures. Additionally, e-moderators “buy themselves time”. It is now possible to look up information and exemplify a point made, supported by actual sources. Workshop participants, on the other hand, can do their own research and need not ask in public if they feel they have certain shortcomings. In this way, tele-tutoring means a less stressful studying experience for both sides of the virtual classroom or training center.
Challenges and difficulties about e-moderation
When applying e-communication, one should always consider that this didactic technique is linear, and as such limited, by nature.
The presence of each participant boils down to their writing skill, other participants are only registered if they appear in a written argument. With the exception of video lecturing, e-moderators cannot use or rely on non-verbal signals for their teaching or success analysis. It is much harder to establish a sense of unity, a class network or a shared responsibility for the task at hand. Another difficulty can be the motivating of students or trainees who need the “outside push”. If someone usually profits from their fellow learners’ incentives, getting going all by themselves proves tough.
Despite its specific challenges, e-moderation is looking at increasing popularity – not just at schools and universities, but also at global companies’ e-learning faculties. International employee training is much easier, faster and more cost-efficient when making use of tele-tutoring. Considering the rising democratization of education and the rather dwindling resources, it is to be expected that e-moderation will become a more important field of work for more teachers, lecturers and presenters all over the globe.
* compare source: www.e-teaching.org