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Building a scaffold for future learning: Whilst the demands increase and the directions change

Gilly Salmon's Tree of LearningImage by mikecogh via Flickr
A while back I participated in a session where Gilly Salmon was presenting. Some of the points she made then (in 2011) still hold very true...

Gilly talked about her professional 'journey' around the topic of forge (to form or make through concentrated effort...). Gilly used to work for the Open University in the UK and even though the OU was ostensibly 'distance learning' there was quite a few face-to-face tutorials. This became a problem once they opened up programmes in Europe where students were geographically disparate and there was no way that they could drive into, say, Paris on a weekly basis for tutorials. This sparked some creative thinking around two to connect and communicate (prior to, for example, graphic user interfaces).

Some of the things that Gilly learned on the way include:

  1. if you want the future of learning to work you have to design it;
  2. the actual role of facilitation is different to the design process;
  3. if you want to know if it's working - ask your students!!

Between 1992 and 1995 Gilly developed a five stage model for productive learning forms around 1) access and motivation, 2) culture building, 3) co-operation, 4) collaboration, and 5) development. Once students have forged relationships they are more likely to help each other, and there needs to be motivation to come back again and again...this in particular is to see of there is a message in response to something they have posted. This means someone needs to have posted a response, and the facilitator will need to build this culture. Little, easy, things should build toward a final larger task. The steps break into roles: welcome, host, lead, facilitate and guide. The welcome should be around welcoming a person, and congratulating them for coming back, and leading is showing how being part of the environment and contributing to it will be of value to them.


Gilly Salmon 5 Stage Cycle for learning with t...Image by vickel_n via Flickr

Gilly advised that for eModerating roles you need to recruit people who are more comfortable as guides on the side, and who do not see eLearning as a substitute for something better. She emphasised that it is important to provide professional development for everyone before letting them loose in the online environment. It's also good if they have had experience of being an eLearner, and also have a 'reflective edge'. The professional development aspect needs to include aspects such as 'weaving and summarising' online discussions, as well as facilitating for diversity - although this tends to come with experience rather than being something that you can train people to 'do'.

Gilly has found that the five stage model becomes a catalyst for many people who start using it to design learning experiences for students. This in turn has impacted Gilly, who herself has started to design programmes in quite a different way.


A storyboard for an eight-minute animated cartoon.Image via Wikipedia

You can't design programmes on your own any more. This is something that Gilly has called Designing together: Carpe Diem, which is a model for learing design that uses the five stage model as a foundation, and has since been developed further. The idea was that a session was run over a day, but it actually needs a couple of days. The first day focuses on the design, and the second on the development. Story boarding is a fundamental aspect of the process.

Gilly concluded that your own 'forge' needs to be grounded and practical, driven by needs and a purpose, addresses prior design and deliverly, and is adaptable and flexible.

While there was nothing new in the presentation, it was a superb overview of the development of eLearning and associated design and facilitation considerations...and emphasised key aspects of how to make 'virtual' learning effective.


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