Gilly Salmon provides a focus on the future of distance learning and
interpets opportunities and realities for researchers, organizations,
teachers and students. She sees content as king in the transmission model
of teaching (Contenteous). Learning objects and dynamic information
technologies enable us to customize e-learning (Instantia). Mobile
learning devices facilitate anywhere-anytime learning (Nomadict), and
learning communities and interaction extend access beyond the bounds of
time and space (Cafélattia). Exploring each of these scenarios give us a
better foundation for designing learning experiences and adapting them to
specific learning needs of the individual student, teacher, and
Taming the Future
Dr. Gilly Salmon
Summit,Innovation in e-Education
3rd-5th April 2002, Hamilton New Zealand
have reached a state of flux as the 21st Century gathers speed.
Many futurists write about four key discontinuities that we will
experience in this Century. They are time and space, mind and body, real
and virtual and humans and technologies (Martell
2000). Their influence on educational institutions is still incalculable
but there is a serious shake-up going on!
know that in education we must move forward slowly- real people and real
life chances are involved. However we are currently in a position where
terrific opportunities associated with new technologies for learning may
pass us by in a haze of commercialism or a flash in the pan of new
initiative exhaustion. Throughout
the 1990s, I have been working with large numbers of online explorers,
educators and learners to try and make choices about the future for online
the way, I choose to call all online learners
‘participants’ and their trainers, facilitators or teachers,
‘e-moderators’. These words illustrate the different roles that each
adopt online compared to face to face teaching and learning situations.
What do we know
moving online does not have to
mean a loss of active and social learning. The key to success is a balance
between applying useful older concepts about learning and the
implementation of innovations using the best of networked technologies. Successful
and productive online teaching is
a key feature of positive, scalable and affordable e-learning projects and
processes. Regardless of the sophistication of the technology, online
learners do not wish to do
without their human supporters. How many people, for example, have been
heard to say, “I’m great at art because of my inspirational
computer?” Not any that I’ve met, on or off line! Instead learners
talk of challenge and support by their lecturers, or of contact with the
thoughts and the work of others. Most people also mention the fun and
companionship of working and learning together. Such benefits do not have
to be abandoned.
pathways for the future. We need focus. Difficult crossroads lie ahead
and, like any innovation, if we get it wrong at these early stages, our
choices are later reduced.
there are some key issues that need to be rapidly addresses for teachers
and learners if any form of online learning is to be successful. These are
Participation, Emotions and Time.
As for the technologies themselves, these need to
be understood in terms of ‘affordances’. Affordance means the
properties of a system which allow certain actions to be performed and
which encourage specific types of behaviour (Tolmie and Boyle 2000) . A key affordance of networked learning, or remote asynchronous group
working, is promotion of interaction between groups of people online
around a purpose. Indeed, the use of networked for teaching and learning
has grown in the past few years, fuelled by the belief that it promotes
student to student and student to teacher communication and also that all
contributions are recorded and explored in a way that rarely happens face
to face. Learners and teachers can work together without being physically
co-located. Many theories of learning stress the importance of
co-operation, collaboration and working together. An affordance of the
“not all at the same time” nature of text based online discussion
groups or forums is that periods of time passing between log-ons mean that
reflection on the messages may occur (Owen 1993) . We know that this can happen either through reflection on the learning
experience, or during the experience of undertaking the learning tasks
with others (Tolmie and Boyle 2000) .
Focus for the
Future: Using Scenarios
is an interesting paradox emerging in understanding the need for
educational experiences in the 21st Century. Previously we had
a sense of audience, perhaps more recently of market segments. However one
impact of the Internet is that neatly packaged target markets do not
present themselves. Passions for and uses of technologies grow in a way
that has little to do with demographics (Lewis 2001). This may mean that the flexibility provided by the e-moderators
becomes especially important and the new meaning of access to educational
products and services may be quite individual (i.e. Do I want this? Do I
need this?). ‘Middle men’ are largely cut out – putting into
question the growth of agencies and brokerages.
scenario is a descriptive forecast of a future landscape in which an
organisation or institution might find itself in the future. Scenarios are
not about forecasting the future but about looking at the creative
possibilities. Here I offer four scenarios for you to consider the
implications for your students, your e-moderators and their associated
supporters. The names of the four scenarios are my own.
uses technology as a delivery system. Applications and systems include
Content Management Systems, multi media, industry standards, DVDs, digital
and cable TV. The associated pedagogy is that of the transmission model of
teaching, where information is transferred from experts to novices.
Content is king.
of scale in this model are reached only through reduced interaction
between e-moderators and learners compared to lecture and question mode of
teaching. Assessment of students’ learning is based on reproduction and
critique. Customers make choices on where to study from media profiles,
online resource availability and league tables of various kinds.
In Contenteous learning, a key role for e-moderators is
as the content expert, to develop multi media programmes, to build online
libraries and pathways through resources. E-librarians and e-moderators
have closely linked roles. E-moderators need to captivate big audiences
and be comfortable with virtuality.
need to be a continuous and applied learner is especially apparent in
domains influenced by scientific and technological advance (Dunlap
1999). Instantia meets these requirements through sophisticated learning
object approaches with information technology seen as the basic tools. The
pedagogy for this scenario is usually called e-learning. Computer based
courses are offered from desks at work or in learning centres. Learners
work and learn almost simultaneously. Flexibility and instantaneousness
are the keywords. The costs of travel, training facilities and trainers
are slashed compared to the past. Individual learners assess the value of
the learning experience, asking: Is this learning just for me, just in
time, just for now and just enough? Employers evaluate the fast delivery
of learning by considering the extent to which employee and organisational
Instantia learning, e-moderators support autonomous learning (although
many learners exist on little human contact to sustain them). E-moderators
are available 24 hours a day, both synchronously and asynchronously.
E-moderators focus on the development of skills in their e-learners.
learning provides mobilised learning for the mobilised society. Learning
the Nomadict way is mobile, time independent and individual. The learners
are seen as electronic explorers and adventurers. There is little need for
or identification with a physical campus.
learning is called m-learning (for mobile-learning) instead of e-learning.
takes place any time and any place. Learners no longer sit in front of
computers. Learning devices are carried or worn. Pedagogy is various so
individuals choose based on their cognitive preferences and styles. New
e-universities and e-colleges assume greater importance. Assessment of
learning is in small bites, based largely on projects and outcomes.
Portfolio learners expect to transfer their learning credits easily from
one institution to another.
are highly portable, individual, adaptable and intuitive to use (Sharples
2000). Main technologies in use are Personal Digital Assistants (PDA)
and Palm Tops, 3rd generation mobile phones (UMTS), GPS,
wireless and personal networks, low orbit satellites, national and
international communications network networks, high bandwidth, infra-red
connections and e-books. All students have laptops, palm tops and text
mobiles. Styli are commoner than pens. Mobile technologies are seen as
essential communication and learning tools (rather than as disruptive, as
at the turn of the Century).
are as mobile as their students. Many are portfolio e-moderators, working
for several educational institutions and providers, all over the world, at
any one time. They work for institutions that provide them with the best
support for their mobile working lives. They have not only a highly
developed awareness of the ways in which traditions of learning and
expectations vary in different cultures but also the ability to work
across discipline and levels of education. They know how to make online
assessment work, and have technologies to ensure that the students they
are assessing are the same ones that they are teaching. They can relate
well to students without needing to meet with them. They focus on
promoting the concepts of ownership of the learning process, active
learning, independence, the ability to make judgments, self-motivation and
a level of autonomy. They provide and support resource based learning,
working with skilled technicians and e-librarians.
Learning is built around learning communities and interaction, extending
access beyond the bounds of time and space, but offering the promise of
efficiency and widening access. The key technology is the developed,
entertaining, effective Internet (beyond the browser!) to allow immediate
and satisfying interaction between students and students, and between
e-moderators and students. Asynchronous and synchronous group systems
support a wide variety of environments for working and learning together.
Both co- and remotely-located learning communities (clicks and
mortar) are of key importance. Learners connect through both low and
high bandwidth devices and systems. The technologies are seen only as
mediating devices, promoting creativity and collaboration. Cafélattia
learning appeals to a very wide range of people including the increasing
numbers of ‘grey learners’ who have a great deal to offer to others,
often a great desire to learn through non-traditional means and who have
the time and resources to access networked technologies.
pedagogy is based on the notion of a very strong social context for
learning with the model of acquisition, argumentation and application. A
key activity for learners in online communities is finding like-minded
individuals anywhere (e.g. by gender, by interest group, by profession,)
and by being intellectually extended by dialogue and challenge from
others. Learners express themselves freely through speech and text. The
roles of reflection (an essential tool of expert learners), professional
development and the sharing of tacit knowledge are of critical importance.
Learning is contextualized and given authenticity by the learning group
and the learning community (rather than by the University or College). On
and offline resources are important, but electronic and structured
information support and stimulate the learning group rather than replace
the active, participative learning experience. Cafélattia approaches are
very popular in professional and Higher Education such as nursing,
medicine and management but increasingly, young undergraduates are
expecting these kinds of approaches. Assessment is based on complex
problem solving and knowledge construction skills.
on Cafélattia think globally but are able to turn their thinking into
local commitment. They see the technologies as yet another teaching and
learning environment rather than as tools. They are experts at mentoring
individuals online and may be seen as companions in the democratic online
learning process, rather than lecturers. They also have very highly
developed skills at online group development for learning. They act as
intelligent agents and facilitators. They have the ability to visualise
others in their situations. They know how to allow a sense of humour to
manifest itself online. They know how to welcome and support learners into
the online world and to build effective online groups and communities.
They know how to use online resources to stimulate groups. They know how
to build gradually on the processes of exchanging information and how to
turn this into knowledge sharing and ultimately into knowledge
construction. They know when to take part as a tutor, when as a peer and
when to stay silent.
the other key issues: Participation, Emotions and Time? Understanding
these will make the difference between a happy and successful e-learning
experience and a miserable one. It is well worth carefully considering how
these will be handled in advance of the work commencing.
need to be led through a structured developmental cycle for online
learning to be successful and happy. I use a model of teaching and
learning online, researched and developed as a grounded model with Open
University Business School students over several years, but since applied
to corporate training and across many learning disciplines and contexts (Salmon
5-step model enables purposeful e learning and the gradual building of
action and interaction online. It provides a framework on how to set up an
online conferencing environment to maximise the experience to gradually
build on participants’ experience, maximise individual contribution and
interaction and active learning and minimise barriers. In short to build a
‘scaffold’ to successful participation.
means gradually building on a learner’s previous experience.
conventional view of intelligence is that it a relatively stable attribute
that is to do with heredity and environment (Carroll
1993). An alternative view is of intelligence as developing expertise,
i.e. an evolving set of skills for mastery of performance (Sternbeg
1999). This idea is linked directly to Schön’s view of the reflective
model shows clearly how to motivate online participants, to scaffold
learning through appropriate e-tivities and to pace e-learners through
programmes of training and development. People are likely to cycle through
the model many times as they increase their knowledge and explore
knowledge in different domains. All learning processes are impacted by the
context in which they operate [ou2] (Sternbeg
1999). So the nature of your learners, the traditions of your discipline
and the suitability of your online learning environment will have an
effect. However, colleagues have reported the meaningfulness of the model
from working with school age children to senior managers and
is the right number of participants in a computer conference for it to be
successful? Is there a critical mass, in the physical sciences sense, so
that with too few participants success eludes even the best e-moderator?
The right kind of number for any conference depends fundamentally on its
purpose. The purpose depends on what level of the 5-stage model the online
activity is aimed at.
is a paradox. If too many postings occur from students without
acknowledgement or summarising by the e-moderator, lurking develops
quickly. It is common then for novice e-moderators to spend huge effort
and time in trying to encourage contribution, only to find themselves
largely logging on to read their own messages. If e-moderators are too
rigorous, they soon burn out! Six participants and an e-moderator, for
example, may lead to all contributing and a collaborative outcome for an
online activity. Or one thousand participants could pose questions to an
online expert, and all read the answers. They might then join in smaller
groups – perhaps of 20 each – to put their own views. Close attention
to the 5-step model helps a great deal.
Generally we suggest that good structure, pacing and
clear expectations of participants are provided, not for the conference as
a whole but for each for each online activity. The e-moderator should
summarise after 10-20 messages.
featurism’ in computer programmes mean that simple and powerful
technological ideas are becoming more and more complex and require faster
and hungrier hardware (Cuban
2001). However, recent research has shown that promoting robust and
usable knowledge is directly associated with engaging learners in
authentic tasks and situations. In other words, it is how we feel
about working online and our integration with our learning groups that are
more important than the technology itself (Salmon 2002)
are many factors involved in personal abilities that contribute to
learning and achieving. One major important aspect is known as Emotional
Quotient EQ) (Goleman
1996). E-learners need to understand how to develop and use their
emotional quotient. They need a great deal of help built into e learning
to achieve this. Working online creates a wide range of feelings in
participants, and in e-moderators. Frustration with the technology is
common but this is often soon forgotten. The experience of not physically
being with others in the same space is probably the main emotions trigger.
surveys show that workload and the use of time worries lecturers most
about teaching online (Cravener
1999). You will find the concept of time is emotive and value-laden for
both e-moderators and participants. The key issue is that the advantages
of ‘any time/any place’ learning and teaching mean that time is not
bounded and contained as it is when attending a lecture or a face-to-face
training session. Although a face-to-face meeting may last two hours, it
has a clear start and finish time and is rarely interrupted by anything
else. The participants are either there or they are not, and if they are,
they cannot be doing much else. Online teaching is not like that. It has a
reputation for ‘eating time’. Genuine fears and concerns do exist, and
must be addressed.
is important to specify the amount of time to be committed and what you
expect e-moderators and participants to do and by when, and not to leave
this open-ended. It is of course important to design for the numbers
involved in a conference and to be realistic about how much an e-moderator
can do. Online novice learners and e-moderators will need much longer to
do everything than experienced participants. Ensure that you use the most
trained – and probably the most expensive – people (e.g. academics,
faculty, experienced e-moderators) to do what they do best. Use less
trained and experienced people, perhaps cheaper, for other tasks (e.g. use
alumni as social hosts, or to man helplines shared with other
departments). When choosing media and activities, make sure the time
online is used for what it is good for, rather than to force-fit
activities into online conferences, bulletin boards or forums. At the same
time, reduce off line activities for participants by as much as you are
providing online activities for them, so that looking after both sets does
not overwhelm e-moderators.
explicit about who is going to do what online, how much time you expect
them to devote to it and what their ‘payment rate’ will be. Ask
e-moderators to do one or two important online activities in a
time-bounded way, within a time limit, until they gain experience in
managing their own online time. Most enthusiastic new e-moderators are
unrealistic both about how much time they will need and the different
patterns of working that are required. Develop a process of working
together in e-moderating teams and in providing cover and breaks from
and publish for all to see ‘online office hours’ and tell participants
how much time e-moderators are being ‘paid for’ so that there’s a
reasonable level of expectation about the frequency of online visits. It
is essential that the amount of elapsed time for an online activity (start
and finish date) as well as online working time (number of hours per day,
week or month) are agreed in advance and compensated for. Otherwise
e-moderating gets a bad name for eating up huge amounts of time.
to grips with the nature of asynchronicity can prove very demanding for
lecturers and teachers new to working online because of the complexity of
conferences and forums. All e-moderators have some problems during their
training (or if you allow them to work untrained with students). There is
no quick and easy way around this problem. They really do need to
experience it for themselves. For instance, participants ‘post’
contributions to one conference then immediately read messages from
others, or vice versa. A participant might read all his or her unread
messages in several conferences and then post several responses and
perhaps post some topics to start a new theme. In any conference, this
reading and posting of messages by a number of individuals can make the
sequencing difficult to follow.
all the texts are available for any participant (or researcher) to view
online, the sequencing of messages, when viewed after a discussion is
completed, looks rather more ordered than during the build-up. Yet trying
to understand them afterwards is rather like following the moves of a
chess or bridge game, after it is over. When participants start using
online conferences, bulletin boards or forums, this apparent confusion
causes a wide range of responses. The twists of time and complexity can
elicit quite uncomfortable, confused reactions from participants and
severe anxiety in a few. Although many people are now familiar with email
they are not used to the complexity of online conferences, bulletin boards
or forums. The main difference between many-to-many conferencing is the
huge range of potential posting times and variety of response and counter
the key hearts, minds and screens issues of Participation, Emotions and
Time is not for the faint-hearted. But through their solutions, lies a
tamer and happier e-learning future for participants and e-moderators
be innovative and online, you will need some passion and commitment. You
need to experience how to deal with Participation, Emotions and Time
online- as highly purposeful interactive activity. At the moment, working
online involves shifting time about and changing patterns of how you work
with others. It involves setting up a computer and getting the software to
work to your satisfaction which may involve going cap in hand to others
for help. You may need to rethink your teaching and what’s important
about the subject matter you want to teach. It’s great fun when it
works. It has its own momentum. Just try it- it’ll turn you into an
action researcher, collaborating with your learners. Just try it, please.
the policy makers, change agents and enablers:
the ‘richness’ of the Web depends largely on its volume and the
multimedia presentation of information.
However, I believe the future brings us greater interaction
– and interaction is fundamental to learning, so long as it is
appropriately e-moderated and embedded in the overall learning methods.
Focus is essential- explore the scenarios and find the most appropriate
combination for your niche. From these small beginnings a new body of
knowledge and practice will build up that will transfer again and again as
even more connected technologies become available. The need for skillful
human intervention will not disappear, regardless of how sophisticated and
fast-moving the technological environments become. Train your e-moderators
carefully and through the online medium itself. I think that the most
successful teaching and learning organisations and associations will be
those that understand, recruit, train, support and give free creative rein
to their e-moderators, whilst addressing the natural fears of loss of
power and perceived quality from traditional teaching staff.
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thanks to the following, who commented on earlier drafts of this paper and
contributed ideas about future technologies, pedagogies, assessment and
Angood of University of Bath, Dr Joanna Bull of University of Luton, Brian
Elkner of Deakin University, Prof Trisha
Greenhalgh of University College London, Ken Giles, David Mercer
and David Shepherd of the Open University Business School, Prof
David Hawkridge of IET at the Open University, Charles Jennings of Online
Courseware Factory, Mike Sharples of Birmingham University, Nancy
White, of Full Circle Associates. Glenn and Paula Salmon enlightened me
about Star Trek (Classic) and inspired to try to tame the future.
and follow up from Planet scenarios:
(Stanford, Princeton, Tale & Oxford)- funded by venture capital. www.boxmind.com
Quote: “your chances of getting through the
Oxford admissions system will be higher than our acceptance rate of
websites applying for our approval”. Niall Ferguson (founder of Boxmind)
(O'Reilly and Hellen 2000)
what LSE says about Fathom
Open Courseware at MIT
for Industry” – based on independent learning through work.
Self-managed, supported by learning contracts” (assessment: through
various in National Qualifications framework)
– the report
university sites are generally hard to access
can however read papers about them e.g.
“The technology delivered training of tomorrow
is going to be assembled, not authored, from large reservoirs of content
presented to the learner…and more emphasis will be placed on building
knowledge bases that can be published on the fly” Elliot
Masie, The Masie Centre
“In the web based environment, learning objects
may be constructed through combining several sub-elements such as HTML,
graphics, audio, video or other media elements, as well as documents,
Java, and ActiveX components to provide interactivity which is highly
desirable in constructing engaging learning experiences. Additionally,
Learning Objects may be delivered into non-Web environments such as to
interactive TV and to PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants)”. Charles
Jenning (Online Courseware Factory, 2001).
Stephen Downes LEARNING OBJECTS
LTSC Learning Objects Metadata Working Group
Architecture Learning Objects background - Learnativity.com
Objects Metadata and Tools in the Area of Operations Research
- New Media - Learning Objects - The Need for and Nature of Learning
Reusable Learning Objects
Instructional Use of Learning Objects
Use of txt
Corporate University Services
training brought to you by road- the forerunner?
Examples of a
Networked Learning courses
Role of the
e-moderator and online teacher
D., 2001. Language and the Internet. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Web sites about
An example from
the public sector (BBC)
Strathclyde about scenarios in 2002:
About the Future
Birchall, D. & Tovstiga, G. 2002 Future Proofing.
ExpressExec, Capstone Publishing, Oxford.
Cochrane, P. 1998 Tips for Time Travellers Texere
Mercer, D, 1999, Future Revolutions Orion
Commissioned reports on the future of education
Farrell, G.M, (Ed) 2001 The Changing Faces of Virtual Education
www.col.org/virtualed. The Commonwealth of Learning (COL)
Mercer, D, 1999 The Future of Education in Europe Until 2010AD - IPTS
(European Commission, Seville
Mercer, David and Malcolm Fritchley 2000 (DfEE), The Future Of
Life-Long-Learning, DTI Foresight Ageing Panel
Gilly Salmon is a Senior Lecturer with the Open University Business
School. She is currently responsible for teaching the Open University’s
MBA students across one third of the UK. Gilly Salmon acquired a Degree in
Psychology and Technology through distance learning, and recently
completed a Masters of Philosophy in Managing in Education at Cranfield
University, UK. Her current research is on models of management learning
though computer mediated conferencing.
is a course team member involved with the Open University Business
School’s "Creative Management" course and is particularly
interested in alternative and creative approaches to the future of
organizations and the managers within them.
consultancy work includes a series of seminars for senior managers
entitled "Managing for the Millenium" and the development of
"Women into Management" courses in international contexts, in
URL and email are:
Audience? Benefits? Knowledge? Edutainment? Virtual human contact
with a great mind? (Not KEG)
not make the sentence active: ‘The context in which they operate
affects all these processes.’
structure and heading not quite right