Key Competencies for Second Life Moderators: February 7 - 16, 2008


Re: SL-moderators?

by Moira Hunter -
Number of replies: 6
Hi Bronwyn,

I agree with everything you have brought up. You say
"moderators need to be super lively, engaging, attentive and highly responsive - and all in real time. They have to learn to effectively use and model one-to-one backchannel communication, while facilitating the whole group, to ensure they can support everyone. They have to be thinking on their feet". These are the same skills a facilitator or moderator needs in the web conferencing environment but here is where I get unstuck: once the learners are in the web conferencing platform, you don't have to worry
"about why an avatar is stuck on the other side of a wall and what might be happening when a participant says "I can't seem to sit" ". This implies that you definitely must have co-moderators or producers with you to take care of those hurdles in real-time.

You also say (as Emily implied when posting about PPT) that " There is NOTHING worse than sitting your avatar on a seat in an auditorium to listen (whether chat or audio) to a lecture style performance by a static avatar at a podium." Again, I can only agree.

I have not 'lead' learners in SL but have participated in various sessions and activities to 'see' and 'feel' what is going on there. On many occasion, I have found myself (or my avatar) sitting around a log fire or sitting in an auditorium watching PPT and every time, I ask myself 'Why am I in SL? I don't NEED to be here for this'.

Although I am a very experienced moderator in live online training using web conferencing technologies, I personally find SL so immersive that I can't do much else than concentrate on what is happening there, whereas in a conferencing platform, I can happily multitask. Consequently, this is a wonderful experience if the purpose for being there is well founded. On the other hand, when I feel that I don't have to be in this environment for the said purpose, I just want to escape and do other things. Hence the need for rich, deep meaning interaction and learning opportunites.

My 'richest' experience so far in SL was the following: I was invited at the last minute by an educator to observe a session with her learners. I didn't know who the learners were. The educator often 'disappeared' to help other learners get in to SL or 'bring them back' when they'd got lost. Consequently, her avatar often 'died' (head down, slumped shoulders). The students kept asking me 'Why are we here?' 'What are we going to learn today?' 'Where is the teacher?' etc. Their frustration and feeling of being abandoned was really acute. I myself was asking myself the same questions and beginning to feel both frustrated and bored. I didn't have much in my inventory at the time, but I did have a cocktail, a Bloody Mary. So, I started a conversation and then offered the learners a drink (the only one I had). This then led to a great discussion about cocktails, ingredients, restrictions on drinking of alchohol, other learners offering drinks they had, etc. I had some nice audio files in my inventory, so we started to dance and shared the files. Then, feeling tired, I sat down, whilst they continued to dance and exchange music. Whilst I 'sat' in SL, I thoroughly enjoyed oberving how the learners were learning on the spot how to exchange files: the peer-to-peer learning was very rich.

The the educator 'came back'

In reply to Moira Hunter

Re: SL-moderators?

by Moira Hunter -
Sorry, the end of my posting 'disappeared' so here it is :-

Then the educator 'came back' and the ‘lesson’ continued. Again, I asked myself ‘why in SL?’

I am still learning about SL but like any tool, the question to be asked first is who are your learners, why do you need it and what will its use bring to the learners, and if you need it, how are you going to employ it, and then you can think about moderating it.
BTW, the example I gave was an informal observation of an EFL instructor.


In reply to Moira Hunter

Re: SL-moderators?

by Shailey Minocha -

Following on from Moira's posts, perhaps there is a need for two moderators in sessions/situations where students are still learning the technology.

I have heard experiences of two tutors at the Open University, UK who conduct the tutorials in Second Life in a pair - one tutor facilitates the activities while the other tutor helps with the technological problems that student(s) might be experiencing via IM. The two tutors also remain in touch with one another via the IM.  

In reply to Shailey Minocha

Re: SL-moderators? Planning and Preparation Can ReduceTech Issues

by Robert Barron -
Hi Shailey and everyone,
I am a long time lurker coming out out of hibernation. By way of a quick introduction, I work as a technical writer with a software / hardware company. I wrote training material for 4 years prior to this and this is what got me interested in online learning. I am a Masters in Distance Education learner at Athabasca University and I am doing my final course this term.

I am reminded of a synchronous course that I took where the instructor required that we do an individual tech check at a scheduled time before the first session with his assistant. We had to demonstrate that our hardware was working plus do some basic tasks (known in advance) using the interface. It took 15 minutes if things went smoothly.

During the session, the instructor had another person to handle technical issues with predefined ways to do back channel communications. I was struck by how well this planned and prepared approach worked compared to other sessions. The session had little of the typical overload of technical issues at the beginning.

The technology was in the background where it belonged but it did require time and resources to get to this stage. It helped that the prof was a 'relic' [Grin] with 20+ years of synchronous experience including telephone, audio graphic, satellite etc. and really knew how to create an excellent synchronous learning experience.
With SL, there is less of a knowledge / skill base on how to use it effectively - unfortunately it takes time and mistakes to develop this. Many SL sessions are less than wonderful due to technical and navigation issues. The sessions never get beyond Stage 1: "Individual access and the ability of participants to use CMC are essential prerequisites for conference participation (stage one, at the base of the flights of steps)" as defined in The Five Stage Model that Gilliam referenced in her initial post.
In reply to Robert Barron

Re: SL-moderators? Planning and Preparation Can ReduceTech Issues

by Shailey Minocha -

Hello Robert and all: yes, preparations before-hand and having a helper is key especially when people are still getting used to SL and the its audio facilities. Perhaps we need to think about competencies for SL-Faciliator (Moderator? or presenter?) and the competencies for the Technical-helper. Also, how can the various communication modes - IM (individual or a small group communication), chat (broadcast), gestures, and audio be effectively combined before the actual session (for set-up) and during the session. 

In some large-group SL sessions, I have come across another role: 'guide' - who welcomes you and directs you to the right 'place' for the event or gives you a note-card with the schedule of events- very much like a registration desk at a conference.    

So I think that there are other 'roles' (and their competencies) in virtual worlds that need to be considered in addition to the moderator role. Thoughts? Thanks.

In reply to Shailey Minocha


by Emma Duke-Williams -
Shailey said:
yes, preparations before-hand and having a helper is key especially when people are still getting used to SL and the its audio facilities. Perhaps we need to think about competencies for SL-Faciliator (Moderator? or presenter?) and the competencies for the Technical-helper.

I've been thinking about this, as we've had groups in SL; and have found that it's often easy to get sidetracked into helping someone do something. Of course, in a face to face class, students can see that you're helping someone else, and just get on, or put their hands up & wait.
In a virtual setting it's different, as seeing a "sleeping" avatar, or, worse, not seeing the avatar doesn't really let the student know what you're doing.
A second person is a help - though of course if they're busy helping x you have to encourage y to wait..

I've had groups of both staff and students in SL. In both cases it was in a computer lab, so they could see who was getting help, when my avatar fell "asleep". Interestingly, it was the staff who were both more impatient, and more demanding in terms of the help felt they needed to get "sorted out"/ just another question while you're here!

As to what roles the helper needs; I think that it's primarily just a good knowledge of the environment - other students could probably help out, if you've identified those students who are familiar with SL (or whichever environment you're using)
In reply to Moira Hunter

sleepig in SL

by Gilly Salmon -
Moira- your last para- at least the avatar was there even if sleeping- some form of presence (and promise to return?), whereas in an asynch forum presence is hard to crerate without intrusion don't you think? gilly