Adding a moderator to your class

Remote Teaching

Adding a moderator to your class

Adding a moderator to your class

Moderating means that you monitor how involved students are and what they discuss amongst each other. You keep an eye on whether students need extra help or whether they need assistance resolving technical issues. Perhaps there are negative comments, or a student is being looked over. All in all, as a moderator you make sure that there is a safe learning environment. Although moderating an online class can be intensive, interaction contributes to the academic learning experience

Getting assistance from an online teaching assistant or moderator can give you much needed support, so you can focus on the core of your work: teaching. This article explains the essentials that you and your moderators should know.

First considerations

  1. Define the roles you and the moderator will have and communicate this to the students as well.
  2. Focus on the positive, not the negative.
  3. Create guidelines or mores on the expected behaviour in the online academic context

Teacher testimonials

In the earlier days of MOOCs, asynchronous online courses with discussion forums, we learned how important moderators are in assisting students, summarising contributions for the teachers to react to, and overall keeping the experience constructive and positive for everybody. Now, with synchronous webinars, we have seen first hand how a moderator is vital for the live performance of the teacher when there are large crowds.

Here are some teacher experiences with moderators in webinars.

“Your help as a moderator was highly valuable to me as a lecturer! I especially enjoyed your help with the moderation of the student chat and raise hand button. While presenting and engaging in interactions with the students online it sometimes is just too much for a single lecturer to manage all the communication channels. Your help as a moderator was, therefore, a great support.” Ass. Prof. Roeland van Rijst (ICLON and Teacher’s Academy)

Options

If you already have a teaching assistant you can ask them to cover the role of moderator. Alternatively, you can ask a student to take the lead on this voluntarily, perhaps a different one each week, as a shared role of the group. That also makes it a learning experience in and of itself.

The moderator role can include:

  • Answering small (tech) questions of students in chat if that is available
  • Reminding students of expectations and encouraging them
  • Making collaborative notes together with the students
  • Indicating to the teacher what questions there are, possibly summarising several, thus making students' input visible and allowing the teacher space to react.
  • Giving hints in the moderator chat to the teacher (Kaltura Live Room)
  • Holding up cue cards (see below under tools) while visible in a TV director role

Expectation Management

Negativity in an online environment impacts the reptilian brain, triggering a survival mechanism called the fight or flight reaction, and can cause a downwards spiral of chaos, a phenomena known as online hating or trolling.

Creating a safe learning environment online is just as important as in your real life classroom, but due to online limitations where you cannot “read the room” you have to express this very clearly and upfront. We recommend you tell all your students you have certain expectations of them, to reassert the social mores of your classroom in a virtual environment. This could include something like this:

  • Praesidium Libertatis - free speech, but be academic (logic, facts, rhetoric) and constructive
  • Participate - be proactive in your participation, speak up!
  • Collaborate - collaborate with your peers, share material and tips
  • Be safe - do not use your video cam if you do not feel comfortable sharing your surroundings, do not share personal data

The moderator can gently remind students of these expectations, focus on the positive and together with you lead by example. This will create a constructive and safe learning experience.

What will volunteer student moderators get out of it?

According to online community expert Tharon Howard (!1) this is what a moderating student might gain out of this role according to his RIBS model:

  • Remuneration: deeper learning - in this role the student will not only gain extra skills in communication and leadership, but will also understand the teaching material at a deeper level due to the active interaction with it. You might even consider grading the performance.
  • Influence: impacting your teaching - the moderator becomes a senior before their peers, with a clear if small contribution to the overall teaching.
  • Belonging: group activity - by making collaborative notes and contributing to the group, the moderator, especially if it is a different one each week, will feel an enhanced team feeling. This will increase engagement with the content.
  • Significance: gravitas and recognition - it is an honor, a position of influence and respect, and so the moderator role carries its own respect by peers, which can be deeply motivating on the individual level.

Considerations and Educational Implementation

Two tools we currently use to teach are Kaltura Live Room and MS Teams. Here are some ways a moderator can operate in the different software.

Moderation Tools & Tricks in Kaltura Live Room

  • Notes - this notepad function can be used to list links and main information that students need direct access to while following your lecture/session.
  • Raise Hand option - explain how you will employ this tool during your session. The moderator can assist you with alerting you to who is next and putting that person live and unmute the mic.
  • Allowing moderators presenter rights - this means that the moderator can access moderator chat (see below) and also drop into your session to explain what students are asking or contributing, as well as assist with technical issues.
  • Cue Cards - the moderator can use post-its or pre-printed cue cards, holding up signs indicating when people need to round up, if their sound is bad etc.
  • Help solve tech issues by sharing this testpage link.
  • Chat Channels
    • General - students can comment/reflect and ask small clarification questions to each other
    • Questions - dedicated chat for main/large questions, the moderator can bring this to the attention of the teacher.
    • Moderator chat - only visible to people with correct rights, a back channel to coordinate the session. In general the teacher can focus on this channel while the moderator handles the rest.

Moderation Tools & Tricks in MS Teams

  • Chat - students can comment/reflect and ask small clarification questions to each other, The moderator can summarize some questions and bring them to the attention of the teacher
  • Cue Cards - the moderator can use post-its or pre-printed cue cards, holding up signs indicating when people need to round up, if their sound is bad etc.
  • One Drive - the moderator can set up a document that students can write in collaboratively, making notes about the session.

Data privacy

  • The student should be able to decline (part of) this role, or at least be able to elect to not use a webcam.
  • Insert link to data privacy regulations (recording & msteams)

Relevant links and additional information

Here is some more background information you can use.

(1) Tharon Howard - Design to to Thrive; Creating Social Networks and Online Communities that Last (2010)