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Tips on Moderating Sessions

Page history last edited by Nina Liakos 8 years, 11 months ago


We've tried to collect here some of the ideas generated over the years on how to keep the sessions lively and interactive. Please feel free to add to this list as we go along. And be sure to see the other pages on Engaging Participants, linked in the Sidebar.





Getting Started


  • Set a to-do list.
  • In the first week, you'll probably need your entire team on board to welcome participants.
  • You can assign specific roles for your co-moderators.
  • Plan ahead....so when you get to your session in January, you can concentrate on the interaction with participants and not on the details you haven't dealt with before  
  • Make sure the communication lines are open among co-moderators. Use an e-list or a separate YG or G+C. Use live chat, Skype, or G+ hangouts regularly as you prepare.


  • What do you do during the first week between registration and the mid-January start time? This time is really to ensure that everything works technologically, that people can get into the group, adjust their email notifications, etc., but many participants want to get going and start the discussion, whereas those who wait until the official start date (January 12, 2015) may feel cheated if the discussion is already underway when they arrive.


  • If you are using Yahoo Groups as your interactive space, we recommend that you add a text file and tick the box to send it to pending members (See Sending an Automated Message or Sending a Syllabus for more detailed instructions)--it could perform the following tasks:
    • send them your syllabus (or to your syllabus wiki)
    • send them to the Netiquette file to read
    • ask them to wait patiently before requesting to join (Yahoo saves Pending requests for 2 weeks, but you'll have people trying to join in  the first week of December, as soon as the Call for Participation goes public.)


OR, you could just tell them in the file to wait patiently and come back on January 5th to register, and indicate again that discussions will begin on January 12th. Meanwhile, set up a file with the above information, and tick the box to send to members who have just joined.


Please don't let anyone into your group until January 5th. Believe me, you will have enough to do before then! You will probably get a large number of inquiries once the announcement goes out, so the above strategy will let the automatic features of Yahoo handle the easy stuff, and relieve your email burdens. --Elizabeth


  • If you are using Google+ Communities instead of Yahoo Groups, you can put up one explanatory post regarding start date (or have it in the description, which always stays at the top). If you have any pre-session activities or tasks, refer early birds there. But beware of requiring anything that isn't also done in Week 1, because somne people do wait until the last day to join, and otehrs will keep arriving after the actual start of the session. This is why we recommend that Week 1 have a lot of introductory activities, so that late-comers don't miss much content. It's hard to accommodate both the early birds and the late arrivals, but that's what we try to do. Nina



Email Load in Yahoo!Groups


  • Ask participants to delete extra lines in their reply (and using the direct Web posting, rather than replying to the email digest is an easy way to do so). Here is a model to use:


"It would be really helpful to the others if when you are replying

to a message, you remember to *delete all the extra parts* of the

old message that you are not directly referring to in your reply." - Susan M.


  • Be sure to answer/reply to email messages, rather than just acknowledging them.


  • Suggest the Daily Digest feature, or use a blog or wiki with email notification or RSS instead of email.


  • Use folders in your email inbox - I keep the 'individual email' message preference from YG, but I created an EVO 2008 folder in my Yahoo! Mail box. In this way, all emails that come from EVO mods group, go straight to that folder. Yahoo Mail sorts my emails according to groups because I have a folder for each group that I belong to. -- Aiden


  • Create a separate email/identity that you use just for your EVO session. This keeps your personal/business mail separate. Yahoo allows several different identities.


  • Keep the 'daily digest' mode, but check messages straight from your Yahoo! Group (or other LMS your session is going to use). This is a good choice- but make sure that you visit your group! -- Aiden


Email Load in Google Plus Communities

  • To manage confusion in your inbox with G+C, turn off your email notifications completely. If you use gmail or google plus, the small bell icon (upper right) will tell you when you have something to read.  If you are not a google user, you will need to remember to visit the community at least once a day to check on things. Again, the bell icon is where you will go to catch up on the latest posts. Nina




Keeping the session lively


  • Weekly Updates - Digests take a good deal of time, but I think they are a good opportunity to take a more general view of the program and also learn from the participants. -- Robert


  • Live chat is a good way to summarize the week while also making the EVO experience more personal and interactive. You can post the chat log to your wiki and edit it, adding pictures and headings for topics. BE SURE TO add your chats and other live sessions to the EVO CALENDAR (bottom of our homepage) so that everyone can join in. Announce chats through the YG message system (checkbox below a new file).


  • A summary of the discussions, creations, questions, tasks achieved, and skills learned followed by an upbeat preview of the following week's activities helps to keep people up to date and generate enthusiasm. Even when "lurking" as a participant, I find the enthusiasm contagious. -- Jane


  • You might find it helpful to send participants a short survey or questionnaire on a controversial topic if conversation is lagging. Try SurveyMonkey or Google Forms for these purposes. Or just send out a Poll directly from your YG if you are using one (directions here). -- Elizabeth


  • Where/whenever possible, get participants to explore and discover new tools and new ideas for themselves. -- Vance


A good rationale for why sessions should be lively and interactive is found in this paper: Guidelines_for_Establishing_Interactivity_in_Online_Courses.pdf

  • Advice from Aiden --

[If]... you're a bit worried about the flow of conversations. Here's what you can do to hopefully perk things up:


  1. When you respond to email messages, make sure that you don't just acknowledge receipt of their mails. You have to follow up on what they said and ask questions-- personalize the inquiry while connecting your comment to the topic that you're supposed to be discussing for the week.
  2. Make sure to add the link/s to the reading instead of just saying 'please post your reactions to the article after reading it'.
  3. Instead of asking them to post general comments, you can ask concrete questions based on the article, and ask them to share their experiences and/or ask them to provide suggestions on how to deal with the problems mentioned in the article.
  4. This would require some work, but if you've got time, you could compile all the intros in a table so everybody could see (in one shot) who's who and what their issues are. in this way, you could tailor your session to make sure that you address their issues and help resolve them (or provide ways)
  5. Lead the discussions-- don't just respond to the messages. Week 2 is almost over, but you haven't posted anything that would introduce the activity for this week.
  6. Although readings for Week 1 and 2 are on the wiki, you could have provided a doc file to be placed in the files area. So there'll be folders for each week - instead of just having Week 3 and Week 4. [This applies to a YG or other CMSs also.]


Take a deep breath and take it all in. You're a good moderator-- you just need a little sprinkle of magic dust to perk up the discussions.




Too many observers/lurkers?


Ways to get into the discussion: The "runway" to participation -- Laine & Robert  


  • Organization of Program into different speeds or levels for

learners: An effective way to do this might be to identify the 3 levels

of participation in a rubric at the start of the program. -- Robert



  • ...one should concentrate on the product and making it as good as one can and not spend over much time trying to double guess watchers who, for ever reason, do not communicate. -- Dennis


  • We are dealing with working professionals, not students. They have busy lives and EVO may not be the number one commitment. -- Elizabeth


  • A poll might get some people to open up. (See above.)  
    • You can create a one-question poll in your Google Plus Community if you are using that. Nina


  • Try cartoons (See John Allen's comments below.) 




Comments from John Allen, who is using Moodle:


The course participation is steady. In terms of participation, our forums and participant posting of their weekly tasks is healthy. We have added more motivators and guides in a variety of formats - even a cartoon to guide them through weeks 5 and 6! [See illustration below.] Other items include countdown timers, clocks for different regions, animated avatars, a blog and many visuals to direct them to the various aspects of the course.

It is difficult to get numbers to the chats even though the participants themselves vote on the timings, and we even added an additional session, but the chats are intimate and useful.

At this point, I think that our team would agree that the forums are the best mode of communication. I am really glad that we put this course together as we are meeting interesting people from across the globe and sharing on many levels.




Live Chats


Chats are a great way to meet your participants and resolve concerns on the spot. You've been introduced to several different venues over the course of these 5 weeks. WiZIQ and Google+/Hangout are voice chat areas and also have other features, such as PowerPoint display, video conferencing, and Web Tours (good for guest speaker presentations).


Advice from EVO2015 Moderators

In response to the question, "Can you make any suggestions or recommendations to future moderators?", EVO2015 mods who completed a survey after the sessions were finished wrote,

  • Enjoy, enjoy and enjoy. It is a wonderful experience.
  • Don't fall behind or it can get overwhelming trying to catch up.
  • Clear your diary of everything else! 
  • Have a team of at least three moderators. Many hands make work light! 
  • Timing -- curriculum-wise everything needs to be in place by the end of the EV training -- we weren't close to that and it caused undue stress and some incompleteness in our session. Take more advantage of past participants in future years as TA's/co-moderators, etc.
  • I would suggest choosing a platform for issuing badges that is user friendly.
  • Craft sessions with achievements that offer something for every level participant (which ranges from lurkers to active week to week participants)
  • More moderators needed. 
  • I think it'd be added value to let participants interact through the Google Hangouts in the session
  • I would make the IWE EVO session real, that is, instead of getting practice for a potential participation in the actual IWE, I'd send the participants into taking part in the exchange straight away, instead of simulating.
  • Be ready to help, enthusiastic, collaborative, but above all, be ready to learn.
  • I think we need to do better at finding out what will increase participation from our members. 
  •  I can only say that moderating together (helping each other) is a good idea, keep it that way.
  • Set aside a regular time for commenting and giving feedback to participants in the community
  • Keep a special EVO notebook and jot down the name of each of the participants you comment on / interact with.
  • Write down any useful info, so this will help you if you are inundated with lots of members joining, then you can refer back to your notes, so you don't repeat yourself!
  • Try to join in with the live sessions if possible, it brings you closer to the participants
  • Always be supportive and try to offer constructive feedback on projects 
  • I would survey our participants before picking a date/time for the live session. Scheduling in advance did not work for us. 
  • To look for ways to get to know what participants are looking for at the beginning of the session, to then get more engagement and participation.
  • Keep it as simple as possible because it's already complicated enough.
  • The training is very important
  • Start announcing the session earlier and make the effort to reach as many target groups and networks as possible. 
  • Keep collaborating with the rest of your team. It's never one person's session and can never be. Do your best to learn from the experience as you're helping others. Be patient and enjoy it !!
  • Don't have more than 2 platforms for correspondence, so participants cannot get lost.
  • Dividing the tasks into steps and setting the deadlines for all tasks can help the participants. Also, motivating the participants by giving them badges for a number of completed tasks every week helps the group keep the rhythm.
  • Important to stick to one session and do it well. (says a mod who assisted in 3 sessions)
  • Try to form a happy working team who get on with each other.
  • Don't be over-impressed by the numbers of people that enthusiastically sign up and the small proportion that attend regularly and attend the course. In my experience, tis is the way things go.
  • It is a voluntary allotment of time and energy ~ do it the way YOU want to do it.
  • Keep experimenting with the tools and don't be afraid to get your hands dirty. Participants need to see that you are learning alongside with them. There is no such thing as a perfect ebook tool.
  • Plan everything before starting but be ready to adapt to how the session evolves.
  • Get well organized during the training month in Oct
  • Dive in! It's an extraordinary experience, and very well worth the effort it takes.


EVO is a project of TESOL's CALL Interest Section
last updated 26 August 2010 by E. Hanson-Smith


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