Sandra Wills, Elyssebeth Leigh and I are writing a book on Role-based e-learning to be published by Routledge in the coming June/August. In one of the chapter, I have updated my model on the various dimensions a moderator plays in role play simulation. Previous, I have 5 dimensions:
The new dimension is Institutional Representative.
As ‘Guardian Angel’ Moderators read communications and observe participants’ efforts to understand the direction in which the action is moving. They assist without intruding. When responding to participants’ requests for help, they do not give instructions. An Angel suggests, questions and prompts, giving equal support to all participants, not interfering to turn the action in a direction they prefer.
As a ‘Manipulative Devil’ the Moderator may insert additional problems or barriers into the action. These may be part of the design or may be impromptu additions provoked by the need to generate activity, or delay or re-direct attention. Occasionally it may be necessary to prompt for activities that are not legitimate in real life, but are needed for subsequent analysis of their impact on the scenario and/or others’ actions. Thus in Middle Eastern Politics the ‘Devil” may allow things to be ‘done’ that - while not legal - do occur in the real world.
Being the on-site Teaching/Learning Resource enables Moderators to contribute crucial content knowledge. Selecting the activity, providing essential information at the beginning, suggesting external resources, checking for accuracy in referencing and providing prompts from their expertise are all ways a Moderator enacts this role.
Sometimes unforeseen game situations create the necessity for scenario modifications or extensions. As an Improvising Story Teller the Moderator can respond to such moments by inventing and introducing reasonable alterations to the original design.
Moderators must, at time, solve technical issues and assist in relevant skill development. As an Administrator a Moderator may need to do such things as delete wrong or duplicate messages and assist participants to develop technical expertise.
Finally, learners in an online role play are situated in a larger institutional context, and the Moderator is the Institutional Representative. An Institutional Representative has undoubted power over learners in regard to such things as successful completion of their qualification. However, since role play puts learners in a contrived context, it is important they know that, as long as they are ‘in character’, their enactment of the role will not adversely effect their study or career goals. Suggestions, given from within this dimension, need to be offered as choices. As Institutional Representative, the Moderator also monitors and ensures completion of participation obligations.
The particular power of this model is its flexibility in guiding choices about the range of dimensions via which a Moderator can respond to the action and the needs of individual participants. Table 5.4 outlines some of the factors involved and the following examples illustrate the process in action. A Moderator may use the ‘Manipulative Devil’ role early on to provoke a degree of confusion among participants so that they are unable to rely on their ‘taken for granted’ assumptions about how things ‘usually are’. And it can re-appear later on, as participants are settling into routines, and again unsettle them so they are alerted to the value of constantly looking beyond the ‘known and familiar’ on a regular basis. Similarly the ‘Guardian Angel’ may appear as guide and mentor more than once – and in different disguises.