EVALUATING E-MODERATION: ANALYSIS OF THE INTERACTIONS IN A FORUM OF THE PROEDI SOCIAL NETWORK
The spread of the Internet and digital technologies has promoted the proliferation of virtual communities which can contribute to the formation of informal learning spaces if they have as main focus/goal the knowledge building through an interaction process. According to Miranda and Osório (2008), for this to happen it is fundamental that these spaces are headed by e-moderators able to invigorate and involve all members, always bearing in mind the goal of creating a friendly and socially positive environment, leading to collaborative learning and prolonging its “life cycle, i.e., its sustainability" (Miranda & Osório, 2006, online). Virtual communities, as spaces for knowledge, standards and intention sharing, built through interaction between members, make the practice of e-moderation a factor to be highlighted. This practice instigate members to build a knowledge network within the community, but also to contribute to the construction of cultural and material goods in a collaborative way, having as cognitive support the distributed representation, particularly by decreasing the social distance (Dias, 2007).
Several authors discussed the role of the e-moderator such as Ryan et al. (2000), Barberá (2001), among others. However, we emphasize Salmon (2000) since he has given the best contributions to understand the role of e-moderators in online communities. His model has not been designed independently, on the contrary, presents a complex interaction between cognitive motivational factors and social processes (Coutinho & Lisbôa, 2010). One of its assumptions is that people can learn in interaction with other people through ICT because, according to Salmon (2000), the success comes from the integration of technological nature and collaborative mediation through the following stages:
i) Access and Motivation – "This is the stage of adjustment to the tools, methodology, and the group moderator" (Adão et al., 2004, p. 4);
ii) Online Socialization – starts with the activity of exchanging information between peers, aiming at the creation of an environment conducive to learning;
iii) Exchange of information – when there is exchange of information and consequently there is an increase in interactivity;
iv) Knowledge building – at this stage, the collaboration is an element that plays a prominent role, giving the opportunity to the participants to expand their horizons and knowledge, and
v) Development – is the apex of the model whose goal is to develop in participants critical and reflective thinking, under a constructivist learning perspective.
Starting from this assumption, the study presented in this paper will focus on the analysis and reflection of the contributions of PROEDI network members in a discussion forum entitled "ICTs in Education". For this purpose we shall take as a conceptual reference in our analysis the online Teaching and Learning Model (Salmom, 2000) described above to analyze whether the e-moderator is an important element to knowledge management in cyberspace, as well as a driving role, monitoring and mediating knowledge building in an online community. For data analysis we will use the instrument proposed by the author which contains the stages described above and their descriptors, and has shown to be effective in our analysis. As we advanced in data analysis, we could conclude that the e-moderator is responsible for the mediation process of interaction and knowledge sharing.