I met Janet Salmons many years ago while I working on various arts and technology projects in New York State for the New York Foundation for the Arts. Ever since, our paths have crossed several times in nonprofit technology circles online, most recently via the Digital Divide Network listserv and the online forums at TechSoup. Earlier this month, Janet sent me a note that she had completed her Ph.D. To celebrate this accomplishment, I interviewed her!
1. Tell me a little about your professional background, particularly the work you do with nonprofits?
I started in the Cornell University Center for Theatre Arts, where I founded and directed two programs: Cornell Theatre Outreach and the Community-Based Arts Project. These programs involved cultural, educational and training efforts that used interactive theater and storytelling. From Cornell I went to the intergenerational, national nonprofit called Magic Me. Most of the projects with these programs were carried out collaboratively; so I had a chance to see how different kinds of organizations, from grassroots to national, operate.
2. Congratulations on completing your PH.D! Can you tell me what your doctoral research focused on?
It focused on collaborative e-learning. I interviewed ten online educators in five countries about how they planned and organized collaborative learning activities. The research was conducted entirely online, using a multi-media platform and over Internet. I developed a Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning--a new conceptual framework for understanding levels of collaboration and ways to organize learning activities so participants learn to achieve collective outcomes. A premise for this work is that we need to be better at working collaboratively—whether the collaboration is across sectors, disciplines and organizations, or within a given organization, with participatory decision-making and teamwork. I'd like to see people have a variety of purposefully designed collaborative learning experiences so they are prepared to work collaboratively in professional life.
3. As a faculty member for Capella University School of Business, can you tell me about some of the courses you've developed and are teaching?
I have developed and teach a variety of graduate courses on leadership and team leadership. These courses are designed for adult learners, using a "scholar-practitioner" model. That means we are looking at theories and principles in light of their application in practice. Learners bring their own experience and observations into academic study, and build on what they know. The learner population is very diverse; over a third are people of color and 60% are female. Since the courses are very interactive, learners gain experience in online communication and teamwork as well as new knowledge in the subject of the course. These diverse learners have a chance to see how the ideas being studied apply in corporate, small business, non-profit, medical, or military settings.
4. What is your favorite course to teach?
I have two favorites. The first is called Leading for Results and the second is called Leading Teams. The Leading for Results course is not just about studying other leaders, but about learners thinking of themselves as leaders. This is a new perspective for many; as one put it: "until taking this course, I have never thought of, or seen it as my place to foster a common vision." The other favorite course is Leading Teams. For this course, learners practice what they are learning by working in a team for the course. They have to figure out how to communicate and organize their work online, to accomplish a case analysis together. I designed the course to reflect lessons learned from my doctoral research.
5. What was your most exciting moment as an online instructor? As an online learner?
As an online instructor at Capella, I have an exciting moment whenever I see someone make progress and gain new insights. When I get a note from a learner saying, "thank you for challenging me to dig deeper," it makes my day.
I frequently give presentations using online conferencing— a different kind of teaching than the academic courses. I find it very exciting to have people from across the planet online together, asking each other questions and talking about ways to address common problems. Similarly, as an online learner, I find it exciting to share ideas and learn from and with others. From my view, this is what the web should help us do: become a global learning community. (Maybe we'd need fewer bombs?)
5. Tell me a little bit about your blogs.
elearn2lead is aimed at educators in higher education. I share ideas and resources on topics related to collaborative e-learning, as well as general sources of interest to online educators. The blog focuses on instructional approaches, not on the technologies themselves.
BElearner. is aimed at online college/university learners. Observing issues my learners grapple with, I find resources and put them online for any learners to use. I came up with a 4-step framework for the blog: 1. Find it! Locate current, relevant, appropriate sources. 2. Evaluate it! Assess the value of the resource you've found. 3. Write it! Use clear and appropriate writing styles to describe the ideas. 4. Cite it! Reference the source.
7. Best blogs to read for online learning?
Blogs about collaborating online:
Ismael Peña's blog discusses The Campus for Peace, online collaboration and development
Kolabora Robin Good on social technologies and collaboration
Asynchronous Collaborative Learning Activities interesting ideas and examples
Photo from Janet Salmons