An evolution for the ‘Sage on the Stage’?



One of the tenets of ’21 Century’ education and learning is that the era of the  ‘Sage on the Stage’ is over and we should consider instead the ‘Guide on the Side’ who ‘facilitates’ learning; this is the instructor who creates a space for colloboration, who weaves discussions (in an online space) and does not teach or tell because that is SO not Web 2.0 or 21st Century.

By and large, that all makes sense. Nobody likes long drawn out presentations; the retention from lectures is generally poor and the flipped classroom method (while not new) is gaining in popularity and has probably tipped thanks in part to the Khan Academy’s popularizing it, so it has entered the mainstream education discourse.

However, some of this has been challenged by my recent experience as a student in Curt Bonk’s MOOC (massive open online course) entitled ‘Instructional Ideas and Technology Tools for Online Success’. The outstanding and affective part of this open course has been the live conferencing where Dr Bonk is indeed the ‘Sage on the Stage’ (or Elder of Elluminate).

I’ve attended 2 live sessions of the MOOC and the experience has changed my own emotional response to this MOOC and has made me decide I am going to stick it out until the end. Partly due to the sense of occasion a live session engenders anyway, but mostly to the manner of presentation and the intelligent use of interactive devices which together create in a space of two hours a community of students. Surprisingly, I’ve been interested and energised during the live sessions and can partly attribute this to the ways in which Dr Bonk makes the experience feel personal: through reference to participants’ locations, use of personal names, responsiveness to questions, use of quizzing and polling, props and even prizes. (Disclosure: I won a book in the last session!)

Yet the live session was still very much a ‘lecture’ using powerpoint slides to deliver content and subject matter defined by the presenter. And it went on for 2 hours including Q and A. What has made this live presentation ‘different’ from other live webinars more commonly found is the sense of occasion and unpredicability of where it will go and from feeling on the part of  a participant that they are really participating.  The affordances of Elluminate enabling chat, polling, as well as the slides and video in combination create an experience not replicable to the same extent in a face to face classroom, not to mention the international flavour of attendees.

I think what I am saying is that I am willing to attend a live session if I am given the opportunity of co-creating that experience and the ‘sage’ is interesting enough that meeting him or her in real time is an experience different from reading his/her papers, interviews etc. In this session, Dr Bonk answered two specific questions I posed and genuinely seemed to want to be there and help participants come to an understanding of the issues and topics. ??????What I think I am seeing here is a coming together of the power of synchronous classroom experience (which can happen face to face or online) mediated by the appropriate and intelligent use of a live conferencing software (in this case Blackboard Elluminate) which allows things to happen that cannot happen face to face so easily, such as:

  1. Global login and participation regardless of physical location and geography. (The only constraint is access).
  2. Co-construction and realtime development of the presentation through use of interactive quizzes, polls, video and chat functions.
  3. Critical and visible mass of students to enable meaningful participation and meaningful lurking.
  4. The capturing of the near-totality of the experience (results of quizzes, chats, recording of lecture) for others to share soon after.

On reflection, perhaps ‘Sage on the Stage’ is not longer an adequate description of this type of guided live instruction. There is definitely an element of co-construction of knowledge and understanding as part of the lecture, so perhaps something more along the lines of a ‘Catalyser for Learning’ better explains the function and role of the instructor.

10 thoughts on “An evolution for the ‘Sage on the Stage’?

  1. Sukaina,A nice set of observations about the live session. You are correct in thinking that live online does not equal sage on the stage. Live sessions can be highly interactive. For other good examples, I highly recommend, Registration is free. Search for the recording of this session "Interactive Lectures is not an Oxymoron" w/ Thiagi and Tracy Tagliati" Thiagi is a former IU prof. Dr. Bonk mentioned him in his live session in #bonkopen

  2. Hi Sukaina Walji:Thanks for the kind words on the MOOC and the synchronous sessions. They are fun to do. There is much planning here–combining the resources, the discussions, the videos, the sync sessions, the blogs and wikis, etc. And yes the interactive polls and chats. My #1 laptop crashed on me 3 days ago (video card) so I will be using a back-up today for this important session on shared online video. Here is a color PDF of the talk for today (???The Rise of Shared Online Video, the Fall of Traditional Learning???). Below are the links. is a link to download the original slides: If you get bored and want more info on shared online video, see #10 in my Web resources page: See you in a few hours.curt

  3. Thanks so much for stopping by Dr Bonk! Glad to hear it is fun for you, and I’m looking forward to the session later.Sukaina

  4. It was a really great session – thanks! I’m a reluctant video user and watcher if text is on offer, but the session moved my thinking to how it can really make a huge difference to the learning and teaching process. And not as hard as it might seem to incorporate it.Sukaina

  5. Glad you found something to use. I am heading to the post office now to mail your book. Smile. May take a while to get to South Africa.Check out this scoop it from one of the students in the course. He has many useful video resources for chopping videos and discussing them.curtScoop It!; Online Video in Education Stephen Bright, eLearning Designer, Waikato Centre for eLearning 1. TubeChop, Cut any video! Just like you requested. And foster discussion and questions and comments on any video. Scroll down. 2. TubeChop 3. Vialogues TubeChop, Wikibooks Hooray for Us are some more:1.
    Teaching Channel (Tch)
    Grovo: Your Field Guide to the Internet: 4.
    FreeDocumentaryTV: 5.
    LookahTV (software tool tutorials): 6.
    Dragontape (drag favorites on a timeline):

  6. Thanks so much for the great links @drbonk. A happy afternoon beckons 🙂 And thanks so much for book – I’m really looking forward to getting something in the post!

  7. Pingback: Recasting H817open as a connectivist course | littlegreycellsblog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s