Community of Inquiry in Online Learning

OK, first post. Woo hoo! I’m keeping up this site as a means of tricking myself into writing more content for my dissertation. Writing for a blog without worrying so much about typos and failure at life=much more enjoyable experience. Hopefully, I’ll make these things useful for myself…or maybe I’ll just get more anxiety about how much work I still have to do for torture, I mean…school, and then continue to spiral into thoughts about failing. Oh, God…

Anywho! Communities of Inquiry in online learning, right…yes.

Today I spent a large part of my day reading through Student Engagement in Online Learning: What Works and Why by Katrina A. Meyer. First of all, this piece of work is pretty damn good. I like how comprehensive this monograph is…yet it’s so easy to follow. I feel really dazed sometimes when reading about theories and learning/applying them etc. etc. so this was helpful for me to glue all these pieces together in my head. However, sidenote, I’m pretty sure she’s missing a couple articles in her references page…which worries me, because I’m afraid I’ll do the same thing….

Moving on.

The author has an entire section dedicated to Community of Inquiry and then even offered a proposed update to it (will come back to that in another post). Here’s the original (created by Garrison, Anderson and Archer, 2000):

Community of Practice
Source: https://coi.athabascau.ca/coi-model/

The model is comprised of three central elements: cognitive presence, social presence and teaching presence. The researchers, Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2000), first introduced this model as a means of demonstrating the optimal use of online technology to facilitate meaningful learning for students.  It shows that learning should occur as a result of intersecting the three core presences.

Cognitive presence is the most fundamental element in this model. Cognitive presence is most aligned with Dewey’s theory of Constructivism (1910). What’s Constructivism you ask? Well, it’s the assumption that learning happens when we interact with other people (that’s known as social constructivism) or when we are engaged in an exercise or activity within our environment. For me, it’s easy to think about this as building a fort with Legos (i.e. that fort’s not going to build itself…I need to actually put the pieces together, and hey what do you know it’s freakin’ fun). In terms of social constructivism, this reminds me of when I had to build Lego robots in class at Pepperdine in a small group. We had to engage in a task, which none of knew ANYTHING about and figure it out together. That was freakin’ fun too! Plus, I can now build you a robot out of Legos if you really want me to. 

Social presence refers to how a student makes it known that they are real and tangible human earthlings behind their online classrooms. For example, when I think of this, I don’t think discussion board posts about weekly readings or things like that. Instead, social presence is really more indicated by things like videos that people post of themselves (informally) in an online course. While Meyer says, in this monograph, that social presence isn’t seen as all that important by some researchers I strongly disagree. Imagine being in a classroom with a bag over your head…you can’t identify with other students, you’re not really sure if your professor is looking at you…and, it smells like groceries. That’s what I imagine a lack of social presence feels like…sad.

Finally, my favorite part, teaching presence! Meyers offers us a couple concepts to focus on when thinking about teaching and those are facilitation and design. I like that these are outlined as two separate things because a course could be designed with learners in mind (i.e. formative assessments, forums, amazing videos yada yada) but without a good facilitator, the content doesn’t get any justice done. For example, if you’re a student and you spend 30 minutes writing in a forum about a really interesting case study and your professor never brings it up in class, responds or even encourages your classmates to respond you’re most likely going to devalue any of the work that you did and then not even want to spend time doing it again. What’s up with that? I’d be pissed!

What do you think about this model and would you offer any revisions?