Online Teaching and Learning: Community of Inquiry Research

Blogging another AREA session.

Chair: Norman Davis Vaughan, Mount Royal University

This session has six papers:

  • An Inquiry Into Relationships Between Demographic Factors and Teaching, Social, and Cognitive Presence Angela M. Gibson, American Public University System; Phil Ice, American Public University System; Rob Mitchell, American Public University System; Lori Kupczynski, Texas A&M University – Kingsville
  • Community of Inquiry and the Effects of Technology on Online Teaching and Learning Beth Rubin, DePaul University; Ron Fernandes, DePaul University; Maria D. Avgerinou, DePaul University
  • Using Design-Based Research and Iterative Course Redesign to Improve an Online Program Karen P. Swan, University of Illinois at Springfield; Emily Welch-Boles, University of Illinois at Springfield; Leonard Ray Bogle, University of Illinois at Springfield; Scott L. Day, University of Illinois at Springfield; Michael Lane, University of Illinois at Springfield; Daniel B. Matthews, University of Illinois at Springfield
  • Effect of Manipulating Teaching Presence on Students’ Perceptions of Community and Presence in Online Courses Melissa Kelly, National Louis University
  • Experiencing Synchronous Online Teaching and Learning: A Simultaneous Comparison With Face-to-Face Teaching for Engineering Students Elson S.Y. Szeto, The Hong Kong Institute of Education
  • The Contributions of On-Site Facilitators to Teaching Presence in a Blended Learning Environment Julie Thompson Keane, VIF International Education; Claire de la Varre, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill; Matthew J. Irvin, University of South Carolina

An Inquiry Into Relationships Between Demographic Factors and Teaching, Social, and Cognitive Presence

  • American Public University has the 2nd largest population of online students (fully online, for profit, fully accredited)
  • The problem is attrition – and most studies look at attrition in brick and mortar institutions, not online.
  • For learning more about Community of Inquiry (three presences: social, cognitive, and teaching)
  • This study used 18 months of end of course survey data
  • Demographics were not significant for engagement (which is very much unlike the brick and mortar research
  • This study attempted to start setting up the literature for online learning to match what is available in for brick and mortar research on attrition
  • It’s not the military students either that make a difference
  • So now they think next they will look at other supports and teaching strategies that make a difference
  • Their courses are two months and they think that this is better for adult learners who might drop out in a traditional semester – because they can start again in another month; or in two months it’s less likely that
  • In the Q&A commenting, people suggested more qualitative research, that online makes it easier to deal with life crises, and that completion in the first course predicted success in the whole program.

Community of Inquiry and the Effects of Technology on Online Teaching and Learning

  • This study incorporated into the CoI model the effects of the learning management system (LMS).
  • CoI bits: Setting climate, selecting content, supporting discourse
  • All the actions that create the presences in CoI are computer mediated – usually in the LMS
  • Communication, the heart of CoI, is in the LMS
  • Affordances (1999 / 2008) – are what the tool lets you do (here’s more about that) (Rubin explained this by looking at chairs and doors – love that she’s using physical objects to explain this. just like I do with the idea of structure in online courses)
  • Faculty won’t use tools unless they are “durable” – last across semesters
  • Richard Clarke argues that the LMS doesn’t matter at all – it’s a truck. Rubin says that the LMS needs to make it easy for the teachers to use it
  • They say that the LMS affordances affect student satisfaction with the course
  • She talked about changing an LMS and that it cost $100,000 of man hours to switch to another LMS.
  • In this study they switched from Blackboard to D2L
  • Major finding: ease of communication was highly significant; easy to find things was also significant; ease of use wasn’t significant though
  • Older faculty had higher community of inquiry scores
  • Students care about the LMS and how easy it is to use

Using Design-Based Research and Iterative Course Redesign to Improve an Online Program

  • They are looking at CoI practically and using it to design courses.
  • A design experiment blends empirical research with the theory-based design of learning environments – akin to action research
  • They got baseline data – CoI survey results on courses; then they redesigned courses based on Quality Matters and CoI; and then looked at what results they found in changing to student learning
  • Quality Matters is an input model of learning; CoI looks at the process of learning
  • Quality Matters is a peer review; CoI looks at student perceptions
  • They collect baseline and outcomes data; review and make revisions; then survey again; then analyze and make revisions; etc. It’s a cycle of course improvement.
  • Some changes they made to courses based on survey feedback: instructor posted more often in discussion; more whole group activities to hep students get to know each other; more group activities;
  • They did this work with 4 courses – and the work goes over Fall of 09 through Spring 2012
  • The basic changes they did with QM was to add objectives to the course – and some of those made a difference in student outcomes for some courses. There’s a big jump in student outcomes after QM review and revision. But that also dropped the CoI scores, particularly for teacher presence. But over 5 or 6 semesters with improving the course on both measures – it seemed to improve student outcomes over the long term.
  • They give students a definition of the presences on the survey form, and also have students read an article about the CoI model so they understand what they are trying to do.
  • This data and improvement was done within one department.


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