The Community of Inquiry Framework in Practice

I’m attending the ICDE World Conference on Online Learning 2017 in Toronto, Canada and blogging the sessions I’m attending.

This collection of sessions are about the Community of Inquiry model.

Social Presence in Two Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

by Matthew Stranach, University of Calgary

He used the case study methodology. He looked at courses as a whole. The courses aligned with the xMOOC format (proprietary learning software, behaviorist / cognitivist approaches to teaching and learning).

Participants self-reported via the COI instrument.

Key findings included: social presence was in both courses; personal interest was why people participated in the MOOCs – they weren’t really there for academic or professional reasons; similar levels of teaching and cognitive presence in the courses; but social presence was the last experienced. Participants didn’t generally view themselves as part of a learning community. Social presence did help participants further individual learning goals.

These findings are consistent with the COI literature. Social presence played a supporting role to cognitive presence.

Comment that synchronous elements and social media are areas that can contribute to the MOOC format.

The Importance of Teacher Presence in Creating an Invitational Educational Environment

Presenter(s): Margaret Edwards and Beth Perry – both from Athabasca University

She’s been using the COI model since 1999 in online programs she works with at Athabasca.

This research is around characteristics of exemplary online educators, and they’ve looked at it online 10 years ago, again, as well as in face to face classes previous to the 1990s.

Methodology: students wrote narratives regarding teachers that they considered exemplary.

Exemplary online educators:

  • Encourage interaction
  • Establish social presence
  • Cultivate a sense of community in educational environments
  • Ensure teacher presence – teacher intentionally instead of teaching

Specific ways teacher presence was created:

  • students know there is an engaged, enthusiastic, interested, credible instructor
  • participating in the discussion, addressing issues, answering questions, triggering debate, providing leadership
  • presence of humor (not a comic, but a sense of light-heartedness)
    • invitational language – you are invited to share your thoughts; vs. you are required to write two posts
  • presence of humanity
    • authenticity of the teacher; that you’re not perfect; that there’s a humanness to you; telling stories, being real when you answer, leave the ums and the ahs in your audio/video
  • presence of expertise
    • not a “look at me the expert”, but instead seeing the knowledge and experience that we have as educators as a gift we can give to students

Instructional designers think a lot about learning strategies …. but, as the teacher, you are an instructional strategy!

My favorite quote of the student comments she shared at the end:

Good online teachers play ball. When you are on an online student you toss the ball and you hope there is someone out there who will catch the ball and toss it back. My best teachers return the toss and make me jump to catch it.

TEL MOOC Participant Response to the Community of Inquiry Theoretical Framework

Presenter(s): Martha Cleveland-InnesSarah Gauvreau
Co-Author(s): Nathaniel Ostashewski (Athabasca University), Sanjaya Mishra (Commonwealth of Learning), Gloria Richardson (Confederation College)

Technology Enabled Learning MOOC

This MOOC was an iMOOC – a course based on inquiry learning, as defined by the community of inquiry. Athabasca was testing this format.

The course covered TEL frameworks, integrating technology, OER, creating TEL lessons, review and summary, and participants created an OER resource.

The report today is about the participant response to it.

The design and organization needed the right blend of direct instruction and facilitation – which is part of the teaching presence definition.

The videos were recorded in studios; the videos were less than 5 minutes; they focused on the material and the learning process. It was more than a lecture of the material.

They offered two types of facilitation:

  • The inspirer – a video offered at the beginning of each week that inspired them to work with each other; and summarized each week with another video; they were the inspirer and motivator; they occasionally posted
  • One facilitator for each of the 500 students; they were troubleshooting; they reminded the students of what the other students were doing; for the COI model, students need to learn from each other; the facilitators job was to smooth the learning and connect participants to each other

Results of the study, looking at participant response to COI in the TEL MOOC, included the positive benefits of the COI model.

Fostering Social Presence on Virtual Learning Teams at Royal Roads University

Presenter(s): Elizabeth Childs; Author(s): Jennifer Stone (Royal Roads University)

Jennifer did the research and Elizabeth is reporting on it. This was action research; some items have been incorporated into the university practice from her research.

The majority of their Masters programs are online or blended with short intensives on campus.

She looked at faculty, students, adjuncts, staff, representatives from the teaching and learning group; across three specific Masters programs.

The total n was 45, which was small but fit the institution well.

Mixed method approach; interrater reliability; interviews etc.

Study findings and themes:

  • Understanding of social presence: 100% found the value of social presence; 93% foudn it ciritcal to the level of connection
  • Roles and responsibilities: 86% believed that it was the role of the instructor to initiate and maintain social presence
  • Intentional learning design: Clearly communicated rubrics, assessments, virtual team assignment design
  • Technology and virtual space: Limitations within the LMS for cultivating what the expectation was for social presence

There were 60 different understandings of what social presence was. Whose job is it to ensure the social presence? Where do the roles and responsibilities fall? Whose job is it to ensure that social presence is designed into the course? Is the current technology enabling us to embrace fully the social presence we want?

Her recommendations were to:

  • Determine an operational definition of social presence and decide to what extent the programs wish to prioritize it
  • Consider professional development for instructors on how to develop and role model social presence
  • Incorporate course design that supports the intentional development of social presence and interpersonal relationship building
  • Consider the efficacy of the current learning management systems and how they support the development of social presence

Based on this action research, the institution is updating their learning and teaching model to incorporate social presence. What an awesome result to a student’s research!

Discussion

After the presentations, then discussion! And sharing of resources:

People really want to talk to real people – humanity, expertise, authenticity.

Interesting that some students don’t want learning community. The presenters commented that students are at different stages in their life, different levels of agency. They may need the engagement, and someone are just wanting to get in and get out to get the required work done.

Cognitive engagement can look like social presence, but it’s on the academic side. The important thing is to offer multiple opportunities for students to have choice. The concept of choice came up also in giving students places for social presence, with and without marks.

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