Tag Archives: community of inquiry

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!


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.

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.