A traditional university course is not simply a matter of uploading content online and hoping that the same learning outcomes to be achieved, although the majority of lecturers had little choice but to proceed in this manner in 2020. Pandemic-era teaching has probably been the best demonstration of how much more thought is necessary to prepare for online learning. The final major topic for ONL202 allowed me to explore the pedagogical concepts behind the design of online and blended learning, and in particular, the Community of Inquiry (COI), a little further with my group.
The COI was proposed by Garrison et al. (2000) as a tool to create an educational experience through online learning, with the core of the model being three overlapping dimensions:
Cognitive Presence: “extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse”
Social Presence: “ability of participants in the Community of Inquiry to project their personal characteristics into the community”
Teaching Presence: design of the educational experience and facilitation (by teachers and/or learners)
A fourth element that we also explored in our group was the Emotional Presence, defined by Cleveland-Innes and Campbell (2012) as “the outward expression of emotion, affect, and feeling by individuals and among individuals in a community of inquiry, as they relate to and interact with the learning technology, course content, students, and the instructor”.
In investigating the ONL202 course and categorising the different aspects of the course within each Presence, I could appreciate how well-designed the course is. I have been wondering if the overwhelming positive emotions our group experienced is something that could be designed for, or if it has an element of luck? We seemed to have been grouped mainly based on our preferred time of day for meetings. Yet somehow our different strengths and quirks has helped us to have fun learning and working together over the past two months.
Of course, if I return to the diagram above, then I would see that it’s not all about luck, as there were many aspects of the course that was designed in a way to help us build that trust within the group, from the scaffolding of the topics to the extremely vital presence of our group facilitators, who provided a master class in facilitation by listening actively and providing occasional nudges to steer us in the right direction, but only when necessary.
The expert facilitation we experienced has made me reflect on my past experience as a student taking part in group projects and the way I have incorporated group work in the class that I teach. I hope to be able to apply the COI to my own course by re-evaluating the ingredients and modifying the recipe to adapt to this new dish (to me), that is online blended learning.
Cleveland-Innes, M., & Campbell, P. (2012) Emotional presence, learning, and the online learning environment. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 13(4): 269–292. DOI: 10.19173/irrodl.v13i4.1234
Garrison D.R., Anderson T. & Archer W. (2000) Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education model. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3): 87–105. DOI: 10.1016/S1096-7516(00)00016-6