Community of Inquiry framework

Table of Contents:

The Community of Inquiry (Col) framework (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000) is a process model of online learning. It is grounded in a collaborative constructivist view of higher education and assumes that effective online learning requires the development of a community (Rovai, 2002; Shea, 2006) that supports meaningful inquiry and deep learning. The Col framework has been quite widely used to inform both research and practice in the online learning community and an increasing body of research supports its efficacy for both describing and informing online learning (Arbaugh et al., 2008; Swan, Garrison, & Richardson, 2009).

Building from the notion of social presence in online discussion, the Col framework represents the online learning experience as a function of the relationship between three presences: social presence, teaching presence, and cognitive presence (see Figure 5.1).The Col framework suggests that online learning is located at the intersection of these three presences; that is, all three presences are necessary for learning in an educational context to take place. In this section, the elements of each of these of these presences and their implications for online learning pedagogy are discussed.

Social Presence

Social presence refers to the degree to which learners feel socially and emotionally connected with others in an online environment. A number of research studies have found that the perception of interpersonal connections with virtual others is an important factor in the success of online learning (Picciano, 2002; Richardson, Maeda, Lv, & Caskurlu, 2017; Richardson & Swan, 2003; Swan, 2002; Swan & Shih, 2005; Tu, 2000) and major lever for engagement, sense-making and peer support (Armellini & De Stefani, 2016). Garrison and Anderson (2003) identified three elements that contribute to the development of social presence in online courses — affective expression, open communication, and group cohesion. Research suggests that these elements are strongly affected by teaching presence — both instructor behaviors (Shea, Li, Swan, & Pickett, 2005; Shea & Bidjeramo, 2008) and course design (Swan & Shih, 2005;Tu & Mclssac, 2002).

Affective expression refers to participants’ ability to express their personalities in virtual environments through sharing experiences, beliefs and values, self revelation, humor, and the use of paralinguistic affective indicators. Course activities that provide opportunities for affective expression are obviously a necessary condition for its development, but it is critical that instructors value and encourage these behaviors in students

Col Framework (Garrison, 2017)

Figure 5.1 Col Framework (Garrison, 2017)

and model their use themselves. It is also critical that course designers and instructors establish and maintain open communication, a climate in which students feel free to express themselves, and provide opportunities and support for the development of group cohesion through interactive and collaborative activities.

Teaching Presence

Teaching presence is defined as the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the realization of personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes (Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, & Archer, 2001). Researchers have documented strong correlations between learner’s perceived and actual interactions with instructors and their perceived learning (Jiang & Ting, 2000; Richardson & Swan, 2003; Swan, Shea, Fredericksen, Pickett, Pelz, & Maher, 2000); and between teaching presence and student satisfaction, perceived learning, and development of a sense of community in online courses (Shea, Li, Swan, & Pickett, 2005). In fact, the body of evidence attesting to the critical importance of teaching presence for successful online learning continues to grow (Garrison & Cleveland-Innes, 2005; Murphy, 2004; Swan & Shih, 2005; Garrison & Vaughan, 2008; Wu & Hiltz, 2004) with the most recent research suggesting it is the key to developing online communities of inquiry (Shea & Bidjeramo, 2008).

Garrison and Anderson (2003) identified three elements that contribute to the development of teaching presence in online courses — design and organization, facilitating discourse, and direct instruction — all of which deserve careful attention. The first category, design and organization, cannot be neglected in an online learning environment, especially as regards the clarity and consistency of course organization and clear statement of goals and objectives. The selection of worthwhile collaborative and other learning activities is also especially important. Facilitating discourse is particularly focused on facilitating online discussion, where it is important to be supportive and present, but not overly so (Vandergrift, 2002). There will, of course, be times when it is necessary to intervene directly in online discussions to correct misconceptions, provide relevant information, summarize the discussion, and/or provide some metacog-nitive awareness. This is the third category of teaching presence, direct instruction, which also includes any lecture like material included in online courses, as well as instruction included in feedback to students.

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