The Communities of Inquiry Framework ... and me

The Communities of Inquiry Framework … and me

I’ve just become aware of this model/framework (thanks a lot, Dave) and started wondering where I stood. The interesting thing was that the more I thought about it, the more it made me appreciate the jobs I have done so far. In short, (as I understand it), the Communities of Inquiry Framework stresses that good quality learning can be achieved by supporting students to create a social presence for themselves, as well as engage with the subject they are studying and create a cognitive presence. Finally, it is the responsibility of the teacher to support and foster these two types of presences from their students (this dimension is called the ‘teaching presence’).

This framework was designed with distance learning in mind, as quite a lot of focus is placed on using online conferencing tools adequately in order to support these presences. After reading a bit more about the framework a few things sprung to mind:

  • the sense of community could be fostered by using the ‘breakout room’ functionality in some of the current online conferencing apps (though not all of them have that). Without such a functionality, it seems to me it will be quite a bit more difficult to get a sense of community going – sound and webcams have a very useful wow factor in an online classroom, but with anything over 10 participants turn-taking and actually communicating becomes a bit of a pain… Breaking the group up repeatedly and varying the groups will do online tutors a world of good.
  • students should have access to these online rooms outside of lectures, too (granted, they may prefer Skype or some other environment which will make them feel like they are socialising rather than working) However, some environments (like the Adobe Acrobat Connect one) look funky enough and are flexible enough to represent a viable alternative
  • everyone is going on about the teacher being the mediator nowadays, etc. However, in most cases the online facilitation represents using a VLE (or an LMS) and creating lots of separate resources which students can use. In some of them they are passive recipients of information, in others they are a bit more active and in some they create (and possibly share) knowledge. It’s a bit like having a traditional house. What about an open-plan design, though? Rather than having these different areas in their own little rooms, how about bringing them together in engaging resources?
    Here’s an example: you could build an excellent package with Articulate Studio 09 which would allow users to be both passive and active receptors of information (listen to information and then complete formative quizzes with extensive feedback – perhaps like here), as well as active builders of knowledge and communities (by embedding wikis and blogs or anything else which enables the students to create).

How much fun would learning be then? I know, I know… some more software for teachers to learn… if only learning technologists (or whatever you want to call them) were not the first ones whose jobs went when resources were limited…