Week 5 Reflection

23 August 2021

                        Week 5 Reflection

This week, I read a number of articles, among them, the article titled “the community of enquiry theoretical framework: Implications for distance education and beyond” by Cleveland-Innes, Garrison and Vaughan (2018) which introduced and discussed the Community of Inquiry (CoI) theoretical framework. The CoI, first introduced by Garrison, Anderson and Archer in 2000 is a comprehensive framework that “was designed to capture the online educational dynamic and guide the study of online learning effectiveness in higher education”, Garrison et al (2018).  The CoI focuses on three key dimensions, that is, social presence, cognitive presence and teaching presence. Garrison et al (2018) note that the CoI “embraces deep approaches rather than surface approaches to learning and aims to create conditions to encourage collaborative enquiry.” In this regard, my learning design plan (LDP) has in-built mechanisms to ensure deep, authentic and significant learning through the involvement and participation of students in activities in which they must collaborate with others, engage with people in industry and be able to produce an artefact in the form of a research proposal.

My LDP therefore incorporates the three interdependent elements in the CoI framework, that is social, cognitive and teaching presence. This is meant to provide an effective inquiry process and achieve higher-order learning as postulated by Akyol and Garrison (2008). The LDP seeks to achieve three key learning outcomes. The first learning outcome, through acquisition, seeks to ensure that my students have adequate knowledge of the aim and purpose of business research. The second learning outcome, through discussion, investigation and collaboration, seeks to achive the production of an acceptable research proposal that will facilitate the conduct of an empirical research study that seeks to solve a clearly identified business problem being faced by a company in the retail industry. The development and production of the research proposal, is a collaborative, inquiry-based and higher-level cognitive process that will lead to deep, authentic, significant and problem-based learning for the students. The third outcome pertains to the literature review that my students must conduct through investigation and critical analysis of the available sources.

My LDP incorporates social presence in that there are a number of activities in which my students are required to work together as part of a community of enquiry with a common understanding and objective of achieving a shared outcome. Garrison et al (2018) postulate that social presence seeks to “to project their personal characteristics into the community, thereby presenting themselves to other participants as ‘real people’”. Social presence is thus represented in my LDP through activities such as discussions and collaborations that the students will engage in to produce artifacts such as the research proposal and the research report. The way the students will communicate among themselves, the relationships they will build and the level of  cohesion of the various groups that they will form will all indicate social presence. In this regard, open communication and group cohesion are effective ingredients for rich and deep collaborations that will lead to the achievement of learning outcomes. This is supported by Garrison et al (2018) when they assert that when social presence is established, collaboration and critical discourse is enhanced and sustained.

My LDP also incorporates cognitive presence which is defined by Garisson et al (2001) “as the extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse in a community of enquiry”. Through formative assessments, the LDP will build  my students’ capacity to think critically and reflect on their experiences as they undertake their research projects. Garrison et al (2018) point out that “cognitive presence is at the core of a community of enquiry and requires engaging students in all phases of practical enquiry”. My LDP thus incorporates the four phases of critical inquiry  which are the triggering event, exploration, integration and resolution, Garrison et al (2018). The LDP clearly articulates that the students have to engage with players in the retail industry to identify a particular problem that they are facing. Once this problem has been identified, through discussions and further investigation, the students will conceptualise the research problem and produce a research proposal, implement the research project (through investigation and critical enquiry) and propose solutions to the company (resolution). By working to solve real problems being faced by real companies, the students become active participants in constructing meaning and discovering contextually specific solutions to defined problems being faced in our industry. This thus becomes a deep, authentic and enriching learning experience for them.

Garrison and Cleveland-Innes (2005) assert that “in order to create cognitive presence and higher-order learning outcomes consistent with intended goals and expectations of the educational experience, there is need for a moderator (i.e., teaching presence) who can assess the nature of the discourse continuously and proactively shape it following the critical thinking cycle”. As the Course Convener and teacher, I am available throughout the course to provide guidance and direction to my students and this represents my teaching presence as highlighted in the CoI framework. Garrison and Cleveland-Innes (2005) argue that “teaching presence is crucial for realising intended learning outcomes as it is critical in integrating cognitive and social presence during the enquiry process to ensure the attainment of educational outcomes.

As the Course Convener, my teaching presence is reflected in the LDP by the fact that it is my responsibility to design the course in collaboration with my students, to facilitate the course and to give direction to my students. Garrison and Cleveland-Innes (2005) point out that “the functions of teaching presence are organised into three categories: design and organisation, facilitating discourse, and direct instruction”. As the course Convener and Facilitator, I engage in all these activities in order to ensure that the learning outcomes are achieved. Using a collaborative-constructivist approach, I will involve my student in the development of the learning design so that their voice is heard in terms of what is studied and how it is approached (Garrison and Cleveland-Innes, 2005). 

As the teacher, I see my role as that of facilitating discourse, guiding the students towards the acquisition of higher-level cognitive skills and helping them to develop reflective and critical thinking skills. Furthermore, as an expert in the field of retailing, my teaching presence is further reflected in my role as an advisor and guide in terms of identifying the ideas worthy of study, providing the conceptual order, organising learning activities, guiding the discourse, offering additional sources of information, diagnosing misconceptions and interjecting when required, Garrison and Cleveland-Innes (2005).

As a teacher, I strongly believe that my presence is crucial and impactful in the educational CoI. This role is reflected in my LDP through supporting my students, identifying and satisfying their needs, motivating them, facilitating their learning and providing leadership and guidance. However, despite this critical role that I play, I still give my students autonomy to take responsibility for their own learning and construct their own meanings from their educational experience. Through the opportunities afforded to them by the various educational technologies that I will implement as part of the learning design, my students will have the autonomy to interact where and how they choose and be able to collaboratively engage in purposeful and cohesive group environments (Garrison and Cleveland-Innes, 2018)

However, much as the CoI is widely used and recognised, it has not escaped criticism. Richardson and Rowenthal (2017) argued that the CoI framework failed to recognise the critical role that teachers play by being overly learner-focused and also describing the third construct as teaching presence and not teacher presence. Richardson and Rowenthal (2017) further argue that the CoI fails to recognise that behind many successful online courses that are delivered, there is an excellent teacher who goes beyond the roles of “simply designing instruction, providing direct instruction, and facilitating discussions”. In this regard, Richardson and Rowenthal (2017) note that students are motivated to learn when they are aware that they are dealing with “real” people out there who care about them especially in view of the fact that many “students in online courses continue to report feelings of isolation, disconnection from peers and instructors, impersonal detachment, lack of clarification of instructional goals, and issues with receiving feedback in a timely manner, all of which can result in higher dropout rates and the perception of a less than optimal educational experience”. In this regard, the social presence of the teacher can inherently influence students’ learning experiences, their participation and motivation to participate. Richardson and Rowenthal (2017) described the presence of the teacher as an instructor’s social presence and argued that instructors play a unique role that cannot be substituted by learners. In this regard, an instructor has to establish his or her social presence online by finding ways to establish their persona, that is, those attributes that make one unique.

However, whether one sees it as teaching presence, teacher presence or instructor presence, teachers play a significant role in ensuring student learning in the online space and the CoI remains relevant as a theoretical framework for distance education.

In summary, it is more than apparent that the CoI is a robust framework that can be used effectively to build collaborative learning environments and facilitate the attainment of educational outcomes through collaborative students engagement and participation. It was therefore a wise decision for me to anchor my LDP on the CoI framework.

References

  • Akyol, Z. & Garrison, D.R. (2008). The Development of a Community of Inquiry over Time in an Online Course: Understanding the Progression and Integration of Social, Cognitive and Teaching Presence. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 12(3), 3-22.
  • Cleveland-Innes, M., Garrison, D., & Vaughan, N. (2018). The Community of Inquiry Theoretical Framework : Implications for Distance Education and Beyond.
  • 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.
  • Garrison, D. R., & Cleveland-Innes, M. (2005). Facilitating cognitive presence in online learning: Interaction is not enough. American Journal of Distance Education, 19, 133-148.
  • Mayer, R. E. (2017). Using multimedia for e-learning. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 33: 403–423.
  • Ravi, R, Banoor, R. Y., Jignesh, S, & Nawfal, K. (2016). Interactive Materials Development using the Rapid e-Learning Method-Examples from the Field. 
  • Richardson, J. C. and Lowenthal, P. (2017). “Instructor Social Presence: Learners’ Needs and a Neglected Component of the Community of Inquiry Framework”. Social Presence in Online Learning: Multiple Perspectives on Practice and Research, 32-44.