As a current distribute learning teacher, I can personally speak to the challenges that teaching online presents. A Community of Inquiry (COI) allows one to address some of these challenges through the integration and facilitation of three presences: social presence (SP), teaching presence (TP), and cognitive presence (CP). If all three presences are successfully integrated and facilitated, “higher-order learning emerges in a community of inquiry” (Garrison & Cleveland-Innes, 2005, p. 137). To successfully create and maintain a COI, the course must be designed and facilitated with the three unique presence in mind.
SP refers to the connections that students make with the course, the instructor, and other students. With a strong SP, students should feel as if they can present themselves honestly (Vaughan,Cleveland-Innes, & Garrison, 2013). The ideas given allow for the development and growth of SP as discussed by Vaughan et al. (2013) and Anderson (2018).
- Hold synchronous sessions. These sessions may be online using video conferencing tools, or in person if your context allows.
- Introduce yourself sharing a part of your personal life and include a video or image. Encourage students to do the same.
- Create an FAQ section, and update it as other students ask questions to share with the entire class.
TP, as discussed by Anderson (2018) is the “central element around which other activities in a community of inquiry manoeuvre” (p. 47) and involves the design, facilitation, and instructions of the course. The following tips will allow teaching presence within a COI as discussed by Anderson (2018) and Bull (2013)
- Utilize the Learning Management System (LMS) and use its tools to monitor students access, progress, and work habits. Use this knowledge to reach out to students who are absent, compare assessment results with student activity, and view if certain sections are being skipped.
- Provide constructive feedback regularly. Allow the students to learn from their own experience offering guidance and encouragement.
- Model effective problem solving through participating in discussions, and sharing your own learning when applicable.
CP is when students are able to push past surface interactions, and engage with the material critically. This requires proper facilitation (TP) and trust within the community (SP) (Vaughan et a., 2013). Tips given will allow for the support and development of CP as discussed by Vaughan et al. (2013).
- Ask reflective and critical questions of the students that have more than one answer.
- Add questions or forums that encourage debate and critical discussion.
- Have course instruction and expectations accessible and clear. As students will be working in a self paced environment, provide scaffolding to allow them to build towards inquiry.
The tips given here are only a small sample of ways in which one could create and maintain a COI. Since every classroom is unique, there are many other ways one could create a COI. What would you suggest in addition to what I have here?
Anderson, T. (2018). How Communities of Inquiry Drive Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age. Contact North
Bull, B. (2013). Eight Roles of an Effective Online Teacher. Faculty Focus.
Garrison, D., & Cleveland-Innes, M. (2005). Facilitating cognitive presence in online learning: Interaction is not enough. American Journal of Distance Education, 19(3), 133-148.
Vaughan, N. D., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry. Athabasca University Press. Chapter 3: Facilitation (pp. 45-61).