Creating a sense of community within a short period of time is often a challenge for online workshops. As the Program Manager at my organization, the Community of Inquiry (CoI) provides a framework that is helpful for developing workshops that are engaging and meaningful. The relationship between cognitive, teaching and social presence is directly related to learners’ satisfaction, sense of belonging, satisfaction with the instructor and with the actual learning that takes place (Garrison, Anderson and Archer, 2000). At my organization, a typical workshop is roughly 8 hours long, which includes breaks and time for lunch. Unfortunately, this does not leave a lot of time in comparison to a course that may be offered over a few weeks or even months. The desire to provide sense of community that is open and collaborative, but having less time is a challenge. The infographic provides design and facilitation strategies for each of the three presence: social, cognitive and teaching.

Social Presence is the ability of participants to project their individual personalities in order to identify and communicate with the community and develop inter-personal relationships (Garrison, Anderson and Archer, 2000). The strategies support the creation of an encouraging, safe and welcoming space for learners to feel open and engaged. It will be important for the facilitator to model the attitude and behaviour as an example for their learners.

  1. Develop introductory activities (e.g. ice breakers) that support a safe and welcoming environment.
  2. Model verbal intimacy and behaviours (e.g. Share beliefs, feelings, opinions and experiences etc.) and encourage learners to do the same.
  3. Design and use collaborative activities that encourage problem solving and small group discussions.
  4. Establish channels of communication for learners to reach out for support.

Cognitive Presence is the extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse (Garrison, Anderson and Archer, 2000). The strategies offer opportunities for learners to build confidence and take ownership of their learning.

  1. Clearly identify purpose and objectives of the workshop.
  2. Provide a variety of opportunities for learners to receive content and to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.
  3. Ask open-ended questions. This helps to foster a space for diverse thoughts, opinions, reflection and questions during discussions.
  4. Design low risk opportunities (e.g. simulations, case studies, practice assignments etc.) to support skill development.

Teaching Presence is the design, facilitation and direction of the social and cognitive process for the purpose of realizing the relevant learning outcomes (Garrison, Anderson and Archer, 2000). The strategies aim to support learning that is meaningful and enriching.

  1. Be clear and explicit with instructions.
  2. Scaffold content and activities to encourage learner independence and autonomy.
  3. Provide timely and relevant feedback.
  4. Be encouraging and supportive.

As a Program Manager, I view CoI as an overarching requirement for all workshop offerings. In addition to obtaining new knowledge and skills, being able to provide learners with a positive and fruitful experience can provide the organization with a competitive advantage over associations offering similar workshops.

 

References

Bull, B. (2013). Eight Roles of an Effective Online Teacher. Faculty Focus.

Fiock, H. (2020). Designing a Community of Inquiry in Online Courses. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning. 21. 134-152.

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., and Archer, W. (2000). Critical Inquiry in a Text-Based Environment: Computer Conferencing in Higher Education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87–105.

Hilliard, L. P., & Stewart, M. K. (2019). Time well spent: Creating a community of inquiry in blended first-year writing courses. The Internet and Higher Education, 41, 11–24.