The Online Sponge

As a new University educator I feel like a bit of a “sponge”, which in all honesty, isn’t a new feeling for me. I have been continuing my post-secondary education for the past 12 out of 14 years, trying to be a sponge for all of them. I feel like there is this concept of trying to absorb everything I can. I think of my students this way as well and my job, as an educator, is to create the opportunity for them to absorb my materials.

I teach accounting courses and have been teaching students in both face-to-face and online delivery modes. Most instructors shy away from teaching online as they find it to be quite difficult and disconnected from their students, but I really enjoy it and have received quite positive feedback.

I have used the Community of Inquiry, or “CoI”, model and created an infographic in order to provide faculty with support material on how to provide an effective online course. The CoI model is a way to provide a worthwhile educational experience, through the integration of three essential elements; social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000, p.88).

The social presence element is based on building a strong environment for learners to feel welcomed, reached, heard, and a part of something. Bull refers to these roles as being a “social butterfly” and “a good party host” (Bull, 2013). I think that this is very accurate. In order to provide instruction and facilitate an online course, you need to be able to reach, entertain, and engage your learners.

Cognitive presence is providing the opportunity for the learners to absorb material. This is done through the understanding and retaining of new information. The strategy of controlling how and what information is being provided to learners is referred to as the “valve control” (Bill, 2013). Here is where instructors can focus learners attention to specific outcomes.

Teaching presence is the ability “…to design and integrate the cognitive and social elements for educational purposes” (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000, p.92). This element considers the design, facilitation, and support provided to learners. When looking at Bull’s Eight Roles of an Effective Teacher, I look at the remaining roles; “Tour Guide”, “Cheerleader”, “Learning Coach”, “Mirror” and “Co-Learner”, and see that they all relate to the presence and capability of the instructor (Bull, 2013).

These CoI elements and integrated strategies can provide the right type of environment for a successful online sponge experience.














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

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.

One thought to “The Online Sponge”

  1. Hi Leigha,

    It’s Leigh. 🙂 I enjoyed reading your post and exploring your infographic exploring how to use a Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework to create an engaging online learning experience for your university students. I really appreciated the efforts that you outlined to create a social presence amongst your learners, starting with yourself, as the facilitator (modern forms of tech, synchronous sessions, emotional connection). I agree with your preference and the importance of sharing your video/camera with your students, making some form of “eye contact” and human contact with them in the experience. I like to do this when I am facilitating online learning sessions as well — I think it is important. I know you didn’t mention whether your students share their video/camera or not. I am wondering how you approach this aspect of the online experience? This aspect/issue made me think of a recent blog post by Maha Bali on the subject…

    AND yes, I am a sponge, too! 🙂 I think the willingness to “be a sponge”, an openness and desire to soak-up new knowledge and perspectives, is part of what makes a “good” teacher or facilitator that much more effective.

    Thanks for sharing,

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