Over the past several weeks, I’ve been collaborating with Jean-Pierre Joubert, Vanessa Tran, and Eric Yu on a critical inquiry into the development of a Community of Inquiry (CoI) on a Social Networking Site (SNS) such as Discord. It’s been a really interesting pursuit and I’ve learned a lot about the nature of a CoI, its strengths and weaknesses, and the benefits and drawbacks of facilitating this framework through a SNS.
The CoI framework, developed by Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2000) consists of a group of learners coming together with a common goal of building new knowledge and/or skills. There are three main foundational constructs associated with a
CoI, which are Cognitive Presence, Social Presence, and Teaching Presence. These constructs work in unison and overlap with a goal of deep and meaningful learning for participants. Considering the inherent social nature of a CoI, this framework works well when facilitated on a SNS as the built-in affordances of a platform such as Discord allow for a combination of casual and academic discourse, but there are also concerns.
Throughout our inquiry, our group identified a series of issues associated with introducing a SNS into academics including accessibility, data privacy, identity development, and whether or not to make it mandatory for a course. Not all students will have access to the chosen SNS, or may not be comfortable (or indeed permitted) to use it. As a result, mandatory use for such a system outside the official institution’s learning management system is not recommended. Additionally, third-party platforms including Discord rarely answer to anyone but themselves in terms of their responsibility with user data (Discord, 2020). With that being the case, informed consent should be sought from learners when making use of this type of tool. Finally, since learners develop their professional identities when interacting with a CoI, the educator should be cautious of the implications of the possible collision between personal and academic identity fragments online (Dennen & Burner, 2017; Kimmons & Veletsianos, 2014; Lowenthal & Dennen, 2017).
While I’m still working on my final conclusions on this subject, it’s been a fascinating discovery and I look forward to applying it to my practice.
Dennen, V. P., & Burner, K. J. (2017). Identity, context collapse, and Facebook use in higher education: Putting presence and privacy at odds. Distance Education, 38(2), 173–192. https://doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2017.1322453
Garrison, R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2), 87–105. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/S1096-7516(00)00016-6
Kimmons, R., & Veletsianos, G. (2014). The fragmented educator 2.0: Social networking sites, acceptable identity fragments, and the identity constellation. Computers & Education, 72, 292–301. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2013.12.001
Lowenthal, P. R., & Dennen, V. P. (2017). Social presence, identity, and online learning: research development and needs. Distance Education, 38(2), 137–140. https://doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2017.1335172