Community of Inquiry: Online Learning Tools

This module grabbed my interest as it explored the elements that form a community of inquiry, those being cognitive presence, social presence and instructor presence in an online setting.

Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2001) describes cognitive presence as “the extent to which the participants in any particular configuration of a community of inquiry are able to construct meaning through sustained communication.”

In my opinion, cognitive presence results from the various interactions that go beyond surface learning. This occurs if critical thinking is required and thus instructors should provide activities that lead to such.

I view social presence as providing a safe environment for cognitive presence to occur. In a safe environment, divergent views are encouraged amongst learners.

Both cognitive presence and social presence need the ever-important instructor. Therefore, instructor presence is critical as a facilitator of cognitive and social presence not only by providing the tools and activities that encourage social and cognitive presence but by the various instructor-learner interactions.

Since this course is focused on online learning, instructors will be well-served if there is harmony in the elements of the community of inquiry their course.

Many tools were presented by colleagues that can be used to enhance these elements to varying degrees.

I was quite attracted by the uniqueness of the presentations on Virtual Worlds especially Second Life.

From the View-Master to the Oculus Rift, virtual reality seems to be an innovative strategy to be used in education. When coupled with virtual worlds, learners may no longer need to imagine things but may be immersed in virtual environments that can provide experiences that otherwise would not be possible.

As technology changes, so too would our expectations of their affordances. If we were to cast our minds back to when Personal Computers became popular, maybe a basic text editor like Notepad and a floppy diskette could have been regarded as tools to allow for collaboration amongst learners thereby enhancing cognitive presence. At present such a tool would not even be mentioned to enhance any element in a community of inquiry. This should remind us that technological devices are merely tools to facilitate the underlying pedagogy.

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