Understanding the Community of Inquiry Framework,, University of Redlands School of Education

Over the past year, many designers, teachers, lecturers and facilitators needed to embrace online learning for the first time. This caused a high level of anxiety for some while others seemed to have adapted easily. While working through this course and exploring the Community of Inquiry, I feel that this adaptation was easier for those who had already considered how learners engage, what motivated them, the role of the lecturer as a guide – all that changed was the mode of delivery but they still asked the relevant questions to ensure student success.

Reflecting on my own practice in designing and delivering material online I know there are gaps specifically regarding feedback and group cohesion. These two critical areas impact how the design is received and applied. We have a great communication strategy in place where students can connect with the online tutors, support staff, and each other but without integrating critical feedback into the system, many students don’t engage in a constructive manner which will move their learning forward. This speaks directly to the teaching presence. Our tutors are highly knowledgeable and our designers have worked tirelessly to create an inviting, engaging learning environment but when the tutor behaves more like a lecture, sage on the stage, imparting knowledge without engaging with the students we lose all the benefits of a blended, community learning environment. The design then doesn’t work as intended.

Based on my learning over the past few weeks, I can confidently say our design is good and would be great with some enhancement (there is always room for improvement) but our delivery lets us down. As a team we need to review how we engage with the students – are we proactive or responsive, how are we gathering and interpreting student data, who is leading engagements, are we meeting our students where they are in exploring the content?

In Martin Weller’s webinar, he spoke to the deliberate practice of designing for online learning and the intention that all individuals needed to have to ensure a full and meaningful learning engagement. I feel as a team we miss the mark a little as we don’t include all stakeholders in the upfront learning design meetings. The online tutors and student support are not present and/or are not heard. We have individuals who are expert designers and we have content specialists but we don’t include the teaching and student voice when we plan our courses. For me, this could be the biggest and most impactful change we can make to ensure our learning interventions can deliver in all three areas of learning; social, teaching, and cognitive.

We are on our way and will keep continuously evolving.

Topic 4: Design for online and blended learning