Reflection on Topic 4: Design for online and blended learning
One of the biggest takeaways from the COVID-19 pandemic in higher education is that flexibility needs to be built into our pedagogical approaches. Blended learning as an educational approach that integrates traditional face-to-face classroom instruction with online learning activities (Boelens, De Wever, and Voet 2017) offers some toolbox. It seeks to combine the strengths of both traditional and digital learning methods, offering students a more flexible and personalised learning experience. In a blended learning environment, students often engage in online modules, discussions, or assessments, complemented by in-person interactions with instructors. There are some key challenges associated with blended learning, including ensuring equitable access to technology, addressing the digital divide, and maintaining a cohesive learning experience across online and offline components.
To address these challenges, innovative approaches are called for, such as building community of inquiry (CoI) (Fiock 2020). The CoI framework identifies three essential elements for a meaningful educational experience: cognitive presence, social presence, and teaching presence. Cognitive presence involves the construction of knowledge through critical thinking and discourse. Social presence emphasises the importance of building a sense of community and interpersonal relationships among learners, fostering a supportive learning environment. Teaching presence refers to the role of the instructor in designing and facilitating effective learning experiences.
The CoI approach recognises that meaningful learning occurs when these three elements interact dynamically. By promoting active engagement, open discourse, and a sense of community, the CoI approach aims to enhance the quality of online and blended learning experiences in higher education, fostering a collaborative and intellectually stimulating educational environment. Leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to build a Community of Inquiry (CoI) in higher education involves strategic integration of AI technologies and realising AI-empowered learning that encourages learners to have their agency in the process (Ouyang and Jiao 2021).
AI can be utilised to analyse students’ learning patterns and preferences, providing personalised content recommendations for a better cognitive presence. AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants can create interactive and responsive online environments and increase social presence. AI-driven analytics can assist instructors in assessing student engagement, performance, and participation. By automating routine administrative tasks, AI allows educators to focus more on designing and facilitating meaningful learning experiences, thereby enhancing their teaching presence. By strategically incorporating AI into the educational landscape, we can harness the potential of these technologies to foster a robust CoI and a blended learning experience.
Boelens, Ruth, Bram De Wever, and Michiel Voet. 2017. “Four Key Challenges to the Design of Blended Learning : A Systematic Literature Review.” EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH REVIEW 22: 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2017.06.001.
Fiock, Holly. 2020. “Designing a Community of Inquiry in Online Courses.” The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 21 (1): 135–53. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v20i5.3985.
Ouyang, Fan, and Pengcheng Jiao. 2021. “Artificial Intelligence in Education: The Three Paradigms.” Computers and Education: Artificial Intelligence 2 (January): 100020. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.caeai.2021.100020.