In the shift to online learning, how can we create opportunities for learner engagement through the types of activities that are familiar in our face to face classrooms? Much in the same way as in our face to face classrooms, in an online, active learning environment, students interact with the course material through: reading, writing, talking, problem-solving, synthetical thinking, constructing, deconstructing, and reflecting. Content driven lectures have a place, as well, and the online environment presents instructors with opportunities to imagine activities that will help learners develop a deeper and more authentic understanding of the lecture content that is shared and shaped with feedback.
Ideally, rather than completing these activities in isolation, learners are given opportunities to work collaboratively and receive feedback from one another as well as the instructor. The dynamic that occurs through shared, constructive feedback and collaboration helps to form a learning environment rooted in connection and community.
Community of Inquiry Model
The Community of Inquiry model describes the core elements that we need to attend to when designing engaging, online and hybrid learning experiences: Social Presence, Cognitive Presence, and Teaching Presence.
Social presence is defined as “a level of connectedness among instructors and students that determines how motivated participants are to take an active role in their own and their peers’ meaning-making processes” (Whitside, Dikkers, & Lewis, 2014). Below, we share key elements for designing for social presence, as well as some sample activities that you might use to incorporate social presence into your course design.
Cognitive presence is defined as “the extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse” (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2001, 2004). Below, we share key elements for designing for cognitive presence, as well as some sample activities that you might use to incorporate cognitive presence into your course design.
|Challenge or question||Ask students to pose questions based on the readings (this could be done via discussion forum or as a shared annotation exercise)|
|Exploration of problem||Ask students to perform research around a question or topic, and share their list of resources and brief summaries in a discussion forum|
|Resolution||Provide a reflective journal assignment in which students are prompted to resolve a problem and/or reflect on their learning|
Teaching presence is defined as “the design, facilitation, and direction of the social and cognitive processes for the purpose of realizing the relevant learning outcomes” (Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, & Archer, 2001). Below, we share key elements for designing for teaching presence, as well as some sample activities that you might use to incorporate teaching presence into your course design.
Active Learning Approaches
There are many specific approaches that you can take to create learning activities and environments that resonate with the Community of Inquiry model. Below, we offer resources for you to explore some of these approaches.
- Experiential Learning at Middlebury
- What is experiential learning and how can I implement it? (Faculty Innovation Center, University of Texas at Austin)
- Buck Institute for Education PBL Works (great resource for all things project-based learning)
- Free online platforms that support PBL
- Why Games? (University of Toronto Libraries)
- Pedagogy of Game Based Learning (University of Toronto Libraries)
- Game Based Learning Best Practices (University of Toronto Libraries)
Some materials on this page adapted from the Muhlenberg College Digital Learning Team, under a CC-BY-NC license.