Alternate Dimensions of Cognitive Presence for Blended Learning in Higher Education

Alternate Dimensions of Cognitive Presence for Blended Learning in Higher Education

Maurice C. Taylor (Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada), Sait Atas (University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada) and Shehzad Ghani (University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/IJMBL.2019040101
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This exploratory study sought to understand the meaning of cognitive presence for graduate students in a blended learning course. Four research questions guided the investigation, which employed a qualitative instrumental case study approach as the research design. Several data sources were used including: semi structured interviews with graduate students; a cognitive presence questionnaire; a focus group of graduate students; and a text analysis grid examining new dimensions of cognitive presence in 100 discussion posts and 20 student learning autobiographies. Findings suggest that there are alternate dimensions to understanding the concept of cognitive presence. In addition, graduate students have distinct ideas about these various dimensions and the types of pedagogical strategies that enhance cognitive development and learning outcomes. The discussion provides insights into these alternate dimensions of cognitive presence and how to help graduate students acquire higher order thinking skills in a blended learning course through the lens of adult learning.
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Over the past 15 years or so, the Community of Inquiry Model (CoI) has been useful in identifying design features for online learning in higher education (Garrison & Vaughn, 2008). It has also provided a robust framework for understanding the importance and inter-relatedness of social, teaching and cognitive presence in blended learning course delivery. According to Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2001), cognitive presence is defined as ‘the extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse in a critical community of inquiry’ (p. 11). As much as this definition is relevant and has been employed in a plethora of undergraduate studies, little attention has been given to understanding cognitive presence for graduate students in a blended learning program who are often mature adult learners.

In an attempt to understand the complex nature of cognitive presence in a Faculty of Education blended learning course, this study sought to explore the dynamics involved in the development of higher order cognitive skills for graduate students in their search for meaningful learning. Although there is a paucity of research specific to blended learning with graduate students, the article, nonetheless, begins with a focused literature review drawn from studies in various types of higher education institutions. This is followed by a brief description of the conceptual framework that was used in the study and the research questions that guided the investigation.

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