Gears in Motion: Changing Perspectives of Interactions Among Online Presences

Gears in Motion: Changing Perspectives of Interactions Among Online Presences

Fatemeh Mardi
DOI: 10.4018/IJVPLE.2020070103
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This article expands Garrison, Anderson, and Archer's Community of Inquiry framework by adding a mechanism to understand the interactions among presences and domains in an online course. Based on a qualitative content analysis of student reflections, elements that create an optimal learning experience. The article discusses three findings and offers visual representations of each: how emotions are pervasive among the presences, a chronological representation of components in two phases, and a logic model showing if-then interactions among the components in a linear form. As a result of these findings, the gear model is proposed, which accounts for current research findings such as emotional and learner presences. The ‘gears in motion' model offers a new, holistic perspective that illustrates the five elements necessary to create an optimal learning experience.
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Higher education institutions are developing more online courses and components to meet the needs of today's generation of learners as well as non-traditional students who comprise approximately forty percent of the college population (American Council on Education). The National Center for Academic Transformation (White House, 2013) reports an average of forty percent cost reduction and improvement in learning outcomes with the thoughtful implementation of technology usage in a wide range of academic disciplines. Considering this level of interest and growth, efforts to understand the design and instructional challenges as well as opportunities to enhance learning in online environments are needed. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 5.5 million students took at least one online course in 2012 (U.S. Department of Education, 2014). However, issues of quality and student retention have not been resolved even though Babson Survey Research Group (Allen & Seaman, 2013) reports 32% of total higher education enrollment in the United States is through online education. Allen and Seaman (2011) report a significant 10 percent growth rate for online enrollments, compared to the less than one percent growth of the overall higher education student population.

To offer high quality learning opportunities in online educational settings, the dimensions and interactions involved need to be understood. The spaces and communities in which learning takes place need to be explored. To create and sustain such collaborative communities, the dynamics among the teaching, cognitive, and social presences must be understood (Akyol & Garrison, 2008). Research within the Community of Inquiry framework has shown significant results of social presence perceptions linked to online student satisfaction (Gunawardena, Lowe, & Anderson, 1997; Richardson & Swan, 2003), to perceived learning (Richardson & Swan, 2003), and to course design factors and teaching presence. Research on teaching presence shows the critical importance to the development of a sense of community (Shea, Li, Swan, & Pickett, 2005) and to successful online learning (Garrison & Cleveland-Innes, 2005; Swan & Shih, 2005; Vaughan & Garrison, 2006). In this paper, current research involving the Community of Inquiry (CoI) will be presented, with a focus on visual representations suggested by the researchers.

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