Design-Based Approach for the Implementation of an International Cyberlearning Community of Inquiry for Medical Education

Design-Based Approach for the Implementation of an International Cyberlearning Community of Inquiry for Medical Education

Yianna Vovides (George Washington University, USA) and Kristine Korhumel (George Washington University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2110-7.ch025
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This chapter describes the conceptualization and implementation of a cyberlearning environment as a community of inquiry (CoI). This environment includes 13 medical schools from Sub-Saharan Africa and their 50-plus partners from around the world. The theoretical foundations of Communities of Inquiry provided the framework that drove the design of the web-based platform used in this project. Through an emphasis on learning from conversations, the resulting cyberlearning environment was designed to foster engagement among faculty, staff, and students of the 13 medical schools and their partners. Recognizing that generating a virtual community of inquiry framed around the cognitive, social, and teaching presence is no easy task, the approach taken for the design was based on conceptualizing the development of such a community along a continuum that addressed the depth of interaction for each presence. This type of design assumes a phased-in implementation. The chapter describes this conceptualization by addressing the core communication strategy used, which underlies the interactions to support learning from conversations. In addition, the chapter addresses key environmental constraints and how these constraints guided operational decisions during implementation. In addition, the chapter discusses challenges and solutions, as well as lessons learned.
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The core team responsible for the design and development of the cyberlearning environment consisted of medical educators, senior programmer analysts, and instructional designers. This core team was based at a private university in the United States that coordinated efforts among the 13 schools in Sub-Saharan Africa.

It became apparent early on, due to the multi-dimensional elements that underscored this project (listed below), that the design of this cyberlearning environment needed to have flexibility to allow for both formal and informal opportunities for engagement among the 13 primary institutions and their partners. The elements that had to be accommodated were considered integral to the design of the cyberlearning environment and included:

  • A diverse audience with varied priorities, needs, and uses of technology

  • Infrastructure at each institution that supports limited web-based interaction

  • Scheduling difficulties for synchronous communication due to the time differences at the various locations

  • Lack of audience buy-in

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