Emerging Big Data Sources for Community of Inquiry-Focused Educational Researchers

Emerging Big Data Sources for Community of Inquiry-Focused Educational Researchers

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5161-4.ch002
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This chapter extends on concepts from Chapter 1, namely the Community of Inquiry framework, and provides a further glimpse into the overarching trends in the more recent literature. Trends in the recent CoI literature include a focus beyond discussion board data, movement into social media, and a focus on big data. The relevance of social presence is explored as a crucial component of the CoI framework. The authors extend the idea of learning in community beyond the traditional learning management system into digital spaces such as social media (e.g., Twitter) that lends itself to analyses of large data sets. This chapter also provides concrete research vignettes into how one researcher has journeyed from single course research using the CoI framework to conceptualizing and designing study across multiple online courses and years of data collection. Such an evolution or transformation from small data research to big data is detailed.
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Introduction: Coi And Research With Broadly Defined Online Learning Communities

A byproduct of the Internet, computers, mobile devices, and enterprise learning management systems (LMSs) is the transition from ephemeral to captured, explicit data....These learner-produced data trails provide valuable insight into what is actually happening in the learning process and suggest ways in which educators can make improvements. (Long & Siemens, 2011, p. 32)

Building on the seminal literature of the Community of Inquiry (CoI) explored in chapter one, chapter two provides an overview of some of the more recent research literature that was published in the last several years on the topics of the CoI framework as it relates to “big data” sources for research. As we explore further in Chapter three, and throughout this book, we use the term “big data” as very broadly defined. The notion of big data as it intersects with research that heavily draws on the CoI framework could be as small a large “supersized” course section (e.g., Nagel & Kotze, 2010) or as big as data collected across a mega-large MOOC (Massively Open Online Course) such as detailed in recent research by Holstein & Cohen (2016).

This chapter describes current and cutting-edge research on the ways technology-based education informs thinking about the CoI framework. As online and hybrid learning opportunities emerged in the late 1990s and 2000s, research within the CoI framework has expanded (e.g., Kovanović, et al., 2015). The concepts and ideas from the CoI theoretical framework that were tested and developed in online learning settings are synthesized here with our additional commentary and insights as to what this means for education-focused researchers studying digital learning. For example, in addition to the CoI’s framework utility as a research framework, we suggest a strong need for further professional learning and professional development for faculty on the CoI framework and how to use the various tools of CoI for course design and assessment of courses and programs. We provide insights drawing on our own experiences, previous, current, and future research projects and past publications as digitally-focused researchers and experienced online practitioners.

Here we also include deeper discussion about the ways that adult learners in the current digital age engage in community building and online discourse beyond the traditional learning management system (e.g., Semingson, Anderson, Smith, & Powers, in press). In addition to “traditional” online course spaces such as learning management systems, we consider social media as a form of online learning space that is increasingly being used in conjunction with traditional college teaching (e.g., Öztürk, 2015). Educators have increasingly drawn upon social media tools in both K-12 spaces (e.g., Won, Evans, Carey, & Schnittka, 2015) and higher education spaces such as Twitter (e.g. Amaro-Jimenez, Hungerford-Kresser, & Pole, 2016) and EdModo (e.g., Thibaut, 2015) as study of digital platforms that have potential to foster community-building, student voice, interaction, and dialogue within or alongside a traditional course. These social media tools have been used in conjunction with face-to-face teaching (in forms of blended learning such as Thibaut (2015). Using social media spaces such as Twitter can also foster professional dialogue at conference venues (e.g., Li & Greenhow, 2015), across diverse subject areas and can be studied as corpus data from their naturally occurring context via collected Twitter feeds (Semingson, Anderson, Smith, & Powers, in press).

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