Teaching in an Online Community of Inquiry: Faculty Role Adjustment in the New Higher Education

Teaching in an Online Community of Inquiry: Faculty Role Adjustment in the New Higher Education

Martha Cleveland-Innes
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2110-7.ch019
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Regardless of education delivery mode – face-to-face, online, distance, or some combination through blended learning – teaching (and learning) is changing. Online learning, whether synchronous or asynchronous, offers a range of instructional practices previously unavailable in either distance or face-to-face higher education. A principled approach to teaching allows faculty to stay on track of teaching requirements, regardless of delivery mode. These principles may support new teaching practices, but, if adopted, will also change the way the role of faculty is configured and executed in the higher education context.
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Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher (Palmer, 1998).

A community of inquiry is a distinct personal and public search for deep learning, meaning and understanding. In online community, new roles are necessitated by the nature of the communication which compels students to assume greater responsibility for, and control over, their learning. Given this enhanced communication; “each form of transport not only carries, but translates and transforms the sender, the receiver and the message” (McLuhan, 1995, p. 90). In addition to onlinedness (Hughes, 2004), a collaborative learning community necessitates the adoption of personal responsibility and shared control. This goes to the heart of an online learning community; a significant shift from the transmission of information in the lecture hall and the passive role of students. Note the dual change in responsibility and role for both teachers and students; they move both to inquiry-based teaching and learning and to virtual environments with unique perceptions, actions and interactions. It is this exponential difference in online communities of inquiry that shapes the new role for faculty teaching online – we come back to this notion often in the following discussion.

The role change required to integrate new teaching technology into the role of faculty is unequivocally linked to the pedagogical requirements embedded in creating a community of inquiry – online, face-to-face or both. The perceived space, and transition process, available to move new teaching strategies into the current role of faculty in higher education rests on one hand with faculty themselves and in the other in the context in which faculty work. This chapter considers both.

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