Using Student Facilitation and Interactive Tools Within and Beyond the LMS: Towards Creating an Authentic Community of Inquiry

Using Student Facilitation and Interactive Tools Within and Beyond the LMS: Towards Creating an Authentic Community of Inquiry

Andrea Gregg (The Pennsylvania State University, USA), Hwei-Kit Chang (The Pennsylvania State University, USA), Yu Wang (The Pennsylvania State University, USA), Penny Ward (The Pennsylvania State University, USA) and Roy B. Clariana (The Pennsylvania State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 28
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3292-8.ch008
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While dialogue remains a critical component to an online community of inquiry (CoI), challenges regarding engaged student participation persist. This chapter discusses an online graduate course, “Designing Learning Within Course Management Systems” (“Designing Learning”), in which student-student interaction is a key feature and a central component of nearly all of the student activities. This chapter highlights the core pedagogical concepts and theories, including CoI, that form the foundation for the “Designing Learning” course. It then demonstrates the integration of those concepts throughout course design elements, including student facilitation and the use of multiple platforms like VoiceThread and Google Docs for interaction including reflections on both the students' and instructors' experiences of this course. Recommendations are next provided so that the successes of this course can be applied to other online teaching and learning contexts. Lastly, further research directions are identified.
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The Learning Management System (LMS), interchangeably referred to as a Course Management System (CMS), is well established within online higher education as a core technology to enable online and blended learning (Legon & Garrett, 2018). The LMS has aspects designed to maintain the safety and security of students’ personal information, to manage registrar and grading functions, and to contain and deliver the course content held as the intellectual property of the university (Siemens, 2004). The LMS threaded discussion forum found in industry-standard LMSs (e.g., BlackBoard, Canvas, Moodle) is most often the primary site for dialogue in online distance education (Anderson & Dron, 2012; Gorsky & Caspi, 2005).

A central role of dialogue derives from a constructivist learning paradigm, wherein learners should be actively interacting with content and with each other to construct understanding, rather than passively “consuming” information (Sjoberg, 2007). Additionally, dialogue can serve as a way for students to take on responsibility through collaboration (Siqin & Chu, 2019). In spite of its importance in online learning, research conducted over the past three decades demonstrates some consistent challenges with asynchronous online course discussions, including posts of lower levels of quality (Ak, 2016; Ghadirian, Salehi, & Ayub, 2018; Zhou, 2015) inconsistently, and at times arbitrary patterns of participation (Hewitt, 2005; Wise & Hsiao, 2019). There are a few qualitative studies that could illuminate process interactions and experiences, but that work suggests that learners often experience online course discussions as “going through the motions” to meet course requirements rather than as meaningful exchanges (Gregg, 2016; Rourke & Kanuka, 2007).

One challenge identified in the research is the interface design of the standard LMS threaded forum itself. In a review of the discussion forum literature, Gao, Zhang, and Franklin (2013) identified four primary limitations of the standard threaded design. First, because most interfaces highlight unread messages at the top of the list, students tend to read and respond to the most recently-posted messages first. This causes the focus of the overall discussion itself to be lost as “the excessive focus on new posts can unintentionally shift participants’ attention away from discussing important issues” (Gao et al., 2013, p. 473). Hewitt’s (2005) computer simulation of posting habits run at large scale demonstrated this phenomenon: “specifically, the widespread practice of focusing attention on unread notes during computer conferencing sessions can produce a starvation condition that hastens the death of some threads and reduces the likelihood that inactive threads will become active again” (p. 567). Second, the standard hierarchical display of the forums means that visually the discussion itself does not reflect authentic interactions. Third, ideas typically are not synthesized and integrated because individuals are only responding to individual posts. Finally, “there is a lack of emotional cues and timely feedback” (Gao, Zhang, & Franklin, 2013, p. 473).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Community Of Inquiry: The community of inquiry (CoI) framework was put forth originally by Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2000) AU4: The in-text citation "Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2000)" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. as a way to conceptualize online, distance learning. A CoI exists at the intersection of three constructs: cognitive presence, social presence, and teaching presence.

Teaching Presence: Teaching presence is one of the three constructs within the community of inquiry framework (i.e., cognitive presence, social presence, and teaching presence) and refers to the design and facilitation of the learning experience.

Cognitive Presence: Cognitive Presence is one of the three constructs within the community of inquiry framework (i.e., cognitive presence, social presence, and teaching presence) and pertains to learners’ construction and confirmation of meaning.

Social Presence: Social presence is one of the tree constructs within the community of inquiry framework (i.e., cognitive presence, social presence, and teaching presence) relates to the expression of emotion and personality and the ability of the learner to present him/herself as a “real person.”

Dialogue: Interaction between two or more people that is experienced as positive and meaningful. Engagement: Experience of being affectively and cognitively connected to what is taking place. Learner-Learner Interaction: Interactions in a class context that take place between learners.

Motivation: Motivation is the general desire or willingness to do something. It is the process of stimulating people to action to accomplish goals.

Student Moderation: When students assume the role of moderating and facilitating course activities.

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