Virtual Communities of Inquiry

Virtual Communities of Inquiry

Pellas Nikolaos (University of the Aegean, Greece)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch745

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Nowadays, there is a widespread conviction that the evolution of computer hardware and Web (“blogosphere”) sources can assist instructors and scholars to enrich learning processes with innovative technologically advanced environments. Social interactions and managerial responsibilities are also formed through humans’ relationships that defined as frameworks of a community leading to a novel knowledge field with the basic principles of the contemporary pedagogy, such as cooperativeness, cohesion, trust, and mutual support among members (Pellas, Peroutseas, & Kazanidis, 2013).

A careful planning of developing learning communities must be associated with users’ (instructors and students) demands in order to be achieved common goals in a persistent workflow. According to Conrad (2002) the duration of the community’s Lifecycle has been widely accepted as a component of a network learning environment. The user’s presence in the community established as an alternative constructive approach in order to be achieved a high-order relationship of interaction that promoted from the students’ capacities to construct and support positive learning consequences (Garrison & Archer, 2000).

The latest technological functions of Information, Communications Technologies and Media Resources (ICT & MR) with the rapid growth of broadband networks like Web 2.0 applications and interactive distributed three-dimensional (3D) virtual environments (3DVEs) have considerably changed contemporary instructional formats (blended and online) of the e-Education. Moreover, social networking systems have changed the Web 2.0 cyberspace in a rapidly growing communication system bringing to the front several facets of a “networked collectivity.” Virtual environments (or virtual worlds) in this vein can convert the existing distributed networks into habitable and navigable three-dimensional (3D) locations that can be separated into virtual “places” or “spaces.” From this perspective students learn in collaborative workshops and share their experiences synchronously (VoIP or brainstorming) or asynchronously (important messages or gestures). These premises have frequently recapitulated in the last decade through advanced learning practices with the support of virtual worlds (VWs) by enhancing the technological literacy of users (students and instructors). Likewise, the corollary of interactivity and social formalization of modeling allows users to design learning activities, in conjunction with contemporary pedagogical approaches. The emergence of innovative learning technologies has caused profound changes in the current educational system.

The technological infrastructure that was supported from two-dimensional (2D) Learning Management Environments (LMS) and the development of their descendants, i.e. the 3D systems included also virtual communities in turn offered more advantages as a learning process always regards. The typical users’ appearances (instructors and students), as cyber entities (avatars) in a common virtual place where they interact simultaneously even from a distance (or not) have significantly influenced the nature of teaching and learning practices. A popular support on this issue is the extension of the computer system that follows a collaborative pedagogical approach that can be utilized from students’ social interactions with ICT&MR, called as Computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL).

Although recent studies (Delfino & Manca, 2007; Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2009) have revealed that should be clearly defined a framework for understanding both students engagement and analysis of a constructing knowledge field that is created from their participation in collaborative activities through the Web 2.0 sources. Until now teaching and researching fields determinate the entire “status quo” for the acquisition of knowledge through online environments based on the analysis of:

  • 1.

    The interaction of discussion groups, the sense of social presence or cooperation among participants in (asynchronous) learning environments (Rourke & Anderson, 2002).

  • 2.

    The interaction and knowledge’s structure in communities (Swan & Shih, 2005).

  • 3.

    The construction of an environment can promote students’ critical thinking (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2001).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Blogosphere: The conceptual performance of this term could be misunderstood with this of the term “Web-sphere” i.e. that refers only to the World Wide Web (WWW) and not just on blogs. Although, the supporting multimedia application of the Internet is supposedly a “sphere of bloggers,” in which user(s) made their sites and interconnections with others collaboratively.

Virtual Community of Inquiry (VCoI): A VCoI can be defined as an academic community that consisted of a group of spatially distributed users (instructor and students), involving them in collaborative activities by using a variety channels of communication (synchronous or asynchronous). To achieve these activities users must utilize three-dimensional modeling processes with artifacts or tools from the VW, which offered to interact and construct new “visually modeled” forms of knowledge.

Web 2.0: The Web 2.0 goes beyond to the limited computer-generated platform, where users can perform on collaborative Web-based applications. Typical applications of Web 2.0 are social networking media, such as wikis and weblogs or other applications which are already well-known like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

Virtual Learning Environment (VLE): A VLE is currently a Collaborative Virtual Environment (CVE), i.e. a computer-simulated place or space in which people can meet others to interact and work together. It depicts a web virtually-based learning system that uses the 3D virtual reality technology to provide an interactive environment.

Avatar: The on-screen persona that represents user’s alter-ego as he/she interacts in the VW with others.

Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL): IBL activities can engage users in scientific processes in order to be established a personal knowledge base and use this command may explain what they observe in the artificial world.

Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL): It is a widely being used term for the plenary of (distance) e-Education procedures, where learning can be based on the pedagogical principles of collaboration, the use of computers and the Internet by each team. This effort can be accomplished by enhancing social interaction, sharing, and constructing a contemporary “knowledge domain” among participants.

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