Community of Inquiry in an Online Undergraduate Information Technology Course

Hwee Ling Lim
2007 Journal of Information Technology Education  
Executive Summary The Community of Inquiry (COI) theoretical framework suggests that successful higher education experiences are supported by the presence and interaction of cognitive, social and teaching elements. Since the COI model has been widely used for examining quality of asynchronous computer-mediated communication (CMC) educational interactions, its applicability to synchronous CMC interactions is relatively unknown. Moreover, as the model's coding scheme was mainly designed for
more » ... ing online asynchronous discussions, it is more sensitive to longer postings than the shorter and more discursive exchanges present in online synchronous (chat) discourse. This paper presents a case study on the instructional application of online synchronous interaction in a distance IT undergraduate course from a sociocultural constructivist perspective. The case involved two tutorial groups engaged in collaborative learning situated in WebCT chat rooms. The study focuses on identifying cognitive, social and teaching presences from the analyses of student experiences and chat exchanges during moderated virtual tutorial discussions. A web survey was administered to student respondents on the extent of peer/tutor learning support perceived to be available. Also, chat transcripts, reflecting dialogic participation in tutorial discussions, were analyzed using a refined Exchange Structure Analysis scheme. Survey results indicated presences of cognitive and teaching elements as student perceptions of tutor/peer efforts in clarifying and providing different ideas during discussions. Similarly, discourse analysis findings showed contribution of turns conveying content directly related to learning activities, thus indicating presence of the cognitive element. Off-Topic turns were contributed for developing social relations, dealing with class management and technical matters. Interestingly, marked differences emerged in tutors' efforts to establish cognitive presence. Overall, when interpreted within the COI model, the results revealed that all three elements that constitute an effective online educational experience were present in the chat tutorial environment. Given the constructivist view that the learner's potential capacity for intellectual growth is enhanced by scaffolding through interaction, the different extent of tutor learning support found presents pedagogical implications. It is recommended that online tutors adopt the cyclical activity of reflection on educator practice to enhance awareness of the effects of cognitive, social, and teaching presences on learning experiences.
doi:10.28945/207 fatcat:636jwitwqng5vapdvffp6s2eqy