This blog post is simply a review of what I’ve been reading as I race to catch up and get my head around all that’s been going on in Exploring Innovations in Networked Work and Learning #MSLOC430 in Weeks 1 and 2.
From one of the following: networked learning, personal learning networks, MOOCs and communities of inquiry, the idea is to investigate a model that’s new to you, then write a post or start a discussion about what you see as the defining features of that model. If only it was that easy: time constraints, playing catch up and choosing to investigate the concept of a Community of Inquiry (CoI), which sounds straight forward and like it ought be highly relevant to today’s world of learning and work but turns out to be a bit of a dark horse, an unsung hero, full of unrequited potential in a world that’s racing headlong towards destination social/network, or wherever.
So what is a Community of Inquiry and how does it fit in to the evolving learning landscape?
Wikipedia has a it, broadly defined, as “any group of individuals involved in a process of empirical or conceptual inquiry into problematic situations”. A model that emphasizes knowledge embedded in a social context and represents “a process by which to create a deep and meaningful (collaborative-constructivist) learning experience through the development of three interdependent elements – social, cognitive and teaching presence”. This is starting to ring bells. Turns out I’m familiar with the concept after all. CoI is a model designed to promote effective online teaching, especially in terms of discussion.
But it’s with the mention of the word ‘teacher’ that things got interesting. You have to realize that one of the features of this open course is to bring together ideas and innovations in networked learning from both education and from business organizations. Whilst I’d been wondering if, or how, a CoI can function with no identified teacher, Helen Blunden, in a cracking post entitled ‘cMOOC, Social Learning Guided Design or Community of Inquiry – All The Same?‘, really ignited discussion (see Google+ discussion 1 and discussion 2) when she asked “who can act as the “teacher” in a Community of Inquiry?” Is it someone from L&D, a SME or a professional community manager? But, as Cedric Borzee noted, whoever it is, it’s an interesting challenge to find the right person with the right mix of skills and kudos for this role (paraphrased). It was in this vein that I was introduced to the work of Sahana Chattopadhyay, and I really enjoyed reading her recent article, ‘L&D’s New Hatrack‘. It called out all the new skills required by learning professionals in business organizations, with community management and facilitation of virtual collaboration high on the list. Perhaps the Community of Inquiry Model can be appropriated to a business setting and utilized within Enterprise Social Network platforms (ESNs).
Further perhaps, in an organizational setting, as Jennifer Rainey makes the case, Communities of Inquiry might be used to promote change. After all,
the CoI has a purpose – help the organization lead and navigate change more effectively. A structure – the framework comprised of roles & responsibilities, expectations, and guiding principles. An education component – leveraging virtual collaboration tools, change management concepts and tools. And a “teacher” […]. But the purpose of the CoI is not solely focused on learning. It’s about applying that learning to help facilitate organizational change
or, again like Helen Blunden asks, “solve business performance problems?”
On my own musings, as to whether or how a CoI can function with no identified teacher, I didn’t get very far. I was thinking of how learning might occur when there is no recognized ‘expert’ to scaffold learning. That’s people learning from each other, with each other. But deeper exploration of that will have to wait for another day and another context. I enjoyed investigating this learning topic and its application in a business context. I’m looking forward to the next couple of weeks where we’ll investigate an innovative topic from a business or organizational context (I think ). So, we’ll see what’s to be learnt there.
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