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Tag: Helen Blunden

A Community of Inquiry: initial inquiry (from the business end)

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.

Community of Inquiry (CoI)
Community of Inquiry (CoI)


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).

Community of Inquiry - for Promoting Change and Problem Solving ?
Community of Inquiry – for Promoting Change and Problem Solving ?

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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Look out: innovation in open networked learning ahead #MSLOC430

This post is going to be a bit of a mashup. Mainly because I haven’t blogged in a while and I want to throw a few crumbs of learning gleaned in the meantime into the mix. See what comes up.

I’ve been thinking about openness quite a lot recently. That’s why before Christmas I participated in Connected Courses #ccourses

Connected Courses is a collaborative network of faculty in higher education developing online, open courses that embody the principles of connected learning and the values of the open web.

and why over Christmas I read Martin Weller‘s book, The Battle for Open – how openness won and why it doesn’t feel like victory.

So with both of these in mind, no wonder I was interested to see Jeff Merrell post his plans to open up his course (on enterprise knowledge sharing or enterprise social networks (ESNs)). Yes, that’s the very same Jeff Merrell of the the open, online seminar Exploring Personal Learning Networks #xplrpln that I participated in back in 2013; and which turned out to be a truly powerful learning event, not just for me but for a number of other participants too (see my post at the time and Helen Blunden’s or Maureen Crawford’s just recently).


Popping the lid off‘ a regular college class is an intriguing development. Now that the hype surrounding MOOCs has died down it shows the kind of experimentation (in the original connectivist sense of the phenomenon) that’s possible, a point that Martin Weller makes in his book.

Much of the hype around MOOCs has positioned them as being in competition to formal education. While this adversarial framing may make good sense in terms of a media narrative […] it underplays both the actual impact of MOOCs and the adaptability of education. An alternative perspective is to view MOOCs as being similar to OERs, and complementary to formal education.

Here he cites the example of ‘opening up a portion’ of a course, and goes on to give a whole load of reasons why, and the positives that might be gained.

The aim(s) expressed for Exploring Innovations in Networked Work and Learning is to explore the potential innovation that comes from criss-crossing domain boundaries (my kind of thing!!), that is from business and management practices and from education or organizational learning practitioners, and also to integrate other (out there) enterprise social networking enthusiasts with students enrolled in the face-to-face class.

I welcome this kind of innovation, and anything that helps learners to connect and learn in the open has got to be a good thing. Shall I see you there?

OERs = open educational resources


Weller, M. 2014. Battle for Open: How openness won and why it doesn’t feel like victory. London: Ubiquity Press. DOI:

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.