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Tag: online learning

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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POT Cert Week 21: short and deep, a nod to online education theory #potcert

This week, under the heading of “Introduction to Online Education Theory”, POTCert addresses not only a contemporary and challenging topic but one which has fundamental implications for future society. Consequently, because of the colossal scope and contentious nature of the topic, and in order to avoid posting something that although tries to encompass as much as possible only serves to be vague and unfathomable, I’m just going to provide a few highlights of a couple of articles that focussed my reading and comment on one or two of the prominent points.

Knowledge is a powerful thing - with it, anything's possible.
Knowledge is a powerful thing; with it, anything’s possible.

First off, in his article, Individual Knowledge in the Internet Age, Larry Sanger is scornful of some of the sentiment currently circulating in education, saying:

some Internet boosters argue that Google searching serves as a replacement for our memory and that students need not memorize — need not learn — as much as they did before the Internet

educationists inspire us with the suggestion that collaborative learning online can serve as “the core model of pedagogy.” Knowledge is primarily to be developed and delivered by students working in online groups

and further, he says that these “Internet boosters” advocate that

the co-creation of knowledge can and should take the place of reading long, dense, and complex books.

Sanger fears that

if we take their advice […] we will have a society of drones, enculturated by hive minds, who are able to work together online but who are largely innocent of the texts and habits of study that encourage deep and independent thought.

He doesn’t see how using the tools of the Internet are any real substitute for

the difficult work of developing individual minds.

His key underlying assumption is that

a liberal education and the Western enlightenment ideals that it inculcates not only are valuable but are essential to our future.

Here, I’d counter that deep independent thought is all well and good, but hasn’t this led to a situation today where information and expertise has become siloed; and besides, drawing now on my recent experience in the eLearning and Digital Culutres MOOC, what’s to say that such humanist values and enlightenment ideals actually beget some pinnacle of human achievement, because as things stand currently in the world, there’s a whole lot that could be working out much better: the environment, equality, social justice and the eradication of poverty to name but a few. It may well be, as transhumanist thinking avers, that by realising the benefits of emerging technologies we could indeed overcome fundamental human limitations. Maybe, the knowledge that’s needed now, to meet the complex challenges of the 21st century and beyond, can no longer be derived from deep independent thought and must indeed be summoned up as collective intelligence, or at the very least facilitated through networked learning.

“Connection forming is natural”, says George Siemens in his article, Networks, Ecologies, and Curatorial Teaching.

It doesn’t need coercion. We do it with language, images, video. We create, express, connect. And software is now available that aids this innate activity with unprecedented fervor. We build competence, make sense, learn, and growth through our connections.

Siemens asks us to consider what he calls the ” happy little edublogger”, whose

established networks [and] experience enables them to put new developments into a historical context. They assist others to create networks…but they do more. They serve as curators of ideas, connections, philosophies, and world views. They create frameworks of interpreting and understanding history, new technologies, and trends through their work and public dialogue.

In the relation to the role of the “individual formerly known as teacher”, Siemens comments that he’s

rather sick of “sage on stage” and “guide on the side” comparisons. The clear dichotomy chafes.

He acknowledges that

power in classrooms has shifted from the teacher at the centre

preferring to use the term

‘network administrator’ […] It’s the basis on which teaching and education should be founded. But I think something more is needed, something that places some level of value or interpretation on content, knowledge, and concepts being explored.

Here he offers the idea of

the joint model of network administrator and curator form the foundation of what education should be.

Explaining the addition of curator as

an expert [who] exists in the artefacts displayed, resources reviewed in class, concepts being discussed. But [who’s] behind the scenes providing interpretation, direction, provocation, and yes, even guiding. A curatorial teacher acknowledges the autonomy of learners, yet understands the frustration of exploring unknown territories without a map. A curator is an expert learner. Instead of dispensing knowledge, he creates spaces in which knowledge can be created, explored, and connected. While curators understand their field very well, they don’t adhere to traditional in-class teacher-centric power structures.

Certainly, as Siemens points out

much [is] happening in terms of defining what is acceptable authority for information and knowledge.

Undoubtedly, because education’s no longer asking the same questions and can no longer be based on once familiar assumptions.

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Sanger,L. (2010)  Individual Knowledge in the Internet Age. Available at:

Siemens, G. (2007) Networks, Ecologies, and Curatorial Teaching. Available at:

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