Anderson, T., Poellhuber, B., & McKerlich, R. (2010). Self-paced learners meet social software: An exploration of learners’ attitudes, expectations, and experience. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration XIII(III).
Most traditional and online courses use a group-pacing model, but self-paced models give students more access and control. Given the increased control self-pacing provides, there is a corresponding lower social interaction and higher rate of attrition. Varying backgrounds of students do correlate with persistence, but the design of course materials and support provided to students is all that can be adjusted by the school/instructor. Social networking and other communication technologies allow us provide more learning support and interaction. Social software should provide sociability, a sense of trust and belonging; interaction, how connected students are with teachers and peers; and peer collaboration, constructivist learning with cohorts or informal groups. Many students are interested in interacting with peers, so course technology design should make this easier to do. Connectivist learning models have many of the answers. Survey of student interest in social technologies revealed a variety of responses. They are largely confident in using the internet but have only moderate exposure to many social media tools, with older students being less familiar than younger students. About half the students are interested in interacting with other students, and half are not, thus online collaborative activities should be compelling but not required.
Arbaugh, J.B. (2008) Does the community of inquiry framework predict outcomes in online MBA courses? International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 9(2).
The CoI framework describes teaching presence, social presence, and cognitive presence. Teaching presence includes course design and organization, direct instruction, and instructor facilitation. Social presence includes group cohesion, open communication, and affective expression. Cognitive presence includes a process where a problem is identified, explored, meaning constructed, and then the problem is solved. Study findings showed that the model accounted for 54% of the variance in student learning, with teaching presence and cognitive presence the strongest predictors of success. Social presence was a smaller predictor but still necessary to support the other two. Simpler or more familiar learning environments should produce higher cognitive gains (CLT).
de Souza, C. S., & Preece, J. (2004). A framework for analyzing and understanding online communities. Interacting with Computers, 16(3), 579-610.
This article points out two components by which an online community can be assessed: sociability (people, purposes, and policies) and usability (software). In their framework, these two components have to be aligned to produce success. Any community (whether online, offline, or a hybrid) will have sociability factors that change as the people (or purposes or policies) in the community change. For any online community, the software has to work with those people, purposes, and policies. They continue on to discuss Semiotics and HCI and how communication takes place among users and designers. The important part is that everyone is communicating all the time, but the message doesn't always get across how we expect it.
Gagne, R.M., Wager, W.W., Golas, K.C., & Keller, J.M. (2005). Online learning. In Principles of Instructional Design (5th Edition). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
While many instructional design theories related to offline computer-based instruction also apply to online learning, the networked nature of online learning means that there are additional affordances for students and teachers. Students can be located anywhere around the world and still participate with others and costs for delivering instruction are lower. Specialized software is not needed, as everything can be accessed through a web browser, content is delivered more efficiently, courses are flexible in allowing both self-paced and group-paced activities, updating content is instant, web analytics provide robust tracking of behaviors, and interactions among others can be increased. However, there may also be issues if students are overwhelmed with the amount of information without a clear path to follow through it all, and if social connections are not cultivated, individuals can be left on their own. If learners are required to access materials synchronously, that may cause scheduling conflicts; on the other hand, if learners are required to access materials on their own personal time, they may be unsatisfied with required training taking away from personal activities. Computer literacy is an important consideration. Learning management systems and other collaborative environments can support group work and constructivist teaching methods. Collaboration can be synchronous or asynchronous and text- or multimedia-based. Blended learning, with a combination of online and face to face activities is also an option.
Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.
The Community of Inquiry framework refers to three major components - cognitive presence, social presence, and teaching presence. Teaching presence is getting the conversation started and keeping it focused, cognitive presence is the desire to exchange ideas, and social presence is how well everyone gets along.
Lowenthal, P.R. (2010). The evolution and influence of social presence theory on online learning. In Online Learning and Adult Education. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.
The internet can be social and bring people together or separate and isolate them. It can also cause addiction and dependence. By studying the sociality of a network, we can better understand and deal with the negative issues while promoting the positives. Early research in computer mediated communication (CMC) showed that it did some things well and other things not as well. The theory of social presence was developed to help determine the quality of communication between people. Mediums with a high degree of social presence are considered warm and personal. The meaning surrounding a CMC message depends highly on context, thus initial research in primarily business environments made educational researchers and practitioners wary of trying out CMC, although those fears have been generally unfounded. Additional research in social presence theory has supported the principle that the extent to which a given aspect of a communication medium (visual, audio, etc.) is important depends on the task for which it is being used. Media richness is the extent to which a communication carries understanding and data. While some cues that promote richness are filtered out in CMC, users of the system find ways to convey that same richness, such as a winking emoticon where a physical wink is not possible. Future research in this area will move from online learning to the blurring of boundaries between the classroom and personal communications in social media.
McLuhan, M. (1964). The medium is the message. In Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: Signet.
The personal and social influences of any medium (or technology) can be positive or negative. Technologies shape us and affect our interactions. The example given is that the railway sped up expansion and growth of society, leading new cities and types of work, where the expansion of the airplane undoes the work the railroad did and builds different types of cities and work. The technology of the light bulb allows certain activities to take place, which could not otherwise, thus those activities are the message inherent in that technology. “The message, it seemed, was the content, as people used to ask what a painting was about. Yet they never thought to ask what a melody was about, nor what a house or a dress was about.” The content of the message often distracts from the real substance which should be the medium and the structural changes it makes in us and in our society.
Vonderwell, S. (2002). An examination of asynchronous communication experiences and perspectives of students in an online course: A case study. The Internet and Higher Education, 6, 77-90.
This study looked at how asynchronous communication affects student learning and whether or not it enhances it. Interaction among students and between students and teachers is an important part of the learning process. Pulling apart and putting back together beliefs and knowledge help promote collective knowledge building. Introverts tend to participate more in CMC environments, while extroverts tend to participate less. In the study, an online technology course for education majors, the students appreciated the opportunity to interact electronically with the instructor and that they did not worry as much about what other students thought of them as they do in a traditional classroom. It seemed easier to ignore questions in the online classroom that would have to be immediately answered in a face to face environment, so some negative aspects frustrated some students. Response time by the instructor tended to slow down toward the end of the semester, where responses and grading were fast at the beginning of the semester. Some groups had a hard time collecting information needed to write group papers, while others felt that they learned from each other and collaborated well. Students attempted to ensure their writing was more clear to avoid miscommunication issues. A balance should exist between quick instructor feedback and giving students time to carry out their own inquiry.
Walther, J.B. (1996) Computer-Mediated Communication: Impersonal, Interpersonal, and Hyperpersonal Interaction. Communication Research 23(1).
The initial line of research into CMC showed that the medium is not rich or personal enough to convey important interpersonal communication or effective task-related communications. So if it’s not good for tasks or socializing, what is it used for? In early studies with zero history groups using CMC, it was effective as a task-centered communication mechanism. Low social interaction in these zero history groups led CMC to be pegged as depersonalized. For groups with an impersonal focus, this is actually a good thing. Task orientation without affect getting in the way was a bonus. This is especially true as social power relationships are minimized and the playing field is equalized for all participants. The absence of verbal and visual cues leads to this. These findings were quickly countered with examples of friendship, love, and rewarding exchanges in social communities online. What became quickly obvious is that an unknown variable was affecting online exchanges. Speed appears to be one of these variables, as long term studies of CMC interactions show that eventually users convey all the same information as they might have face to face; it just took longer due to lack of a channel that directly transmits this information in person. Long-lasting groups have an anticipation of future interaction that promotes a sociality and feeling of cooperation. So rather than it being CMC that causes a lack of sociality, it is other features that do so. Comparing synchronous and asynchronous CMC, the asynchronous communications tended to have more social aspects, as participants could communicate at their leisure, where the synchronous communications necessarily had to focus on the task at hand with a limited amount of time available. Even task-related asynchronous communication has the potential to be better, as communications can be more deliberate and thoughtful. CMC can be compared not only to face to face communication but written forms of communication. CMC is rarely impersonal, but when it is it is due to other factors than the CMC system itself. CMC is interpersonal when users have time to compare, discuss, and otherwise build relationships. It just needs time, as it happens slower than face to face communication. CMC is hyperpersonal when users manage relationships in a better way online than they might face to face. Providing limited channels to communicate allows users to select what to present and how without preconceived notions getting in the way.
Wiley, D. (2006). Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education; Panel on Innovative Teaching and Learning Strategies, February 2-3 2006. Accessed September 11, 2007 from http://www.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/hiedfuture/3rd-meeting/wiley.pdf
The world has moved from analog, closed, tethered, isolated, generic, and consumptive to an environment that is digital, open, mobile, connected, personal, and participative. Education tends to hold back; even a typical online course has moved to digital and mobile, but lags behind, keeping students isolated, using closed materials, generic content that is the same for everyone, and they must consume what is given to them rather than being allowed to create. Ensuring openness and transparency gives students and teachers the ability to be connected, personal, and creative. Without openness the classroom remains as it always has.
Xin, C. (2012). A Critique of the Community of Inquiry Framework. Journal of Distance Education 26(1).
The CoI refers to three key elements: cognitive presence, social presence, and teaching presence. As those aspects interact, learning takes place. Much of the research, however, is focused on the three pieces individually, not necessarily how they work together. The author claims that the CoI framework could actually apply in any educational environment, that it is not specifically suited to online asynchronous communication. The aspects are really just various functions on a continuum, just like colors in a rainbow, and while it serves a purpose to separate them, in fact many interactions serve more than one purpose. The author points out the concept of moderating as a function that communicates in a way that combines cognitive and social aspects. The moderating function includes providing context, monitoring conversation, summarizing conversations, and ensuring communication links are not broken. The author points out confusing of the term presence; the only way to show presence online is to communicate. You can’t just lurk. The CoI framework actually focuses on ability to perform different types of tasks, but if those functions are not carried out, presence is not displayed. Thus the social presence construct is supportive and implied. There is also ambiguity regarding whether social presence measures an action or a result. Regarding the teaching presence construct, many of the teaching presence indicators overlap with the moderating function. The process of creating orderly discussion out of chaos is the same process that constructs knowledge. The key is that communication must be consistently and intentionally produced by student and teacher. A face to face class is successful if students come and leave on time. An online discussion has no arbitrary beginning and end, thus a successful conversation online requires work from participants to keep it going.