An investigation of communities of inquiry within a blended mode of delivery for technology education
Enhanced innovative learning through the purposeful development of effective blended teaching and learning environments supported by a variety of interfaces is a strategic focus of the NWU and specifically the Faculty of Educational Science. There are several emerging models to ensure effective online and blended learning but the prominent model that has attracted attention is the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework developed by Garrison, Anderson and Archer in 2000. The CoI framework is conceptually grounded in theories of teaching and learning in higher education and is consistent with John Dewey’s work on community of inquiry. CoI is deeply rooted into pragmatism as is evident in Dewey’s argument where he explains the idea of extracting meaning from experience. The focused of this study was on blended learning in a graduate teacher training course in Technology Education. The content of Technology as a subject is derived from other disciplines such as science, engineering and design. Due to the unique features of Technology as a subject, it was of great value, within this applied discipline, to investigate the unique patterns and relationships occurring among CoI presences in such a module of a teacher training graduate course. The purpose of the study was to: * develop an understanding of how the three presences (teaching presence, social presence and cognitive presence) in CoI enhance online learning; * investigate the extent of CoI in a blended mode of delivery within a TE graduate course; and * develop, implement and evaluate a module for a graduate course in Technology teacher training for a blended mode of delivery, based on requirements for the development of CoI. A design-based research methodology approach was followed for this study and included qualitative and quantitative methods in a multi-strand design. Design-based research is intrinsically linked to, and developmentally nourished by, multiple design and research methodologies, which utilises many data collection and analysis methods and which makes it suitable for a mixed method research. Findings from the literature review on the value of CoI for the effectiveness of online learning indicated that blended learning is dependent on the ability to facilitate a CoI. It is through the application of the principles for CoI that a successful transition from a face-to-face to a blended mode of delivery for the applied subject TE was possible. Findings with regard to the extent to which CoI manifested itself in this Technology graduate course indicated that teaching presence manifested itself to a good extent in the TE undergraduate course. The main findings that were of concern with regard to teaching presence included: insufficient clear instructions and communication, feelings of isolations and disconnectedness, lack of immediacy and the inability to connect online feedback to lecturer expertise. Although social presence did manifest itself to some extent in the TE undergraduate course, it was the hardest to establish out of the three presences. The main issues arising from the manifestation and existence of social presence included: insufficient sense of belonging in the online environment, students didn’t feel comfortable expressing themselves affectively as well as uneasiness to communicate, interact and participate online with other module participants. Finally, cognitive presence did manifest itself to a satisfying extent in the TE undergraduate course. Findings suggest that there was a not sufficient structured triggering events to create a sense of puzzlement which suggests that more activities must be included that will encourage reflection and therefore will improve the movement through the cognitive inquiry process. Other findings from the study indicated that students experienced time management and the coordination and management of group activities as challenging. These challenges experienced by students reflect a lack of self-regulation skills in learning presence. Other challenges included that students experienced in the online environment of blended learning included: accessibility, lack of technology skills and the newness of blended learning. Design principles for the manifestation and existence of CoI for effective learning within a TE graduate module were establish for teaching presence, social presence and cognitive presence. The research contributed to the field by reporting on the process of how CoI can be enhanced in a blended learning environment for a complex subject such as Technology, and by providing evidence based guidelines for the design and implementation of blended learning with CoI principles as guidelines.
- Education