Leverage on the ‘Community of Inquiry’ to Deliver Online Programs

Posted by: Govern_school

Leverage on the ‘Community of Inquiry’ to Deliver Online Programs

By Nathan Karanja

A chef takes keen interest on food ingredients and mixes them with precision to produce a dish. Through such deliberate actions, we are able to enjoy a delicacy. This reflects the life of a trainer. From design to delivery, a trainer wants to get the right mix of training ingredients to produce the best learning experience. One great recipe used at the Kenya School of Government (KSG) to develop and deliver eLearning programs is the ‘Community of Inquiry’ model.

The model guides the creation of a conducive learning environment by emphasizing on three distinct but interdependent “presences”: Cognitive, Social and Teaching.

“Presence” is a social phenomenon and manifests through interactions among students, facilitators, and content; a rich learning experience is created where these three presences overlap.

Cognitive presence is achieved when the learning design creatively connects what is being taught with what participants already know with the aim of engaging their minds for meaning and new knowledge. The quality of instructional design and the creativity of online facilitators are key determinants of cognitive presence.

The Strategic Leadership Development Program (SLDP) for example has been designed to include a transformation and leadership activity, in each of the content areas. The activity aims at presenting participants with workplace scenarios that allow them to reflect on their work environment and link experience with content. Discussion forums are designed to allow participants to enrich their responses through content covered. The design of these aspects ensures cognitive presence.

Social presence entails a level of connection between facilitators and participants. This determines how participants take an active role in their learning experiences in so doing creating a sense of community studying.

KSG starts off with participants who are put on a collaborative social media platform (WhatsApp) that becomes the key communication tool. All programs are designed to include group work and presentations where the use of discussion forums allows participants to give their input. The synchronous sessions give an opportunity for collaboration and interrogation of team activities. Additionally, the leadership and character development module in SLDP is a blended face-to-face component that gives participants the opportunity for team building and application of leadership lessons.

Teaching presence in online learning, on the other hand, is different from the teaching presence for in-person learning. Online learning depends on course design and organization, facilitation of online discourse, and focused instruction. KSG online programs are facilitator led with live sessions to allow for engagement and direct instruction. Participants interact with the facilitator‘s subject area. It is also a practice at KSG that all content areas are introduced by a subject matter expert in a pre-recorded video mini-lecture. The community of inquiry model, therefore, provides us with a recipe to prepare great learning experiences online.

Nathan Karanja a senior Lecturer at KSG eLearning Development Institute