Week 9: Community of Inquiry – Annotated Bibliography

In preparation for a MicroMOOC that I began teaching a week ago on the Canvas open network, it was necessary to evaluate research that had been done around the community of inquiry framework.

While what ended up being created as a result of this research became an annotated bibliography, however, there was one article that caught my attention.

A model for Social Presence in Online Classrooms by Wei, Chen, and Kinshuk was published February 21, 2012 in Education Technology Research and Development (an AECT journal).  This paper proposed five hypotheses and took on the creation and evaluation of an instrument for measurement prior to conducting the study.

The study had 522 participants and the data supported the researchers hypotheses.

1. User interface has a positive effect on the learners’ perceived social presence in online classrooms.

2. User interface has a positive effect on learners’ perceived social cues in online classrooms.

3. Social cues have a positive effect on leaners’ perceived social presence in online classrooms.

4. Perceived social presence has a positive effect on learners’ learning interaction in online classrooms.

5. Learning interaction has a positive effect on learners’ perception of their learning performance in online classrooms.

The study was rich and meaningful, produced a new instrument that I will make use of in the MicroMOOC, and contributed new knowledge and constructs to the field.

The other articles that were reviewed in anticipation of this effort are also included here below:

The Human Element: A analysis of the literature regarding the Community of Inquiry

Ice,P., Curtis, R., Phillips,P. & Wells, J. (2007). Using Asynchronous Audio Feedback to Enhance Teaching Presence and Students’ Sense of Community.

In this article, Ice et al. (2007) state student satisfaction is increased due to audio feedback as opposed to text feedback. The study consisted of a total of 27 graduate students.  The researchers found that students were three times more likely to incorporate audio feedback from their instructor rather than text feedback. Not only did students prefer audio feedback they also indicated that they would use this characteristic as a deciding factor for taking future online courses. Students found that audio feedback was helpful in understanding nuances and decreased social distance. From the instructors’ perspective using audio feedback reduced time by 75% and it improved the quality of feedback by 255%. This technique also increased retention and helped facilitate deeper learning on content.

Akyol, Z,, & Garrision, D.R. (n.d.). The Development of a Community of Inquiry over Time in an Online Course: Understanding the Progression and Integration of Social, Cognitive, and Teaching Prescence. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 12(3-4), 3-22. Retrieved from http://sloanconsortium.org/system/files/v11n1_8garrison.pdf

Akyol and Garrision (n.d.) focused on how social, cognitive, and teaching presence evolved over time, as well as how these three presences influenced each other. The study sample was 16 graduate students. While the majority of the course was completely online and asynchronous, the instructor did host synchronous office hours and consisted of one synchronous Elluminate meeting. During this Elluminate meeting students were given the opportunity to ask questions in regards to course content and process. Akyol and Garrision generated transcripts based on the nine weekly discussion posts. In the coding process, social presence was coded on “affective expression, open communication, and group cohesion”. Cognitive presence was coded on “the triggering event, exploration, integration, and resolution.” “Teaching presence was coded for design and organization, facilitating discourse, and direct instruction” (p. 10).  Akyol and Garrision found that students reported higher teaching presence and claimed that cognitive presence increased their level of their perceived learning. In addition, the research shows that affective expression decreased over the three time periods; however, group cohesion increased as affective expression decreased. Students also revealed a higher rate of integration contributions (using other resources to express and support their statements) than exploration. In addition, this study reified pervious research, it found “positive relationships between teaching presence and cognitive presence, teaching presence and perceived learning, teaching presence and satisfaction…[However,]compared to teaching presence, cognitive presence was found to be a more influential factor on students’ learning” (p.17).

Ke, F. (2010). Examining online teaching, cognitive, and social presence of adult students. Computers & Education, 55, 808-820, doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2010.03.013.

Using mixed methodology with a study sample of 10 online courses, Ke (2010) found that instructors that provided clear expectations and were flexible with assignment due dates were perceived by students to be more caring and approachable. Students found individual assignments to be more effective than group assignments. According to students, the top two desirable characteristics of online instructors are social presence and individual student attention.  Furthermore, Ke (2010) found that instructor self-disclosure coupled with discussion post feedback on individual student’s posts strengthened the sense of connection and motivated students. Synchronous conference calls received mixed feelings in regards to effectiveness and had low attendance. Based on this research, instructors should stay away from synchronous sessions, provided feedback timeline, and create discussion boards that consist of student-instructor, student- student, and student- content interaction. Backing up other research, Ke found that high online presences and a sense of strong community were positively correlated with learning satisfaction.

Brinthaupt, T.M., Fisher, L.S., Gardner, J.G., Raffo, D.M., & Woodard, J.B. (2011). What the best online teachers should do. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 7 (4), 515-524. Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol7no4/brinthaupt_1211.htm.

Brinthaupt et al conducted an analysis based on Ken Bain’s book “What the Best Colleges Teachers Do”. Brinthaupt et al concentrate on outlining behaviors and examples of how an online teacher can foster student engagement, stimulate intellectual development, and build rapport with students. Granszol and Grandzol (2006) argue that the quality and quantity of interactions among peers and faculty create a sense of community which fosters student engagement. Brinthaupt et al point out that student-student interaction based on quality and quantity correlate to student success. In addition, scholars highlight that lecturing should not be the only mode used as a teaching strategy because it increases learner isolation. To facilitate effective and desirable student engagement scholars recommend use of humor, multimedia (videos, podcasts, etc), blogs, and discussion forums. Brinthaupt et al. support Bain’s assumption that the best teachers explain their teaching philosophy and learning opportunities which ultimately helps the student “get to know” the instructor. Therefore, they recommend an introduction instructor video, presenting assignments as learning opportunities as opposed to course requirements, creating small group discussions and group projects. Posing provocative questions is key for stimulating intellectual development. It is recommended that these question be created by students and be posted in a discussion board. Lastly, posing interesting and creating interactive questions is ideal. For building rapport with students, it is recommended that instructors get to know their students by outlining a “getting started” section in the course in which the student is given the opportunity to self-disclose and learn about the instructor. The main instructor characteristic needed to build student rapport is flexibility. Overall, Brinthaupt et al reveal how different methodologies, techniques, and technologies can help create an ideal student learning environment and experience.

Nagel, L., & Kotze, T. (2010). Supersizing e-learning: What a COI survery reveals about teaching prescence in a large online class. Internet and Higher Education, (13), 45-51.

Nagel and Kotze highlight the peer review success in the 2009 course, which consisted of an 87% course completion rate in a cohort of 186 students. This study consisted of a mixed methodology, qualitative and quantitative. This study revealed that consistency in course design is essential for creating a positive online experience for the student. Nagel and Kotze debunk the myth of an ideal class size and argue that an effective and desirable online learning experience is not something that will occur in the future but rather is already occurring. Due to the large number of students, the instructor created a document checker template that was used by 67% of the class. A peer review process was an addition to the previous course due to instructor time constraints. Student perceived the peer reviews as positive. In this investigation, three themes emerged based on student’s least favorite thing about the peer reveals; which were high feedback expectations, higher cognitive review feedback, and dissatisfaction with the lack of grade association to the peer review assignment. In addition, the peer reviews increased cognitive presence and a sense of student belonging.

Hostetter, C., & Busch, M. (2013). Community matters: Social presence and learning outcomes. Journal of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 13 (1), 11-86. Retrived from http://josotl.indiana.edu/article/views/3268/3623

Hostetter and Busch examine the correlation between student’s learning outcome and social presence.  They define social presence as degree to which an individual is perceived as a real person through mediated communication. The study sample consisted of 121 participants in completing a survey on social presence. In addition, an analysis was conducted on the student’s discussion posts.  The analysis revealed that students found the discussion forums to help them create a feeling of belonging and community. In addition, the students that had “the highest amount of social presence had the highest scores on the Classroom Assessment Technique” (p. 82). The research results reveal that students with high social presence did better on assessments. Ultimately, the researchers found that social presence increased student performance and argued it can be a helpful tool for retention purposes, as well as help build a sense of community.

Broup, J., West, R., & Graham, C. (2011). Improving online social presence through asynchronous video. Internet and Higher Education, (15), 195-203.

Broup, West, and Graham examined three courses to investigate if video- based strategies such as voice thread and YouTube influenced student perception of the instructors’ social presence, their perceptions social presence and their own. One of the instructors in this study used voice thread to facilitate student-instructor interaction, which consisted of a weekly topic discussion. The second instructor used VoiceThread to for instructor to small group interaction. The instructor used VoiceThread to explain assignments to students, facilitate small group discussion on course topics and to provide feedback to the completed projects. The third instructor used YouTube to give class announcements, introduce weekly assignments, and pose questions to student. This instructor required students to respond with videos. The results revealed that many students found the videos diminished the distance between them and their instructors. They found the videos were natural and helped clear up confusion on content. Students also found that instructor self-disclosure and fidelity made them feel like they “knew” the instructor. Furthermore, students attributed the videos to their feeling of closeness and sense of commitment to their instructors. Some student found the asynchronous videos to have some disadvantages because other students did not see their videos due to the assignment only required posting a video once a week. This found that this requirement of posting only once a week limited the possibility for having an extended conversation. Many students commented on the ability to see personality and learn about their peers’ background due to the asynchronous videos.  Researchers found that some students did not feel connected to other students due to students used text instead of video, lack of emotional expression present in postings, and lack of student feedback or viewing of other students’ videos. The researchers advocate for the ability to have extended threaded conversations to help facilitate student-student and student-instructor interactions. In addition, they advocate for further research to be done on student performance as opposed to student perception.

Dunlap, J.C. & Lowenthal, P.R. (2009). Tweeting the night away: Using Twitter to enhance social presence. Journal of Information Systems Education, 20 (2).

Dunlap and Lowenthal (2009) argue that Twitter is an effective and desirable way to enhance social presence. The researchers state that Twitter allowed students to present themselves as “real people”. While Dunlap and Lowenthal did not make it a class requirement to participate in tweeting, they found that students used Twitter for multiple purposes. Through Twitter the instructors and students were able to collaborate, brainstorm, solve problems, and create experiences. According to Dunlap and Lowenthal Twitter brings the following benefits to an online learning environment: it helps address student issues in a timely manner; it forces the participants to write concisely. Furthermore, due to Twitter being an open community, it influenced students to be thoughtful and sensitive to their audience. Because Twitter consists of a professional community, students were able to discuss and get feedback from textbook authors. Students were given support and resources that facilitated informal learning which they incorporated into their coursework. In addition, Twitter broke the bounds of an LMS structure and extended duration time for student- student as well as student-instructor interaction. Time consuming, additive and promotion of bad grammar are the drawbacks that the researchers outline.  Dunlap and Lowenthal provide five guidelines for using Twitter in the classroom. The first guideline is the instructor should establish how using Twitter is helpful and relevant to the student. Second, the instructor must articulate clear student participation expectations. Third, the instructor should model effective Twitter use and be an active participant. Four, the instructor should encourage students to use information and resources provided in Twitter interactions into their coursework. The fifth guideline advocates for instructors to continue using twitter after the course is completed to achieve a desirable level of social presence as well as creating future interaction with past students.


Week 6: The online instructor as a microsystem continued…

This is the second post in a series that evaluates “The Online Instructor” as a Microsystem.  Last week’s post covered two of the external factors that influence or impact the system, specifically the institution and student related factors.  This week’s installment will review the remaining factors: peer group faculty, content and instructional design, and facilitation skills.  I make no assumptions that these posts will address every external or internal factor, but should be considered a work in progress that will evolve over time.  Comments on this post are welcome and your input is appreciated.

Peer Faculty Group

An online faculty member is influenced in a variety of ways by peer faculty. These can be seen in mentoring or support, recognition of excellence in online teaching, research funding, or acceptance of the online instructor as a valuable contributor to the faculty at large.

Training programs for faculty typically include ways of teaching online, use of technology to improve student learning outcomes, and pedagogical principles of effective online teaching.  A large number of institutions have created programs for online faculties that are required for completion prior to teaching online for the first time. These programs are typically blended in delivery and assist the instructor in making the transition from teaching as a face to face instructor to teaching online without making the assumption that faculty understand effective online teaching.

Recognition of excellence in online teaching is also a factor. There have been numerous studies undertaken which look at the power of praise.  It is essential to recognize talent in every situation and online teaching should be no different.  This can be done in a variety of ways in higher education.  Awards and recognition in the tenure process are obvious methods but some institutions are being creative by offering monetary rewards for faculty who scale their courses to a larger audience and by funding research regarding the efficacy of online education.  This commitment by institutions to the scholarship of teaching and learning online is one factor that contributes to the success of faculty teaching in this mode of delivery.  Faculty members who engage in research and publishing about online education help to broaden the base of information about the field and give back to the larger community of online educators. As with any peer group, acceptance is important to the participants. Online instructors should be included in all events that face-to-face faculty and blended faculty participate in.

Content and Instructional Design


There are a few issues related to how textbooks used in online courses have impact on the online instructor. These are: (1) online instructors are often not involved in the decision making process when it comes to choosing textbooks, (2) digital resources that are available to the online instructor, (3) evolution of the textbook to an e-book, (4) and the rising cost of textbooks.

Faculty members that teach the face-to-face sections of the class often select instructional materials, which are used in online courses.  Inclusion of the online instructor in the decision making process or allowing them to choose different instructional materials for the online version of the course is important.  Many textbooks today come with digital materials to support the online instructor in the creation of their online courses.  However, there is a recent and growing shift to digital or eBooks by the higher education publishers.  Brian Kibby, president of McGraw Hill, announced in fall of 2012 that all instructional materials would be in digital form within three years.  There has also been an increase in publishers and platforms for ebooks receiving venture capital funding to obtain a portion of the “textbook pie” as this digital shift is occurring.  While the move to digital textbooks is a strategic move based upon existing technology possibilities, it is important to note that recent articles have highlighted that students find textbooks too expensive and that they are not buying them.  Students are making their way through classes without ever purchasing the textbooks.  The transition to digital texts will also make them more affordable for the learner, which is a noble mission on the part of the publishers, one that students will appreciate.

Instructor, or instructional designer, created materials are the heart of the online course.  It is these elements that allow the instructor to have a sense of presence in their course.  Instructor presence is one of the elements within the Community of Inquiry framework and can be enhanced by leveraging the power of learning technologies and multimedia.  Instructors are leveraging the power of audio and video in their assignments and assessments, not just in the content of the course.  With the advent of the MOOC, which allows instructors to “see” other online courses for the first time, these materials are getting more and more attention and in some cases are driving revamping as well.

Open Educational Resources

One way to reduce the costs of materials for students is to leverage open educational resources.  Open Educational Resources are gaining attention as the Open Learning movement is underway. The largest challenges and barriers presented require innovative thinking in order to expand access to a global repository of learning assets that could transform higher education. Opening up access to materials that can be translated and repurposed internationally will help developing countries save on course content development, facilitate the sharing of knowledge, and address the digital divide by providing capacity-building resources for educators (Olcott, 2012).

Facilitation Skills

The “great” online instructor is a facilitator of learning within the online environment.  They are effective communicators, give timely feedback, build rapport, have incredible instructor and social presence, and know how to set expectations and manage their time wisely.  The great online instructor also remembers that teaching is learning and continually improves their course based upon their experiences of what worked and what did not.

Teaching online is not for everyone, however, with the right set of facilitation skills the learning experience online can be just as good as, if not better than, those in traditional face-to-face settings.

While this post may not address every challenge or opportunity within the microsystem, it is a collection of thoughts toward that end.  There is much work to do to ensure that the online instructor receives the needed support to continue to deliver high quality experiences for our students.  I look forward to the years ahead and being a part of that support system.


Artino, A., (2008) Promoting academic motivation and self-regulation: practical guidelines for online instructors, TechTrends, 52(3), 37-45.

Banathy, B. (1999). Systems thinking in higher education: Learning comes to focus. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 16(2), 133-145.

Banathy, B. (1992). Chapter two: The systems-environment model. In A Systems View of Education Concepts and Principles for Effective Practice (pp. 25-58). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Cheng, Y., & Yeh, H., (2009) From concepts of motivation to its application in instructional design: Reconsidering motivation from an instructional design perspective, British Journal of Educational Technology, 40(4), 597-605.

Eoyang, G. (1996). A brief introduction to complexity in organizations. Chaos Limited, Inc.,

Keller, J., (1999) Using the ARCS motivation process in computer-based instruction and distance education, New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 78.

Olcott, D. (2012). OER perspectives: emerging issues for universities. Distance Education, 33(2), 283-290.

Reigeluth, C. (2004). Chaos theory and the sciences of complexity: Foundations for transforming education. Informally published manuscript, Instructional Systems Technology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, Retrieved from http://www.indiana.edu/~syschang/decatur/documents/chaos_reigeluth_s2004.pdf

Week 5: The Online Instructor as a Microsystem

In my systems thinking PhD course, I have recently been tasked with identifying a Microsystem and then evaluating the components that it is comprised of. In this effort, I have chosen to evaluate “The Online Instructor” as a Microsystem and analyze internal and external factors that influence or impact this system.  This blog post is one in a series of posts that will continue to analyze the online instructor as a microsystem and should be considered a work in progress.  You comments and suggestions for improvement are greatly appreciated.

At the micro level, the factors that directly influence the online instructor include: the institution where the faculty member is employed, the students, peer faculty, instructional design and course content, and the instructor’s own facilitation skills.  Due to the complexity of the system and the details surrounding the elements that influence it, this week’s post will focus primarily on the elements of the institution and the online instructor’s students.

The Online Instructor as a Microsystem

The Online Instructor as a Microsystem

By exploring these areas in detail, we find that they each impact the online instructor in a number of ways.


Institutional support and readiness related to online learning are key factors that directly impact an online faculty member.  In order for an institution to be prepared to support online education, there are many key factors that must be considered. Institutions that have successfully implemented online campuses or virtual course offerings usually have several things in common.  As a first example, successful implementation of these types of programs typically begins with senior leadership support. In these cases distance education is seen as a key element of the strategic plan for the university. Secondly, these have the needed support from their legal department, faculty committee or senate, and administration to enable them to create and implement policies that support distance education and the faculty who teach online.  Policies may already exist or may need to be developed related to intellectual property, the family education rights and privacy act or FERPA, the American’s with disabilities act or ADA, copyright compliance and others.

The third example related to an institution’s online programs are the degree to which they are supported with technology infrastructure, support staff (help desk), professional development programs, training, and instructional design support which can all impact and assist faculty in the creation of high quality online courses.


Students may enter higher education with a variety of skills and abilities, varying financial pressures, and very different levels of motivation.  When students choose an online program of study, they need to consider their level of technology readiness as well as their ability to self regulate their own learning.

As students enter online education for the first time after being taught in the traditional classroom they need new skills to adapt to the change in learning environment. As similar tale is told of the young student going off to college, as she enters the lecture hall filled with 500 students rather than being one of 25 receiving personalized attention.  Yes, the online environment can lead to feelings of isolation, but when faculty utilize facilitation skills that truly “humanize” their online course and establish a rich forum for communication with the instructor and peers it transforms the online course into a rich and robust online learning community.

The rising cost of higher education and the growing student debt bubble is putting additional financial pressures on potential students as they consider the true costs and the ROI of a degree.  No longer is it simple mathematics (student X + education Y = increased earnings over time Z).  The changing job market is adding pressure to the situation, making the choice regarding whether or not to pursue a degree a difficult one.

Motivation is a psychological driving force that supports or compels actions toward a desired result.  A review of the literature regarding learner motivation reveals the need for extrinsic and intrinsic elements, self-regulated learning, a feeling of connectedness, and the use of motivational messages.  These needs also exist for students attending classes virtually or in online settings. According to industry leaders “There is no doubt that there are serious motivational challenges among distance learners.  The attrition rate alone can be viewed as an indication of motivational problems (Keller, 1999).”

Extrinsic motivation comes from outside of the individual. Whether a threat of punishment or receipt of a reward, extrinsic motivations can be powerful.  However, in the absence of the external stimuli some learners often become less motivated.  Engaging learners in competition is one way to draw them in and tap into their extrinsic motivations.

Interest or enjoyment in a task is often referred to as an intrinsic motivator. Intrinsically motivated students are motivated to learn for a variety of reasons. These students may want answers to their own unanswered questions, may be competitive in nature, or might simply desire self-improvement.  Students who are intrinsically motivated prefer being autonomous, are usually self-regulating learners, are often determined, and are interested in mastery of topics.

Self-regulated learning refers to the learning that comes from the influence of students’ own feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that are oriented toward reaching their personal goals (Artino, 2008).  Self-regulated learners are sometimes quite determined to achieve a goal and will bounce back from failures more easily.  These leaners are more likely to engage in tasks for a greater length of time, and think deeply about the tasks in which they are engaging (Cheng & Yeh, 2008). 


Artino, A., (2008) Promoting academic motivation and self-regulation: practical guidelines for online instructors, TechTrends, 52(3), 37-45.

Banathy, B. (1999). Systems thinking in higher education: Learning comes to focus. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 16(2), 133-145.

Banathy, B. (1992). Chapter two: The systems-environment model. In A Systems View of Education Concepts and Principles for Effective Practice (pp. 25-58). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Cheng, Y., & Yeh, H., (2009) From concepts of motivation to its application in instructional design: Reconsidering motivation from an instructional design perspective, British Journal of Educational Technology, 40(4), 597-605.

Eoyang, G. (1996). A brief introduction to complexity in organizations. Chaos Limited, Inc.,

Keller, J., (1999) Using the ARCS motivation process in computer-based instruction and distance education, New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 78.

Reigeluth, C. (2004). Chaos theory and the sciences of complexity: Foundations for transforming education. Informally published manuscript, Instructional Systems Technology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, Retrieved from http://www.indiana.edu/~syschang/decatur/documents/chaos_reigeluth_s2004.pdf