What does your syllabus say about your online course? I just completed a research project developing a rubric to identify the potential for a community of inquiry in online college courses. Then I used the rubric to review 23 online course syllabi from my university’s College of Education. I found a high amount of cognitive presence in the instructional activities and extensive and varied learner support. Overall, the syllabi met, or exceeded, a moderate level of planned activities to engender a community of inquiry in their online courses. As you may surmise, the online course syllabi were very detailed. I did not review the actual courses, only the syllabi.
Here are the examples of cognitive online activities used in the undergraduate and graduate level courses: developing questionnaires, peer review of papers, pre- and post-assessments, analysis of case studies, critically review an article, development of a personal instructional design model, student-created multiple-choice questions, hyper inquiry team project, academic controversy assignment, instructional design project, peer evaluations of project, simulation project, develop a creativity workshop, developing an online course, developing course evaluations, creating a welcome video, creating an academic contract, creating a course checklist, writing a literature review, completing CITI module, evaluating a program, completing a meta-evaluation of a program evaluation, develop an autobiography, conduct child observations, weekly self-evaluation of own learning, create a professional development plan, essay exams, develop a book trailer, develop a podcast, develop lesson plans, develop a how-to video, write a blog, develop a personal learning network, develop a digital story, develop a wiki, curate digital books and other electronic resources, and participate in monitored teacher education field experience.
This Friday, I submitted my first research proposal to my university’s institutional review board (IRB). My title is Planned Communication Actions and Levels of Interactivity in Online Course Syllabi. The purpose of the study is to determine the inclusion and strength of interaction treatments (e.g. student-teacher, student-student) in online course offerings and the types of interactions that occur within them. I’ll explore the instructional technologies used to communicate content and build discourse in online courses in relation to these interaction treatments. The complexities of online learning require an analysis of all the potential interactions involved in the communication loop to maximize course efficacy and student satisfaction. Since it’s problematic for a student to obtain access to live faculty courses, I’ll focus on course syllabi instead.
I will use faculty syllabi to conduct a content analysis of the mode, frequency, and diversity of instructional tool usage, as well as the types and frequencies of interaction treatments. Cummins, Bonk, and Jacobs (2002) conducted a similar syllabi study that looked at formats and levels of communication of web-based courses. They didn’t find much interactivity and reported an underutilization of the Internet and Web tools overall. Since that study was over a decade ago, I hope to uncover increased faculty usage of instructional technology and the Internet, and higher interactivity levels to engender a community of inquiry online.
My goal is to identify the actual versus the theoretically optimal online learning environment and behaviors that foster a community of inquiry—the theoretical underlying premise being, the more interactive the course, the higher the level of student satisfaction and course achievement. See my theoretical concept map below which indicates a correlation of student satisfaction to the strength of interaction treatments. This is based on my literature review of meta-analysis conducted on this subject.