Karen Swan, Ed.D.

Karen Swan, Ed.D.

Long before people and communities were connected through the internet, distance education existed to facilitate learning over large spans of geographic distance. Learning material in a pre-internet, pre-industrial setting was naturally rigid and student interaction was challenging if not non-existent. I recently read this chapter from Dr. Karen Swan's research in the book Understanding Distance Learning in the 21st Century: Teaching and Learning in a New Era. Dr. Swan writes about how the advent of online learning has changed the the model of learning from a materials-focused approach to a student-focused approach. 

   Community of Inquiry (CoI) model     CC BY-SA 3.0

 Community of Inquiry (CoI) model CC BY-SA 3.0

This model of online learning is called the Community of Inquiry (CoI) model. It's based on the notion that a learning community must be developed with a cognitive, social, and teaching presence. 

What I found most interesting from Swan's writing was the reference to research that indicates a correlation between successful online learning and the individual student's ability to engage and connect with her or his peers in a learning setting. Certainly this connection is easier to obtain in a physical setting; considering the past difficulty students likely faced in pre-industrial/pre-internet distance learning settings, it's clear that the required framework element of social presence is becoming more attainable as our tools for connecting improve.

Here's a bit more on the CoI model as it applies to an academic setting: