This week I started a cMOOC called Exploring Innovations in Networked Work and Learning where we will explore the four models of learning and how they can be applied in the workplace. These are:
- Networked learning
- Personal learning networks
- Communities of Inquiry
Our first task of the week was to either:
- Option 1: Explore a model that is new to you. Write a post or start a discussion about what you see as the defining features of that model.
- Option 2: This is for participants who have experience with one or more of these models. Based on your experience, what are the subtleties that novices overlook or under appreciate about any one (or more) of these models?
Community of Inquiry
I decided to explore the Community of Inquiry (CoI) as I had never heard of this term before and wondered if there was another opportunity to apply this concept to workplace learning. Here is a quick explanation of what it is:
My immediate reaction to the readings was to look at it from the business perspective but I honed in on “the teacher” (read: Facilitator not Moderator). For some strange reason, I had completely discounted the Learning and Development department perspective (on learning outcomes) and role in a Communities of Inquiry because I was thinking of how a CoI may be set up for business (on performance outcomes).
In particular, the questions I had running in my mind were:
- “How can Communities of Inquiry help solve business performance problems?”
- “Who can act as the “teacher” in a Community of Inquiry?” (Does and should this vary dependent on the community in question?)
- “Does Learning & Development have a role as the “teacher” in a Community of Inquiry or should this be better served by someone who is an external consultant or someone within the business?” For example, someone who has a social presence themselves, seen as a role model for business or the particular topic and one who has community moderation skills?
- How is a CoI different to a cMOOC or a Guided Social Learning Experience exactly? They all look like one and the same thing.
In my head I was thinking “how can this be of benefit to say, a group of business bankers, engineers, doctors etc who have a pesky performance problem to solve together? Who would they (and could they) trust and respect as a”teacher”?
I am currently working on the development of a social learning guided design program with Coca Cola Amatil called the “Work, Connect and Learn Program” with their national engineering and maintenance teams so if I was going to apply context to the above questions it would be something like:
- Would someone from their internal Learning and Development team be more effective as the “teacher” in their community of inquiries?
- Would someone external (like myself, a consultant external to their business) be more effective as the “teacher” where I may not know their business? Or, can the “teacher” be an external consultant who is in similar line of work say in the supply or manufacturing industry?
- Would someone from their own internal business team (eg a respected senior leader, engineer or maintenance staff) be more effective as the “teacher” instead?
- Or, does it really matter who the “teacher”in a community of inquiry is as long as they can get people thinking critically and to facilitate discourse and reflection? (some “third party”).
There are pros and cons for each of the above and I believe it really does depend on the situation. However, there is also another factor at play – and that is the teacher not only providing contextual knowledge relevant to the subject but also being a social presence themselves. That is, having subject knowledge, acting and role modelling open social learning behaviours and this is where I believe that Learning and Development is just starting to explore but still has some way to go. You can read about my experience in “Social Learning? Whatever THAT means!”
I don’t think I’ve come close to defining a Community of Inquiry and its application in the workplace because upon reflection of the readings this week, I think that a CoI is similar – if not the same – as a connectivist MOOC or as Jane Hart (@C4LPT) calls them more appropriately, “Guided Social Learning Design Experiences”
If anything, it’s made me realise that for the last few years I have been developing “Communities of Inquiry” using social platforms and tools but simply calling them “social learning programs”.
As for the question of who is the “teacher?” part of me is erring on the side that it really could be anyone who knows and understands the subject matter, is interested in how people learn (can facilitate) and who is social themselves.
Will it always be a member of the Learning and Development team? It doesn’t always have to be.
And just FYI, I have put “teacher” in exclamation marks because I don’t think it aligns in a business context. I don’t use this word in business because of the perceptions and connotations of schools and education.
You can read more about how I have done this in my post: A Way To Work, Connect and Learn in Your Job.