Collaborative Learning Experience and Opportunities

Collaborative learning is a key approach to enhance student engagement in learning. One framework for collaborative learning that comes from our Canadian neighbors to the north is called Community of Inquiry (CoI). This framework is illustrated in the following figure. CoI identifies three essential elements for supporting an optimal learning experience: social presence, cognitive presence and teaching presence. I would encourage you to explore the Community of Inquiry website at While this model was initially developed for learning in an online environment, the framework elements also apply in blended and face-to-face learning environments.

Community of Inquiry Framework

My colleagues at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in the online RNBS Completion program have implemented this framework in the design of courses and specific learning activities. The RNBS faculty hosted a workshop in early 2017 to share their knowledge and experience with implementation of CoI. Several of the faculty at my campus in Ashland attended the workshop and returned excited about implementing the framework into their courses. I recently asked them to share with me, for this column, what they implemented this past year. Here are some comments they shared:

  • I have introduced the CoI as a framework for classroom presence in the leadership course. I share the model, we talk about how each element might look in our class time together. We jot down behaviors that will support us in our classroom time together (again using the CoI elements or domains). We revisit how we are doing at midterm and at the end of the term.
  • I am using less “telling” students about a topic/concept and more shared “discovery” about a topic/concept. I am also asking students more questions about where they are in their understanding about a concept/topic, and to give life examples.
  • I introduced the concept of COI on the 1st day of Pharmacology. I talked about how it related to learning together in a pharmacology course. As a result, the whole class made a site where they combined study guides, helpful information and tips for studying for Pharm tests.
  • In our course introduction, we asked “What do you like best about the face to face learning environment”. As students responded, the comments were strategically placed on the board according to how they fit into each of the presences ….Social, Teaching, and Cognitive. After the list was populated each list was labeled Social, Teaching, and Cognitive and then circles were placed around the lists. Where they intersect is considered where the learning happens. It seems confusing but actually worked out very well. We put the comments into Poll Everywhere ( and created a wordle that we put on our site.
  • A learning activity that we changed was our Pediatric Scenarios. We had the students follow criteria to create a case study and scenario surrounding a certain diagnosis. The students then presented the scenario they created in a Grand Rounds setting. It worked well.
  • Implementing the COI model as a coordinator I invited all faculty to be present on the first day of class as we presented this model to the students and reinforced our effort as a team to commit to the framework and provided examples about how it would be applied throughout the course. We set the climate for how interactions within the course would be guided.

An example of how the social presence was reflected in a clinical course occurred as students learned the importance of their professional behaviors and how that impacts both their clinical group, faculty, but more importantly the clinical setting with patient/family and the healthcare team.

I am excited as part of the 2018 Western Institute of Nursing Conference to share that we are offering a preconference on this topic, presented by Dr. Marti Cleveland-Innes, an International expert on CoI in higher education and several OHSU faculty.

Building Collaborative Learning Environments
Purpose: The purpose of this workshop is to explore the application of a well-researched framework called Community of Inquiry (CoI). The framework is aimed at improving collaborative learning and teaching in blended and online courses.
Objectives: Participants will have the opportunity to:

  • Consider their role in the higher education reform movement.
  • Review, integrate, and critique the foundation and elements of the Community of Inquiry (CoI) theoretical framework.
  • Use the indicators in the CoI measurement instrument as an assessment tool for their own online, blended, and classroom teaching.
  • Design course activities in an interactive process – choosing blended, online, or face-to-face teaching.
  • Identify issues and possible resolutions to implementation of the CoI framework (in the context of participants’ institution).

I hope you or your faculty return from this workshop as excited about implementing learning strategies as the faculty from my campus did.