chapter  3
13 Pages

Community of Inquiry

Realizing the potential of e-learning does not mean that traditional educational values and practices will be declared obsolete. In fact, because of online and blended learning capabilities to support asynchronous, collaborative communication in a dynamic and sustainable educational context, there is a resurgence of traditional educational ideals associated with rational discourse. Re-valuing the ideal of a community of learners engaged in critical thinking and discourse is at the heart of the e-learning transformation. The framework we describe here is based upon the premise (supported by research and experience) that a community of learners is an essential element of a deep and meaningful educational experience. The necessity of a community of learners becomes apparent with the demands of an evolving knowledge society that creates expectations for individuals to be independent thinkers and interdependent collaborative learners. It is within such a community of learners that the potential of e-learning is fully realized. However, it is communication technologies that make possible sustainable

communities of learners. It is the technological infrastructure that makes possible sustained access to learning communities. The challenge is to use e-learning in ways that support new and more effective collaborative approaches to learning that engages learners in purposeful and meaningful discourse. The technology of online and blended learning has the capability to support and sustain private reflection and public discourse simultaneously. This unprecedented capability has created e-learning approaches that are fundamentally changing teaching and learning in all contexts. The potential of e-learning is found in the framework of an open and critical community of inquiry.