In this post we were asked to interview a colleague about the strategies they use to facilitate both social and cognitive presence in a continuous intake learning environment. The faculty member that I interviewed was Dr. Alicia Mazari-Andersen. Alicia teaches, among other courses, BIOL 3431, Plants and People, a continuous entry course. I also teach Plants and People.
With the current format in BIOL 3431, the main way that cognitive presence is facilitated in the course is by having the students choose their own topics for the assignments in Unit 2 and for their Project. It is Alicia’s and my experience that students are always more engaged in a course when they are able to choose the specifics of what they research and learn within the framework of an assignment. Also, one can facilitate increased cognitive presence in the course with direct communication, through the discussion forums or by email, with students.
During the interview Alicia and I came up with additional strategies that could be implemented that would further increase the both social and cognitive presence in the course. These strategies are discussed below.
- A peer review component could be added to the student’s final project proposal assignment. Having another student review their proposal would increase the interactive student-student communications in the course. This activity is due early on in the course and, therefore, would likely help form linkages between the students that would stay with them throughout the duration of the course.
- Enrollment in the course could be moved to a semi-continuous model. Instead of admitting students continuously in the course students could be admitted in formalized groups of 2 or 3 students. It is likely that these students would form supportive groups that would increase their completion, engagement and success in the course.
- The final suggestion would be to alter one of the assignments in the course. In one of the Units in the course, students are asked to list and discuss 5 reasons that GMO technology is either good or bad. Instead of this, students could be asked to list and discuss 2-3 reasons why GMO is good and 2-3 reasons why GMO technology is bad. This change will move the students into the integration and resolution stages of critical thinking.