D.R. Garrison identifies the following online collaboration principles for design, facilitation, and direct instruction.
- Establish a climate that will create a community of inquiry. In order to build trust, students should have formal and informal interaction with each other.
- Establish critical reflection and discourse that will support systematic inquiry. Course design should support the students progression from awareness to knowledge construction and application, in other words through the proper stages of learning.
- Sustain community through expression of group cohesion. Group cohesion is built upon a solid educational goal toward which each member is focused. Stronger bonds can be facilitated through calculated feedback.
- Encourage and support the progression of inquiry through to resolution. The instructor facilitates conversations throughout the learning process.
- Evolve collaborative relationships where students are supported in assuming increasing responsibility for their learning. It's important to define and communicate expectations and help students become more self-directed.
- Ensure that there is resolution and metacognitive development.
Recent research has begun to emphasize the importance of strong leadership to ensure discussions stay “on task and on track” (Garrison, 2008, p. 1).
"Faculty may need to be more direct in their assignments for threaded discussions, charging the participants to resolve a particular problem, and pressing the group to integrate their ideas and perhaps, even, to prepare a resolution of the matters under discussion" (Meyer as quoted by Garrison, 2008, p. 1).
We as teachers are so influenced by our personal learning styles and the ways we were taught. I'm even more certain of this as I observe the virtual school. I find myself comparing the virtual online courses with those in my graduate program. As I continue to explore the existing research, I can see the foundation upon which our graduate courses are built. I can see how some of the techniques I've experienced as a student and online graduate facilitator might work in a k12 online environment. At the same time, I'm trying to be mindful of the unique challenges associated with teaching middle and high school students as opposed to college students. I have a much better understanding of the benefits and challenges of teaching in virtual school. I just keep wishing that I had the same understanding of the design component. I wish we had the opportunity to observe and interview the instructional designers.
Garrison, D. (2006). Online Collaboration Principles. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 10(1). Retrieved Apr. 14, 2008, from http://www.sloan-c.org/publications/JALN/v10n1/v10n1_3garrison_member.asp