Social Presence: This domain of “Community of Inquiry” is the ability of participants to project their individual personalities in order to identify and communicate with the community and develop inter-personal relationships (Garrison, 2009). As a result, a fundamental first activity that I plan to use in a “Foundations of Neuroscience” class -that I hope to each online- would be to have students introduce themselves. This quick introduction could be done via an audio or video recording and would involve the following basic identifiers: name, demographic background (optional), current major/field of study, a fun fact (could about anything) and why they are interested in neuroscience. The instructor will make the first post to emphasize teaching presence, since it is the instructor’s responsibility to set the climate. Bringing out individual personalities will lead to the identification of common interests among the students, which will build the foundations of this online community. Also, by asking students to elaborate on why they are interested in neuroscience, the course will be able to touch upon the intersection of social presence and cognitive presence.
Cognitive Presence: This subdomain is the extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2001, 2004). This will be achieved by an assignment where students will be asked to create a blog on a neuroscience topic of their choosing. The blogs will be created by using a platform like Scholarblogs. Students will be instructed to conduct a literature review on their topic and to summarize the findings in three biweekly blog posts. Each post will be designed around a central message that the student wishes to relay about their particular topic. Besides creating their own blogs, students will also be asked to respond biweekly to two other students’ posts to encourage discussion. The ultimate goal will be to identify gaps in the existing literature and to generate ideas about future directions as a community.
Teaching Presence: This branch of “Community of Inquiry” is the design, facilitation, and direction of the social and cognitive processes for the purpose of realizing the relevant learning outcomes (Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, & Archer, 2001). Besides students posting comments on each other’s blog posts, the teacher will also engage in the discussion by providing feedback and recommendations for relevant scientific work that the students might not have come across during their literature reviews.
To conclude, by combining these three presence types in teaching, the course will encourage students to present their own voices in a welcoming environment that will enhance the meaning making process. The ultimate goal of science is to value novel thinking and problem solving over memorizing previously discovered facts. In line with this objective, students will be provided a platform to present their own novel ideas on how to build upon existing literature to tackle remaining questions in neuroscience.