Cognitive presence in virtual collaborative learning

Jennifer Beckmann (Department of Electrical Engineering, Fachhochschule Südwestfalen, Soest, Germany)
Peter Weber (Department of Electrical Engineering, Fachhochschule Südwestfalen, Soest, Germany)

Interactive Technology and Smart Education

ISSN: 1741-5659

Publication date: 18 April 2016



The purpose of this study is to introduce a virtual collaborative learning setting called “Net Economy”, which we established as part of an international learning network of currently six universities, and present our approach to continuously improve the course in each cycle.


Using the community of inquiry framework as guidance and canonical action research (CAR) as the chosen research design, the discussion forum of the online course is assessed regarding its critical thinking value. We thereby measure critical thinking with the help of the according model provided by Newman et al. (1995), which differentiates 40 indicators of critical thinking from 10 different categories.


The calculated critical thinking ratios for the analyzed two discussion threads indicate a strong use of outside knowledge, intensive justification and critical assessment of posts by the students. But at the same time, there are also weak spots, like manifold repetitions. Based on these results, we derive changes for the next course cycle to improve the critical thinking of the students.


A comparison of the results after the next course cycle will then allow us to assess the effects of the implemented changes, which would not be possible without a critical thinking diagnosis approach.



Beckmann, J. and Weber, P. (2016), "Cognitive presence in virtual collaborative learning", Interactive Technology and Smart Education, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 52-70.

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