gms | German Medical Science

64. Jahrestagung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Medizinische Informatik, Biometrie und Epidemiologie e. V. (GMDS)

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Medizinische Informatik, Biometrie und Epidemiologie

08. - 11.09.2019, Dortmund

Community of Inquiry in an online-based master program

Meeting Abstract

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  • Elske Ammenwerth - UMIT - Private Universität für Gesundheitswissenschaften, Med. Informatik und Technik Tirol, Hall in Tirol, Austria
  • Verena Dornauer - UMIT - Private Universität für Gesundheitswissenschaften, Medizinische Informatik und Technik GmbH, Hall in Tirol, Austria
  • Werner Hackl - UMIT - Private Universität für Gesundheitswissenschaften, Medizinische Informatik und Technik GmbH, Hall in Tirol, Austria

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Medizinische Informatik, Biometrie und Epidemiologie. 64. Jahrestagung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Medizinische Informatik, Biometrie und Epidemiologie e.V. (GMDS). Dortmund, 08.-11.09.2019. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2019. DocAbstr. 195

doi: 10.3205/19gmds119, urn:nbn:de:0183-19gmds1192

Published: September 6, 2019

© 2019 Ammenwerth et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. See license information at



Introduction: Online-based programs in health informatics have the potential to mitigate the lack of skilled health informaticians. Socio-constructivism postulates that a high-quality discourse among students and teachers is a precondition for successful learning. The Community of Inquiry (CoI) is a socio-constructivist framework describing three success factors for online-based learning [1]: Social, teaching, and cognitive presence.

Social presence is the ability of participants to identify with the group and communicate trustfully. Teaching presence is the design, facilitation, and direction of learning processes. Cognitive presence is the extent to which the students are able to construct meaning through sustained communication and reflection. Cognitive presence can be differentiated into four phases: During the triggering phase, the discourse is initiated; during exploration, information is exchanged among students, during integration, new concepts are acquired; during resolution, presented problems are solved. The three presences are not independent; for example, social and teaching presence are predictors for cognitive presence [2].

The level of CoI obtained in an online-course can be measured by a validated CoI survey consisting of 34 items [3]. The level of CoI achieved in a course is a predictor for learning outcome [4].

The University UMIT started a fully online-based master program in Health Information Management in 2017, based on a socio-constructivist design [5]. In a pilot study in one course, all CoI presences were high (4,2 - 4,5 of 5) [6]. Within cognitive presence, triggering event showed highest values while resolution showed lowest values [6]. Indeed, studies postulate that reaching integration and resolution phase is challenging [7].

We were interested to verify these findings with a larger sample by measuring CoI in all courses of our master program, and by analyzing whether we reached integration and resolution phase, as we found this essential to acquire high-level competencies.

Methods: All students were invited to anonymously fill in the CoI survey at the end of each module. Overall, we got 92 valid responses on 10 courses. The overall return rate was 67 %. We calculated the three presences (5-point Likert scale, 1 = minimum, 5 = maximum).

Results: For the 10 analyzed courses, perceived level of CoI was 4.22 +/- 0.45 for teaching presence, 4.29 +/- 0.23 for social presence and 4.34 +/- 0.24 for cognitive presence. Different to the pilot study, we did not find differences in the four phases for cognitive presence, with triggering phase 4.36, exploration phase 4.30, integration phase 4.45 and resolution phase 4.26.

Discussion: The perceived level of CoI was very high in all courses, indicating that the chosen instructional design was successful in initiating a CoI. Regarding the four phases of cognitive phases, we were not able to reproduce results of an earlier pilot study; triggering, exploration, integration and resolution showed comparable values. This could mean either that we nearly always reached the resolution phase in the courses, or that the sample size was too low. We now plan to try automatic analysis of postings [8] to determine the level of cognitive presence in more detail.

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

The authors declare that a positive ethics committee vote has been obtained.


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