OSCQR – Standard #30RSI Dashboard illustration

OSCQR – Standard #30RSI Dashboard illustration

Course provides activities for learners to develop higher-order thinking and problem solving skills, such as critical reflection and analysis.

Review These Explanations

Cognitive presence is the extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2001). Where the learner thinks critically, they go through the process of constructing knowledge, inquiring, exploring, and thinking.

Cognitive presence relies on critical thinking skills and active learning, as well helping learners to connect existing ideas and create new knowledge. This can be achieved by:

  • Contextualizing course content to help learners better understand key concepts.
  • Bringing in diverse resources to help learners.
  • Guiding learners to move from low-order to high-order thinking exercises.
  • Aligning course assignments and activities to measurable learning objectives

With measurable objectives guiding the pathway to higher-order thinking skills, Bloom’s Taxonomy can provide a framework for exploring different levels of thinking and associated skills and competencies, and help guide the development of appropriate course activities.

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a framework developed in 1956 by Benjamin Bloom, which classifies levels of learning into the following categories: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Each taxonomy highlights different categories of the human thought process, moving from lower-order through to higher-order thinking skills. The taxonomy was revised in the 1990s to use verbs instead of nouns for each level, as follows: remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create.

Within this framework, consider activities that allow learners to reflect individually and as a group about what they are learning, how they know they are learning, and what is helping and hindering their learning.

Create activities that provide opportunities for learners to be puzzled (the notion of adequate challenge and perplexity), giving them the opportunity to recognize problems and construct knowledge through collaboration and interaction (collaborative inquiry).


Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., Archer, W. (2001). Critical thinking, cognitive presence, and computer conferencing in distance education. American Journal of Distance Education, 15(1).

Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI)

How This Standard Supports RSI

RSI Dashboard illustrationOnline courses can support regular and substantive interaction via activities and interactions with the instructor that guide learners to deepen their learning, by asking questions that require learners to dig deeper into their understanding of course content and concepts. And by designing course opportunities, activities, interactions, and communications to specifically target and assist learners to move from the basic levels of cognition, including concrete thinking, memorization and understanding (knowledge, comprehension, and application), to higher order thinking skills, including abstract, critical, metacognitive creative thinking, (analysis synthesis and evaluation). Direct interaction with the instructor within course activities, such as guiding or asking questions to deepen learning and understanding in an online discussion forum, for example, further supports RSI, and is a good general practice. Scheduling specific instructor-facilitated course discussions/interactions, question and answer, or help and feedback sessions (group or individual) designed to target the development of higher order thinking and problem-solving skills demonstrates compliance with RSI.

Refresh Your Course with These Ideas

General Suggestions

  • Student Cognition Toolbox.
  • Use Bloom’s in rubrics to guide students in higher-order thinking/problem- solving skills.
  • Provide opportunities for mentoring. Private between learner and instructor – individual feedback and engagement.
  • Deeper Learning Competencies
  • Create peer review groups to encourage learners to learn from each other, and help each other construct new knowledge.
  • Create a scenario based discussion forum, and assign roles to each learner. An example is determining who gets the only available bed in an ICU unit, with roles assigned as hospital administrator, doctor, patient, family member, case worker, etc.
  • Have learners present a proposed project or research topic to the class to solicit feedback that they can then integrate that feedback into their own work.
  • Create a simple weekly challenge to encourage creative thinking. For example, have learners share one related resource to the module topic, and share why it matters to them, and what value it brings to the course.


  • Include reflection as part of project  . Have learners reflect on the process they went through completing a project, and how that process impacted their learning.
  • Future self” journal entries. Learners imagine a ‘future self’ position/goal they are aiming for that relates to the discipline. Instructor asks students to select one or two key concepts from the week or module and write a journal entry in which they tell a story about how they envision putting the concepts into practice in a ‘future self’ scenario.
  • “Connect the Dots” video: Ask students to complete a module pre-test, then create a short video that:
    • Customizes module learning objective explanations/examples and critical thinking opportunities present in the module based on pre-test results.

Explore More Refreshing Ideas from the Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository (TOPR) at the University of Central Florida (UCF)

These Pedagogical Practices from TOPR explore methods and approaches to creating exercises that foster reflection and critical thinking into your online course content to benefit learner success.

Assign Six Word Memoirs for Reflection and Synthesis
Repurposing the six-word memoir format as an academic exercise has unlimited possibilities using mobile devices and the affordance of texting and social media. In online/blended courses, the six-word memoir may be implemented using a variety of repositories such as an LMS, a blog, social media space, etc. (Read more …)
Blogging as a Reflection Tool
UCF education professor Debbie Kirkley uses student blogs to fulfill the requirement of students to keep a journal throughout the semester to reflect on course projects and their experiences. (Read more …)
Using a Guided Approach to Support Critical Thinking in Online Discussions
Supporting college students to develop critical thinking skills is an overarching goal in higher education. Students with developed critical thinking skills have the ability to evaluate their own arguments as well as others, resolve conflicts, and generate well-reasoned resolutions to complex problems (Behar-Horenstein & Niu, 2011). Given that there is an exponential increase in the information and knowledge being generated, possessing critical thinking skills fulfills the goal of nurturing students to become responsible citizens in a complex society. (Read more …)

Explore Related Resources

Bloom’s Quicksheets (PDF Reference Sheets)
The Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy Quicksheets are a quick and easy summary of the six different taxonomic levels of Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy. They define the different taxonomic levels, provide the Digital Taxonomy Verbs with some possibilities for classroom use.
This interactive web-site is designed to collect published research about the CoI and discuss these publications with interested researchers and practitioners.
Sadaf, A., Wu, T., & Martin, F., 2021. Cognitive Presence in Online Learning: A Systematic Review of Empirical Research from 2000 to 2019, Computers and Education Open Volume 2, December 2021, 100050.

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OSCQR has been developed by a community of online practitioners interested in quality course design. There are numerous opportunities for community members to offer suggestions, donate resources, and help with future development.

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