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27 May 2021

Inquiry-based learning with Microsoft Office 365

Although we are born with an innate curiosity that drives us to explore our world, this seems to wane or become dormant as we mature. While the root cause of this decline are unclear, research reveals instructional approaches, in particular inquiry-based learning, can be used to stimulate and harness our learners’ curiosity to drive deep learning. A team of Deakin educators organised a series of workshops to discuss how inquiry-based learning and Microsoft Office 365 tools can be used to enhance student learning. 

Some thinkers, like Socrates, have blamed our declining curiosity on ‘hubris’ or people’s egos, whereas Albert Einstein perceived the education system as the culprit, suggesting it was strangled the ‘holy curiosity of inquiry’. Armed with this knowledge, Deakin educators Dr Isma Seetal from the Deakin Learning Innovation team, Vivek Venkiteswaran from the Business and Law pod and Dr Tara Draper from the SEBE teaching team developed their workshop series. We share some key takeaways from the workshop and along with resources to support the use of Microsoft Office 365 tools in teaching and learning. 

Inquiry-based learning defined 

Inquiry-based learning is broadly conceptualised as a constructivist approach that consists of a range of pedagogical strategies where the overall goal is for students to solve a problem and perform investigative work. Inquiry-based learning can take various forms including research activities such as constructing literature reviews and enactments of practice, which involve students playing roles that are deemed crucial in the profession they aspire to join. 

Compared to unassisted discovery and traditional approaches such as direct instruction, inquiry-based learning has a greater impact on student learning. It also supports the development of a range of skills such as deep thinking, knowledge application and logical reasoning. Beyond the educational benefits it brings, inquiry-based learning also sustains students’ interest and motivation. However, there is a need for useful instructor guidance during the inquiry task and social support from peers for students to reap the benefits that inquiry-based learning offers. 


 Tools for inquiry-based learning 

Microsoft Office 365 tools offer a myriad of features that can be leveraged to facilitate, support or enhance various learning activities in inquiry-based learning. Microsoft Forms, the online survey creator, can be used by instructors to gauge learners’ prior knowledge, engage them in self and peer-review activities and promote reflection at various points during inquiry processes. Microsoft OneNote, the digital note-taking app, can be used by learners for their research activities such as research collation, synthesis and collaborative creation of research reports and papers. Other types of artefacts such as newsletters and presentations can be produced using Microsoft Sway, which can additionally be leveraged to add interactive elements to various types of instructional resources. 

Resources for Deakin staff 

You can learn more about how these Microsoft Office 365 tools can be used for inquiry-based learning and other digital tools through our extensive Training Resources. Find out about Using Microsoft OneNote, Using Microsoft Forms and Using Microsoft Sway SharePoint pages. You can also join the Demystifying Digital Community of Practice group on Yammer to learn more and share digital tips with colleagues. 

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