The Community of Inquiry Model

It is likely that you’ve worked intuitively to build a Community of Inquiry (CoI) in your courses, even if you aren’t familiar with that term. The CoI framework (Garrison, 2017) outlined below is useful in any setting, but is particularly designed to guide course design in online and blended environments. Designing the course around the CoI framework can ensure that you’ve constructed the appropriate course infrastructure to cultivate rich community in such an environment.

The CoI framework is built upon careful attention to three dimensions (Purdue, 2020):

  1. Teaching presence is defined as the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the realization of meaningful learning. In the F2F classroom you create this daily with your presence and facilitation. In a hybrid flexible environment, creating this presence involves the (1) instructional design and organization of the course and activities, (2) facilitation of the course and activities virtually and in-person, and (3) direct instruction.
  2. Social presence refers to the ability of course participants to establish an identity and persona in the social body of your course and play an active role in contributing to the learning process. In the F2F classroom, this happens through regular, consistent interaction with one another in one common experience. In an online context, social presence refers to the ability of those joining virtually to perceive others in an online environment as “real” and the projection of oneself as a real person. Social presence involves open communication, affective expression, and group cohesion.
  3. Cognitive presence is the extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse. The ultimate goal of creating a Community of Inquiry is to build a solid foundation of social presence and teaching presence to stimulate cognitive presence in a course to achieve learning outcomes and challenge participants to develop and reflect on ideas, beliefs, and values.

Research has shown that there is a relationship between the three presences and students’ perceived learning, satisfaction with the course, satisfaction with the instructor, actual learning, and sense of belonging (Akyol & Garrison, 2008). The CoI framework suggests that deep and meaningful learning in hybrid flexible environments occurs at the intersection of social, teaching, and cognitive presence (Purdue, 2020). For a brief overview of the CoI model see here, or check out this online resource on the framework.

Building a Community of Inquiry in Your Courses

Outlined below are several ideas for creating each of the three primary presences of the CoI model. In all cases, we advocate a “purpose first, tool second” approach to building your CoI. This approach first asks you to identify the desired instructional and learning outcomes you have for your course (e.g. a good discussion, student collaboration, reflection, applying information) before selecting the instructional strategy or tool most appropriate for meeting your goal.

Works Cited