Topic Progress:

Overview of the Community of Inquiry

The Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework sits nicely in the larger framework of social constructivism and provides further structure to explain how learners learn in community. At its most basic, the CoI framework suggests that there are three overlapping presences that collectively promote deep, meaningful learning experiences [zotpressInText item=”{FF48HKQC}”].

  1. Cognitive Presence
  2. Social Presence
  3. Teaching Presence



Cognitive Presence

Cognitive presence is the extent to which the participants in any particular configuration of a community of inquiry are able to construct meaning through sustained communication. [zotpressInText item=”{FF48HKQC}”]

We will assume as educators that our goal is for the learner to ‘construct meaning through sustained communication’. Consequently, the promotion of cognitive presence would seem to be a key area of focus for faculty wishing to promote student attainment of learning outcomes.

Certainly, as Anderson [zotpressInText item=”{V4VRHHGZ}” format=”(%d%, %p%)”] argues, there are differing ‘modes of interaction’ through which a student may engage in this communication. The three primary modes of interaction which have traditionally been identified are student-student (which may include metacognitive reflections internal to the student), student-content, and student-teacher interactions. In addition, students come to any given course with their own set of concepts, aptitudes, desires and goals. We will learn more about the role that these factors play in the learning environment in Lesson 2.

Social Presence

Social presence is the ability of learners to project their personal characteristics into the community of inquiry, thereby presenting themselves as ‘real people.’ [zotpressInText item=”{FF48HKQC}”]

The flip-side of the ‘cognitive presence’ coin is social presence, the application of which humanizes online learning environments. Social presence helps build bridges of connection between students and their teachers. It is true that in online learning environments can be isolating for both students and teachers, and this is especially true in continuous entry or independent study course structures.

Teaching Presence

Teaching presence is defined as the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educational worthwhile learning outcomes. [zotpressInText item=”{FF48HKQC}”]

The integration of cognitive and social processes to enable students to attain meaningful learning outcomes is characteristic of teaching presence. It is the individual’s skills in this arena that will set great teachers apart from good ones.

Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes and Garrison [zotpressInText item=”{3EKDJUHI}”] argue that a community of inquiry is the ideal framework within which educators can create the conditions necessary for learners to think critically, make rational judgements, and create understanding. There must be dual commitments to build community through social engagement and to engage in the process of inquiry.

This module will focus of the process of inquiry from the perspective of the teacher whose task it is to encourage critical thought, rational judgement, and the generation of understanding.


Click here to watch a recorded webinar introducing the CoI hosted by CIDER.


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