CoI for the Next Generation

The Community of Inquiry (COI) framework was developed by Garrison, Anderson, and Archer in 2001 as a means for computer-mediated communication, and later published in 2007 as a guide in creating a productive e-learning environment.

This model includes 3 major components illustrated below:


INSTRUCTOR PRESENCE (Key Points and Learnings)

  • In my opinion, Instructor Presence is crucial to the learning experience because having the proper balance of instructor engagement improves learner satisfaction and learner persistence.
  • Surprising results have been published in the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching that explain which components of Instructor Presence are truly valued. These include:
    • Making course requirements clear
    • Responsiveness to student needs
    • Timeliness of information
    • Prompt instructor feedback

Though many professional educators assume that students seek synchronous or face-to-face communication, many students reported that being able to see or hear the instructor is NOT very important. (http://jolt.merlot.org/vol6no4/sheridan_1210.pdf)

Further Consideration: Ways in which instructors can improve the perception of presence can include: introducing orientation, expectation, and resource scaffolds, offering auto-feedback mechanisms, deploying frequent communication through LMS announcements, texts, emails, and/or social media, and addressing the individual needs of the student.

COGNITIVE PRESENCE (Key Points and Learnings)

  • As defined in the text, Effective Online Teaching, Cognitive Presence occurs when learners can construct meaning through sustained communication. E-learning presents a particular challenge, especially as higher education institutions and third-party learning platforms (Coursera, EdX) seek to replace traditional “lecture” with independent reading, pre-recorded videos, and individual application activities.
  • In order to promote and reinforce Cognitive Presence, it is essential that asynchronous tools be introduced to offset the time and space between classes and activities. These may include: microchatting (Twitter), blogging, discussion boards, social media (Snapchat, Facebook groups), or other on-demand learning opportunities that enable students to share opinions, ideas, and promote further discussion with both the instructor and peers.

Further Consideration: As an instructional designer, I have used many of the strategies presented above in order to achieve the mission. After all, educators seek tools that will engage the learner and revolutionize the learning experience. However, when evaluating the effectiveness of the course, and determining the overall improvement of the student post-course, I am left wondering … How can the learners construct meaning if the tool distracts from the content? Perhaps, we have started with the wrong question, which inevitably leads us to the wrong answer… This concern distracts us from the only question worth asking — What is it that the student needs MOST from our e-learning courses to achieve success? I believe the answer to that question lies directly below.

SOCIAL PRESENCE (Key Points and Learnings)

  • It is my personal belief that Social Presence is paramount to the learning experience as this is how students are able to safely and effectively establish themselves as individuals. The creation of collaborative learning supports critical thinking and problem solving skills, which is required in all professional roles.
  • So, how then can Social Presence be established in an online institution, and how can that very same online institution compete with traditional face-to-face instruction? Though some answers may vary in complexity, I believe it can be achieved with three, simple words:


Defined as a “group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. This definition reflects the fundamentally social nature of human learning.” (http://wenger-trayner.com/resources/what-is-a-community-of-practice/)

In any and all social arenas, groups are formed when there is a common interest. It occurs in relationships, friendships, teams, and organizations … naturally and organically.

Again … perhaps we are asking the wrong question, which instead of providing a clear path, convinces us to run down rabbit trails. Instead of asking WHAT to do, we should be asking HOW to do it in a way that will engage, excite, and intrigue the learner.

And to that question, dear reader, I do not yet have an answer.

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