A1: Community of Inquiry (CoI) for PaCE Programs

Professional and continuing education (PaCE) programs offered through public higher-education institutions address current workforce needs through a variety of educational offerings and delivery modalities (The California State University, n.d.). Program developers, instructional designers and instructors strive to create programs for PaCE contexts targeted toward the educational needs of professionals looking to skill-up or advance their career. However, a demand for online learning in the PaCE setting still needs to consider how a community of learning can best be designed and facilitated to promote collaborative and social learning. Dissatisfaction with learning can result when learners feel disconnected from one another in an online learning environment given a lack of social presence (van Tryon & Bishop, 2009), and this dissatisfaction can result in increased course attrition. The Community of Inquiry (CoI) Framework (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000) could lend itself well to re-imagining PaCE online courses by cultivating meaningful learning experiences through the facilitation of its three interrelated elements.

Social, cognitive and teaching presence are the three interdependent elements that make up the CoI (Garrison et al., 2000) with facilitation of the three presences critical to its effectiveness (Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes, & Garrison, 2013). Social presence consists of the social and emotional interactions necessary to support cognitive presence which enables learners to form meaning through reflection and discourse (deNoyelles et al., 2014). As a PaCE instructor for online or blended learning environments, strategies to strengthen not only the social presence for the facilitator, but also the learners require cultivating an open and personable environment in which interactions can occur. As learners within the online community begin to develop trust, feel safe and engage with one another, facilitating academic interactions through critical discourse and reflection so learners construct meaning shift “the community from social presence to cognitive presence” (Vaughan et al., 2013, p. 54). Teaching presence, not to be confused with a teacher presence, is the design and facilitation of the environment (Vaughan et al., 2013), can be a shared responsibility within the community (deNoyelles et al., 2014), and serves as the thread through which all three presences connect (Anderson, 2017; deNoyelles, Zydney, & Chen, 2014).

The CoI offers a viable pathway to guide PaCE educators in developing collaborative and meaningful learning opportunities particularly suited to an online or blended learning environment. Strategies such as those outlined in this infographic could prove useful for instructional designers and experienced instructors to facilitate the CoI presences.

To view a larger version of this infographic (in which the fonts appear correctly), please click on this link


Anderson, T. (2017). How Communities of Inquiry Drive Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age. Contact North.

deNoyelles, A., Zydney, J. M., & Chen, B. (2014). Strategies for creating a community of inquiry through online asynchronous discussions. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 10(1), 153-165.

Dunlap, J. C., & Lowenthal, P. R. (2018). Online educators’ recommendations for teaching online: Crowdsourcing in actionOpen Praxis10(1), 79–89.

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.

Khoo, E. G., & Bonk, C. J. (2014). Chapter 1: Introducing TEK-VARIETY (PDF) (pg 7-12).  Adding some TEC-VARIETY: 100+ activities for motivating and retaining learners online (PDF). Open World Books.

The California State University (n.d.). Professional and continuing education (PaCE). Retrieved from https://www2.calstate.edu/attend/professional-and-continuing-education

van Tryon, P. J. S., & Bishop, M. J. (2009). Theoretical foundations for enhancing social connectedness in online learning environments. Distance Education, 30(3), 291-315.

Vaughan, N. D., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry. Athabasca University Press. Chapter 3: Facilitation (pp. 45-61).

4 thoughts on “A1: Community of Inquiry (CoI) for PaCE Programs”

  1. Hi Mel – I liked your infographic, it’s clear, concise and not clustered. I was wondering a couple of things. Supposedly, I’m a corporate learner and my company has registerd me at the CoI-modeled course on a given topic that is delivered online. I’m participating by taking time off from work and going through the module, lets say for a week? Or am I working and by workplace allows me a couple of days during my 8-hr schedule to study the content and participate in the discussions? I wish there were some additional information on how your PACE model works. Dino.

    1. Hi Dino – thank you for the feedback and your questions. I think it might help if I clarify what PaCE means in my context. I consult for the California State University system (CSU), Professional and Continuing Education programs are any self-support learning experiences, whether it is credit-bearing courses for non-matriculated students who are taking pre-requisites before they are accepted into their degree program of study, or lifelong learners enrolling in courses out of interest through what the CSU calls Open University (OU). OU is basically a mechanism that allows non-traditional students to take credit-bearing courses before they matriculate into the university. Non-credit bearing courses or trainings also fall under the PaCE category. For more information I have included a link to our PaCE webpage https://www2.calstate.edu/attend/professional-and-continuing-education.

      What I understand from your question is perhaps the applicability of the CoI framework in a shortened corporate training context (either online, blended or in-person) which in my world are categorized as PaCE programs. How could the 3 elements of the Community of Inquiry be fostered in a condensed amount of time? In truth, I was a little skeptical of this myself which is why this opportunity to co-facilitate a one-week learning experience in our LRNT-528 class has me excited and intrigued! From what I am experiencing already with Group 1’s facilitation of conflict style management this week, we are already experiencing CoI in a shortened period of time. This gives me hope that it can be worked into an online corporate training environment. Do you see possibilities for the CoI in a corporate training setting?

  2. Hi Mel, I really liked how clean your infographic was. I am a scanner by nature, so I tend to prefer the cleaner point form so that I can get the information needed and move on which this was able to give me all the information, without having to modify my preferred style. I have a question regarding encouraging active participation, what are some of the things you came across that did this? I find in an online class, it is difficult to encourage participation with assigning a grade to it, which then takes away from the authenticity of the participation. What do you think?

    1. Hi Amanda – Thanks for your insightful feedback about my infographic. It is always valuable to learn what attracts people’s attention and what design elements help to make a visual user friendly. Your comment about assigning grades to encourage active participation aligns with what came up in my research! deNoyelles et al. (2014) (see references in my post) advised that very rarely will voluntary participation/exchanges occur in online environments unless they are extrinsically motivated. They recommended assigning grades or requiring it as part of the overall participation grade as a contribution to the learning community, much like we do in our MALAT program. From my observation as a learner, unless there is high intrinsic motivation, even in non-credit courses, student participation in online discussions varies depending upon the individual and topic. When there is an incentive, in this case a contribution to my grade, I am more likely to participate. Does it take away from the authenticity of the participation?..yes, perhaps for some contexts this could be the case…maybe it is how the facilitator also frames the discussion topic or method of interaction chosen that can also hinder this active participation and make the exchange less authentic? More to explore! Thank you for the question.

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