Strategies to support the development of a Community of Inquiry

As a college educator in the non-traditional academic field of skilled trades, very few of my classes are hosted on-line.  These courses tend to focus on in-class, hands-on, experiential learning opportunities.  When developing on-line or blended learning classes for this specific group of learners, consideration must be given to their learning preferences.  In my experience, skilled trades students tend to prefer active learning and may struggle within a traditional academic learning environment.  A Community of Inquiry (CoI) is a collaborative group of learners whom construct meaning and understanding through reflection and critical thinking (Garrison, Anderson & Archer (2003).  Although a CoI is a non-traditional choice in skilled trades education, the benefits to the learner are the same as those in a traditional academic learning environment.

I developed this infographic to support faculty with implementing a CoI in skilled trades education.  It lists a variety of strategies and considerations to successfully implement a CoI in a blended or on-line course inspired by Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2003), Khoo and Bonk (2014), Van Schie (2008) and Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes and Garrison (2013).

The CoI framework is comprised of three components: social, cognitive and teaching presence.  While I identified alternate headings, each of the components is represented.  Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2003) define social presence as the learners ability to connect to others in a meaningful and safe environment.  Strategies to support social presence could include inspiring connections and relationships between learners while encouraging communication and allowing a community to develop through the use of on-line tools such as video introductions, discussion threads and communication applications.

Cognitive presence is the learners ability to explore, construct and apply knowledge gathered through reflection and interaction with the community (Anderson, 2018.) Cognitive presence could be developed through encouraging the learner to ask questions while inspiring curiosity, exploration and critical thinking skills.

Teaching presence refers to the “…design, facilitation and direction of cognitive and social processes…” while guiding the learner and community to meet the learning outcomes (Anderson, Rouke, Garrison & Archer (2001).  Facilitators can support learners through effective learning design, appropriate choices of technology, and by providing guidance. Additionally, facilitators can provide options to how learners gain knowledge and demonstrate their understanding.  Both learners and facilitators can strengthen the teaching presence as learners can assist in knowledge sharing with their peers.

If we inspire, encourage and support learners through the use of a CoI, a collaborative and effective community of learners will be developed.



Anderson, T. (2018). How Communities of Inquiry Drive Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age. Contact North.

Anderson, T., Rourke, L., Garrison, D. R., Archer, W. (2001). Assessing Teaching presence in a Computer Conference Environment. Journal of asynchronous learning networks, 5(2), 1-17.

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

Garrison, Anderson & Archer. (2003). A theory of critical inquiry in online distance education. In More & Anderson, Handbook of Distance Education. (p. 113-127).

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.

Van Schie, J. (2008). Concept map of community of inquiry. Retrieved from

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



6 Replies to “Strategies to support the development of a Community of Inquiry”

  1. Tanya, you complimented on Danielle’s infographic (
    ), but the same compliments can apply to your infographic too.
    I liked how simple and easy was to see the big picture via your infographic and the neat colour coding of the social, teaching and cognitive presence was well thought.
    Please, consider choosing a bit different colours for the social and teaching presences to help people with colour seeing challenges. From an accessibility point of view, those two colours are quite close to each other, and many people are in some ways colour blind. If you wish to help those, there are a few online tools to check whether the selected colours have enough contrast or not:

    1. Thanks Beata. That’s a very helpful tip and one that I overlooked. Thank you also for the links. I wasn’t aware that I could check it elsewhere. Much appreciated!

  2. Tanya, I agree with Beata, your infographic is simple and meaningful and visually appealing, I also like how you used colour coding to identify the social, teaching and cognitive presences which allowed you to generate other meaningful titles. I was interested in some of the specific difficulties you mentioned that trades students have in blended or online environments. It brought me back to the Mattermost discussion that Beata started about whether there is a need for a learner presence. As Anderson (2018) notes, “It is no longer enough for teachers to ask what types of presence(s) do I need to develop in my teaching, but rather how do I match my teaching model and behaviour with the learning capacities of the learners”. I thus wonder if the argument for a learner presence is even more important in contexts such as yours where learners have a distinct set of characteristics that makes online/blended learning particularly challenging.


    Anderson, T. (2018). How Communities of Inquiry Drive Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age. Contact North. Retrieved from

  3. Hi Jessica,
    I think you bring up an interesting point about learning presence. I am often conflicted. I speak about my students in a general way, but of course not all of my students are challenged in a on-line setting. I am positive I am not the only teacher that finds common traits amongst their students. I think every program tends to attract a similar learner, although each group will have a combination of styles. I do think a learning presence may be a helpful addition, however I am not sure how it could be generalized to accommodate all learners. As you noted my teaching style has been developed with my students preferences in mind.

    1. Tanya, I too do not teach online and perhaps our contexts bring about a bigger picture approach where the three presences very much indeed overlap. Your colour coded words were an interesting approach to your infographic and displayed the overlap in the three presences visually. I wondered if you considered the word facilitate under the social presence? As Garrison (2003) suggests examples of social presence could be open communication and encouraging collaboration. I certainly can appreciate the difficulty in categorizing and appreciate your suggestions as they are useful for me and my context.

      Garrison, Anderson & Archer. (2003). A theory of critical inquiry in online distance education. In More & Anderson, Handbook of Distance Education. (p. 113-127).

      1. Hi Danielle
        I actually struggled with where to put facilitate as it actually fits well in both teaching and social presence. However I thought a multicolored word would create confusion I placed it where I felt it fit most strongly but I absolutely agree it could easily fit in both.
        Thanks for your feedback. I may consider switching it.

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