A community of inquiry: where it all comes together




A community is a group of people with a connection: in a community of inquiry, the community members’ connection is their participation in the learning environment. A community of inquiry should foster a desire to engage and learn, and should nurture the community which it houses. Within the online world, the community of inquiry should seek to connect people and maximize personal interaction. The ultimate goal is deep meaningful learning.

This infographic is rooted in adult learning and offers strategies within the three pillars of a community of inquiry: teaching presence, social presence and cognitive presence. It’s presented as a Venn diagram to underscore that these pillars are not isolated; they work in conjunction with each other. If one is missing, then the structure will fail. Where the circles intersect, I have offered the desired results of the strategies as they combine with one another.

Within the social presence, each of the suggestions is designed to foster an open and safe space for learners. The cognitive presence builds on the safe space, and encourages self-expression and creative risk-taking. The third pillar, teaching presence builds on the idea of teacher as facilitator. As Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2010) note, evidence shows that the teaching presence is of key importance within the triad.

Ultimately, if a community of instruction is successful, learners will not be able to parse out and separate each of these three elements. In fact, in my experience, a successful community of inquiry will be one in which the learning, social and cognitive elements blend seamlessly into a cohesive whole which facilitates interaction and discovery.

Bull, B. (2013). Eight Roles of an Effective Online Teacher. Retrieved from: https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/eight-roles-of-an-effective-online-teacher/

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2010). The first decade of the community of inquiry framework: a retrospective. The Internet and Higher Education, 13(1), 5–9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2009.10.003

Richardson, J., Caskurlu, S., & Ashby, I. (2018). Facilitating your online discussions. Retrieved from: https://www.purdue.edu/innovativelearning/supporting-instruction/portal/files/8_Discussion_Board_Facilitation.pdf

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

2 thoughts on “A community of inquiry: where it all comes together

  1. Hi Jeff – I really appreciated how you incorporated the desired results of the three strategies in your Venn Diagram. I agree that the three pillars are not isolated rather they work together to form the COI. Teaching presence is of key importance in the triad. Lynch (2016) stated, an effective teaching presence incorporates course design, facilitating discourse and direct instruction. The facilitator is like a conductor in a symphony – unifying the performers and setting the tempo. Facilitators unify the learners and set the culture for the learning environment.

    Lynch, J. (2016) Teaching Presence [White Paper]. Pearson Education Inc. https://www.pearsoned.com/wp-content/uploads/INSTR6230_TeachingPresence_WP_f.pdf

  2. Jeff,

    You hit on some key points with your diagram that I identified, but was not as confident in discussing. Your diagram decidedly depicts the overlap between these three presences. For example, where you categorized ‘Create safe guidlines to esnure a safe environment’ into Social presence, I felt compelled to slot this same element into teaching presence, because it was an action of the teacher. Your diagram accuratley reflects how intertwined these elements are. I’m honestly embarrassed that I couldn’t imagine beyond a simple table, and into a more appropriate model for a CoI.

    Sincere thanks for simplifying what I found challenging to wrap my head around.


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