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Establishing a Community of Inquiry (CoI) helps employ a framework to understand a community’s concept in online learning environments. CoI is a framework that describes learning within a group of individuals with the intersection of social, teaching, and cognitive presence. (Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes, and Garrison, 2013). Through these presences, learners construct meaning purposefully and collaboratively. 

Social presence fosters the display of learners’ digital identity in online learning environments. Parslow (as cited in Williams, Fleming, Lundqvist, & Parslow, 2010) used the term Digital Identity “to describe the persona an individual present across all the digital communities in which he or she is represented.” p.40. Social Presence is learners’ ability to express their personalities [digital identities] conveying the essence of their real-self in mediated communication. (Garrison & Arbaugh, 2007). For learners to express their real personalities online, facilitators are first encouraged to personalize introductions, interactions & experiences to encourage similar behaviours. Second, set clear netiquettes & communication channels to promote open, trustworthy, and coherent learning environments. Lastly, energize learning by sparking individual and group interests, such as giving learners the ability to pick topics and assignments. A high level of social presence supports the discourse necessary to build a cognitive presence.

Cognitive presence is the extent to which learners can construct meaning through sustained reflection and discourse. (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2010). Facilitators can incorporate Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles such as multiple means of representation, to account for diverse learners’ cognitive needs such as projecting videos, pictures, and graphs. Scaffolding learning in detail provides facilitators with opportunities to provide a cognitive presence to promote reflection and critical thinking (Garrison & Arbaugh, 2007). The direction of both cognitive and social processes is governed by the teaching presence (Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes, & Garrison,2013).

Teaching Presence consists of three elements: design and organization, facilitation, and direct instruction (Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes, & Garrison,2013). Facilitators can act as narrators and tour guides to manage the flow of online course design and organization. For example, giving participants explicit instructions through narrating tasks such as; I will be dividing the group…, we will be discussing x,y,x can help learners expect what is required in an orderly fashion. Stimulating autonomy helps facilitators in the facilitation process by empowering them to self-regulate their learning journey. Encouraging role rotation and co-facilitation can empower learners and help create a coherent learning environment.

Facilitators in online learning environments can utilize CoI’s three elements combined and use them interchangeably to contribute to a successful educational experience. The above-mentioned strategies are examples of many CoI strategies that facilitators can employ.


Garrison, D. R. (2007). Online community of inquiry review: Social, cognitive, and teaching presence issues. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 11(1), 61-72. Retrieved from http://www.sloanconsortium.org/sites/default/files/v11n1_8garrison.pdf

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2010). The first decade of the community of inquiry: A
retrospective. The Internet and Higher Education, 13(1-2), 5-9. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2009.10.003

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

 Williams, S. A., Fleming, S. C., Lundqvist, K. O., & Parslow, P. N. (2010). Understanding your digital identity. Learning Exchange1(1).