Creating a Community of Inquiry

How to Create A Community Of Inquiry In A Digital Learning Environment

As an educator in a post-secondary institute, I can personally speak to the challenges that emerged with online digital learning environments during the pandemic. I was especially challenged with facilitation, and student engagement, my knowledge of facilitating in a digital learning environment was limited. I lacked the foundational knowledge required to build a community of inquiry within a digital learning environment. 

A community of inquiry focuses on the foundations of online educational experiences for learners (Garrison & Cleveland-Innes, 2005). Using the three key foundational strategies to facilitate a community of learners actively engaged in an online digital learning environment. Giving opportunity to explore, create and gain a deeper understanding of course content. Social, cognitive and teaching presences are an essential part of online facilitation (Garrison & Cleveland-Innes, 2005) If all three presences are successfully integrated and facilitated, “higher-order learning emerges in a community of inquiry(Garrison & Cleveland-Innes, 2005)

The infographic above illustrates key strategies to support the community of inquiry within a post-secondary institution.

Reflecting over the last two years, I have highlighted strategies that will significantly benefit creating a community of inquiry within my program.  Social presence​ is the key to a thriving online learning environment. It provides an opportunity for the learner to build relationships within a safe learning community, encouraging a sense of belonging. It also allows the learner to feel real, allowing for the opportunity to participate in rich discussions, personal expression and creating a critical connection to learning within a community(Anderson et al., 2001)

  1. Create a sense of realism by allowing the learner to see your authentic self through an introductory video.
  2. Create a sense of belonging” allowing the learners to express their authentic selves through a video.
  3. Create a sense of community by introducing an active discussion forum to promote learner engagement.
  4. Create a sense of personal expression, allowing the learners to express their thoughts and feelings using emojis, Gifs, photos

Cognitive presence is an essential foundational component within a digital learning environment. It encourages cognitive development through curiosity, critical inquiry, reflection and collaboration, Thus, provoking critical thinking skills and processes required for learning (Anderson et al., 2001).

  1. Encourage Curiosity by incorporating rich discussions and debate.
  2. Encourage critical inquiry with open-ended questions.
  3. Encourage reflection with self-assessments.
  4. Encourage collaboration through assessments, group work and discussions

The success of teaching presence is dependent on course designfacilitation, and direct instruction. Cognitive and social processes in learning communities assist in creating a positive learning environment (Anderson et al., 2001).

  1. Ensure your course design is clear, concise and easy to follow.
  2. Ensure your facilitation methods are identified and discussed.
  3. Ensure that your instruction provides leadership; that is, educational, structured, and allows learners to be accountable for their learning.

Online learners face the challenge of motivation and consistent engagement. Both of these aspects are likely to fail without the engaged management of learning from the facilitator (Gray & Diloreto, 2016).





Anderson, T., Rourke, L., Garrison, D. R., & Archer, W. (2001). Assessing teaching presence in a computer conferencing context. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Network, 5(2).

Garrison, D. R., & Cleveland-Innes, M. (2005). Facilitating Cognitive Presence in Online Learning: Interaction Is Not Enough. International Journal of Phytoremediation, 21(1), 133–148.

Gray, J. A., & Diloreto, M. (2016). The Effects of Student Engagement, Student Satisfaction, and Perceived Learning in Online Learning Environments. NCPEA International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation, 11(1).



3 thoughts on “Creating a Community of Inquiry

  1. Fantastic infographic with a very robust breakdown of Community of inquiry. I specifically enjoyed the callout on Social presence namely realism, belonging community and personal expression. I found the highlight on encouraging learners to bring their true authentic selves to online spaces very impactful.

  2. Cheryl,

    I love how you mentioned creating a sense of belonging in the social presence section. Feeling that you are a part of a whole and that your presence matters is key to learner participation.

  3. Cheryl,

    I love how you mentioned creating a sense of belonging in the social presence section. Feeling that you are a part of a whole and that your presence matters are key to learner participation.

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