Community of Inquiry: Strategies for Higher Education

Photo by Gradienta on Unsplash

The predominant understanding in traditional pedagogy is that the educator must teach the content, while learners are responsible for their learning and motivation (Keller, 2010). However, when a framework such as Community of Inquiry (CoI) and new digital communication technology are considered, an updated perspective on pedagogy is being offered. Furthermore, according to Vaughan et al. (2013), if the CoI framework is successfully integrated and facilitated, the interplay of teaching, social, cognitive presence can result in higher-order learning with purposeful and critical discourse.
Teaching presence is the educator’s responsibility to curate content and facilitate discourse and direct instructions in synchronous and asynchronous learning environments. Vaughan et al. (2013) pressed on the importance of teaching presence. They stated that well-constructed learning environments could foster inquiry to realize personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning.

Social presence is then defined as “the ability of participants in a community of inquiry to project their personal characteristics into the community thereby presenting themselves to others as real people” (Garrison et al., 2000, p. 89). It is where participants identify with the community, build, and foster a trusting and safe learning environment. Additionally, it is a space to share perspectives, stories, and experiences, resulting in in-group cohesion, according to Vaughan et al. (2013). Some strategies suggested, such as acclimation to a learning environment, personalized introductions, activities promoting increased conversations and discourse, and sharing, will create learner motivation and engagement.

Cognitive presence is identified as a vital element in critical thinking. It is defined as “the extent to which the participants in any particular configuration of a community of inquiry are able to construct meaning through sustained communication” (Garrison et al., 2000, p.12). The authors built upon the narrative further with “cognitive presence reflects higher-order knowledge acquisition in the application and is most associated with literature and research related to critical thinking” (p. 1). Additionally, Garrison & Arbaugh (2007) considered this presence as the heart of an educational experience with four phases and defined by:

    • The triggering event is where some issue or problem is identified to create a sense of puzzlement for further inquiry.
    • Exploration is where participants explore the issue, both individually and collectively, through critical discourse and reflection.
    • Integration is where participants construct meaning from the ideas developed during the exploration stage.
    • Resolution is where participants apply newly gained knowledge to educational contexts or workplace settings.

The infographic below offers some strategies for each presence as a facilitator in Higher Education. Please ensure to click on the and for additional information:



Garrison, D. R., & Arbaugh, J. B. (2007). Researching the community of inquiry framework: Review, issues, and future directions. Internet and Higher Education, 10(3), 157–172.

Garrison, 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), 87–105.

Keller, J. M. (2010). Motivational Design for Learning and Performance. Springer.

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

One thought on “Community of Inquiry: Strategies for Higher Education

  1. Vanessa, what a fantastic infographic! I particularly like the interactive components that allow the overall infographic to be simple and not too cluttered, but contains additional context if you click on the individual components!

    What is one specific activity that you like to incorporate to develop COI in your context?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.