Technology Integration Models and Barriers

10 Community of Inquiry Framework in Online Learning: Use of Technology

Lindita Bektashi

Lindita Bektashi (
University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Oshawa, ON


The Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework highlights social presence, teaching presence, and cognitive presence as essential elements to facilitate successful educational experiences in online distance learning environments. Although thousands of CoI-based articles have been published (Befus, 2016), those critical of the framework suggest that more presences should be added in the framework, such as the learner presence. Other researchers propose to modify existing preferences. Garrison (2018) recommends turning to the practical aspects of a CoI, as much attention has been directed to issues of facilitation. The technology used in an online learning environment can facilitate a CoI model. Two technological applications are analyzed in this chapter: Screencast –o – Matic voice over recording (Harrell, 2012) and WebEx training (Gallagher, 2005). How well the chosen tools support each CoI element is evaluated and ways in which we might take advantage of the technology use to better support student learning are stated. Implications for further research are discussed.

Keywords: Community of Inquiry, constructivism, online education, Screencast –o – Matic, WebEx training


Shields (1999) indicated that the Community of Inquiry (CoI) concept was used first by early pragmatists C.S. Peirce, John Dewey and Jane Addams and is largely defined as any group of individuals that have a commitment to address a shared issue, problem or interest through a method similar to scientific investigation. As stated by Dumitru (2012) the most important thing is that this community produces knowledge.

Garrison et al. (1999) proposed a CoI model for educational developers to assist in the organisation of online and blended educational experiences. The creators of the CoI framework for e-learning worked together at the University of Alberta for five years (1996–2001) in the Faculty of Extension Department on a graduate program that was partially online and the goal of their work was to provide a heuristic understanding and a methodology for studying the potential and effectiveness of computer conferencing (Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 2010). The Community of Inquiry (CoI) is a theoretical framework for the optimal design of online learning environments to support critical thinking, critical inquiry and discourse among students and teachers (Garrison, Anderson & Archer 1999). Educational models help educators to apply the findings of education research to the practical task of curriculum design, development and sequencing of educational experiences to optimise learning (Cooper & Scriven, 2017).

Befus (2016) underlines that in the ensuing years, CoI framework became the basis for a substantial number of studies. A number of researchers have been preoccupied with concerns such as student satisfaction with e-learning or techniques or measuring communicative action. Other researchers have been trying to improve the framework by modifying or adding more presences. Some of the main discussions about the modification of the framework will be discussed in this chapter. Another inquiry will be the application of the CoI model in today’s technology driven classrooms.

The CoI Framework Review

The Community of Inquiry (CoI) model (Fig 1) describes how learning occurs for a group of individual learners through the educational experience that occurs at the intersection of social, cognitive and teaching presence. According to Garrison et al. (1999), it is through the skilful marshalling of these forms of presence that online academic staff and students, in collaboration, develop a productive online learning environment through which knowledge is constructed.

Social Presence. The ability of participants to identify with the community, communicate purposefully in a trusting environment, and develop interpersonal relationships by way of projecting their individual personalities (Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 1999).

Cognitive Presence. The extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse in a critical Community of Inquiry (Garrison, Anderson & Archer 1999).

Teaching Presence. The design, facilitation and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes (Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 1999).

Each of these types of presence has categories and indicators (Garrison, 2007; see Table 1, Appendix A). Conforming to Lipman (1991), the importance of a Community of Inquiry is that, while the objective of critical reflection is intellectual autonomy, in reality, critical reflection is thoroughly social and communal.

Elements of an educational experience (adapted from Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2010)
Figure 1.  Elements of an educational experience (Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 2010)

Connection to Connectivism

Community of Inquiry (CoI) had its genesis in the work of John Dewey and is consistent with constructivist approaches to learning in higher education (Garrison, 2007). In online learning students are accountable for their learning and how they learn it. Dewey believed that through collaboration that respected the individual, students would assume responsibility to actively construct and confirm meaning (as cited in Swan, Garrison & Richardson, 2009).

Research and Critiques of CoI Framework

As already mentioned in the introduction there are quite a number of articles written about the CoI framework. Some of this papers bring up some significant points regarding the use of the CoI model in classroom and the modification of its presences.

Kozan et al. (2018) study extensively explores the research done on improvements of the CoI framework. The authors concentrate on two kinds of research papers that suggest of CoI model modifications: those who prefer to modify one or more existing presences with additional presences, and those who prefer to add new presences on the existing CoI framework.

Garrison (2018) believes that most of the suggested revisions identified by Kozan and Caskurlu do not recognize the core premise embedded in each presence with regard to both the individual and shared experiences of a collaborative learning experience. Separating responsibilities of teacher and learner (participants are both teacher and learner in a truly collaborative learning experience) violates the integrity of the framework (Garrison, 2018).

Anderson (2017) paper explores the evolution of the Community of Inquiry model and the current state of CoI in teaching and learning in digital age. According to Anderson (2017) the biggest concern with the existing CoI model is that while it helps construct and define an effective teaching model, it does not take in consideration the fact that the effectiveness of teaching is equally dependent on the learners. As a result the author agrees with Shea and Bidjerano (2010) that a new presence needs to be added to the framework: the learner presence.

Kovanović et al. (2017) paper evaluates the Community of Inquiry (CoI) survey instrument developed by Arbaugh et al. (2008) within the setting of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). The findings confirmed the reliability and validity of the CoI survey instrument for the assessment of the key dimensions of the CoI model: teaching presence, social presence, and cognitive presence. Although, the researchers suggested a six-factor model with additional three factors as a better fit to the data: 1) course organization and design (a sub-component of teaching presence), 2) group affectivity (a sub-component of social presence), and 3) resolution phase of inquiry learning (a sub-component of cognitive presence).

Peacock et al. (2016) article concentrates in the overlap of three Presences, their definitions and roles, and their ensuing impact on the educational experience. It proposes enrichment to the Framework, by entitling the overlapping spaces uniting pairs of Presences as “Influences.” These three spaces, linking pairings of Social, Teaching, and Cognitive Presences, can be labelled as “trusting,” “meaning-making,” and “deepening understanding” (Peacock & Cowan, 2016).

CoI Model and Technology use in Online Courses

The integration of technology into courses varies from making use of specific applications, to making use of digital spaces for supplementing course materials, and to offering fully online courses via course management systems (Wright, Marsh & Miller, 1999). In an online learning environment, specific features of the technology can aid certain behaviors and restrain others. To illustrate how technology could potentially facilitate elements of the CoI framework for online learners, Thomson et al. (2017) consider a Learning Management System (LMS), the typical venue where courses are taught. When use a LMS students create profiles and upload biographies that can be viewed by other students and the teachers. These features help to support the social presence. Teachers can upload lessons, instructions, videos, and activities into LMS, thus making possible their teaching presence. Online discussion forums are another feature of LMS. Online discussion forums are used as a best-practice pedagogical technique to encourage student interaction and community (Muilenburg & Berge, 2006).

Instructional practices can be enhanced by using CoI model and technology that can support all the three presences of the framework. There are two technological applications described below.

WebEx Training simplifies delivery of highly effective, online learning to anyone, anywhere, without sacrificing effectiveness. WebEx provides a dynamic, interactive e-learning environment. WebEx training is used mostly in corporate training and sometimes is integrated in the LMS. Facilitators can deliver impactful online trainings and keep the online learners engaged during and after the sessions. They can share presentations, stream webinars, and encourage participation using tools like whiteboard and chat. Learners learn from the presentations and each other’s experiences. WebEx use supports social, teaching and cognitive presences of CoI framework.

Screencast-o-Matic is a free online video maker that produces quality videos. This is a simple screen capture tool that records whatever is happening on a Personal Computer screen and narrate it as its happening. Screencast-o-Matic is the perfect tool for creating training videos or tutorials for any subject, as long as it is being recorded from an onscreen monitor. For instance, if anyone wanted to teach viewers how to use WordPress, they could virtually record and narrate anything they are doing within the WordPress platform. This way the software supports the teaching presence. The cognitive presence is supported by the ability to use multimedia in a way that supports cognitive processing. The teacher can heighten social presence by offering the students the opportunity to discuss the video.

Conclusion and Recommendations for Future Research

The CoI framework provides a dynamic model for an institutional approach to move away from a passive lecture that fundamentally reshaped the educational experience based on thinking and learning collaboratively (Garrison, 2018). The evolution of technology, and the use of it in online learning has transformed the education process. Technology can assist elements of the CoI framework for online learners. The Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework has been one of the most used and researched educational frameworks. The researches range from subjects like how useful is the model in today’s learning environment, can it be improved or can new presences be added to the framework. In accordance with Garrison (2018) adding new presences violates the integrity of the framework.
As Garrison (2018) suggests it’s time to turn to the practical aspects of a CoI, as much attention has been directed to issues of facilitation. More studies can be done of how educators can use the CoI model to integrate the best technologies into curriculum in order to empower them and help student learn.


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Appendix A

Table 1

Presences, Categories, and Indicators for the Community of Inquiry (adapted from Garrison, 2007)

Element Categories Indicators (examples only)
Cognitive Presence Triggering Event Sense of puzzlement
Exploration Information exchange
Integration Connecting ideas
Resolution Apply new ideas
Social Presence Emotional Express emotions
Open Communication Risk-free expression
Group Cohesion Encouraging collaboration
Teaching Presence Instructional Management Defining and initiating
Discussion topics
Building Understanding Sharing personal meaning
Direct Instruction Focusing discussion


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Technology and the Curriculum: Summer 2018 by Lindita Bektashi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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