The Community of Inquiry Model

Community of Inquiry Model

The Community of Inquiry model was developed from a study by Garrison, Anderson, and Archer that was conducted in 2001. The model of a community of inquiry consisted of three key elements of an educational experience: Teaching presence, cognitive presence, and social presence. See below for specific descriptions of how these elements work together to impact a student's educational experience. 

Garrison, Anderson, and Archer's Inquiry Model

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Social Presence

Definition: Ability to project the self socially and emotionally, thereby being perceived as “a real person” in mediated communication.

Social Presence consists of:

  • Communication between and with the instructor and all members of the class
  • Interaction with the instructor and all members of the class
  • Relation of a learning community throughout the term
  • Moves from introduction to community to camaraderie
  • Note: Social Presence is the main element needed before Cognitive and Teaching Presence can occur
students and teachers in conversation at an outdoor table.

Teaching Presence

Teaching Presence consists of:

  • Instructional design, especially providing different methods of providing content
  • Organization of the course
  • Facilitation of the discussion
  • Moving the discussion through the four cognitive phases
  • Direct instruction and assisting students with questions and understanding
  • Note: Teaching Presence is a significant factor in student satisfaction and perceived learning
Teacher awarding student with a ceremonial scarf

Cognitive Presence

Cognitive Presence consists of:

  • Motivating students to cognitively engage with course content
  • A four-phase process
    1. Triggering event such as an issue or problem
    2. Exploration through reflection and discussion
    3. Meaning construction as students discuss ideas
    4. Application of knowledge both in the course and outside the classroom

Recommended Reading

two women sitting in chairs on campus lawn

Educational Communities of Inquiry:

Theoretical Framework, Research and Practice

Communications technologies have been continuously integrated into learning and training environments which has revealed the need for a clear understanding of the process...

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young stomp troop dancing

Creating a Community of Inquiry in LargeEnrollment Online Course:

An Exploratory Study on the Effect of Protocols within Online Discussions

It can be difficult to foster focused and effective communication in online discussions within large classes. Implementing protocols is a strategy that may help students communicate more effectively...

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student and teacher talking

Digging Beneath the Surface:

Analyzing the Complexity of Instructors' Participation in Asynchronous Discussion

We developed an analytical tool based on this framework in order to better understand what instructors were saying in discussions...

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students studying

Thinking Collaboratively:

Learning in a Community of Inquiry.

Thinking Collaboratively is a theoretical and practical guide to thinking and learning in deep and meaningful ways within purposeful communities of inquiry...

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E-Learning in the 21st century

A framework for research and practice, Second edition

The second edition of E-Learning in the 21st Century provides a coherent, comprehensive, and empirically-based framework for understanding e-learning in higher education...

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  • References

    Akyol, Z., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Educational Communities of Inquiry: Theoretical Framework, Research and Practice (pp. 1-347). doi:10.4018/978-1-4666-2110-7.

    Chen, B., deNoyelles, A., Zydney, J., & Patton, K., (2017). Creating a Community of Inquiry in large-enrollment online courses: An exploratory study on the effect of protocols within online discussions. Online Learning, 21(1), 165-188.

    Clarke, L. W., & Bartholomew, A. (2014). Digging Beneath the Surface: Analyzing the Complexity of Instructors’ Participation in Asynchronous Discussion. Online Learning-Formerly The Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 18(3).

    Garrison, D. R. (2016). Thinking Collaboratively: Learning in a Community of Inquiry. Routledge.

    Garrison, D. R. (2017). E-Learning in the 21st century: A community of inquiry framework for research and practice (3rd ed.). Routledge/Taylor and Francis

    Garrison, D. 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

students at orientation day

Teaching Tools

students sitting in a circle outside

Examples of Social Presence

  • Ask the entire class to create welcome videos
  • Provide personalized, timely assignment feedback, such as media commenting
  • Active instructor engagement in online discussion boards; establishing presence
  • Encourage collaboration and exchange of ideas
  • Acknowledge student contributions and expertise
  • Establish group cohesion
  • Engage in supportive contact and interactions


Examples of Teaching Presence

  • Create a comprehensive syllabus that communicates clear expectations 
  • Follow best practices in module structure/organization
  • Ensure that your course has an intuitive navigation
  • Provide detailed grading rubrics
  • Post Canvas announcements for weekly introductions and/or wrap-ups
  • Engage in effective and meaningful direct instruction
  • Be actively involved in discussions to facilitate dialogue
  • Provide timely, specific feedback on student performance


Examples of Cognitive Presence

  • Discuss and introduce effective triggering events that create a sense of puzzlement
  • Promote information exchange
  • Create opportunities to connect ideas to prior learning and other course concepts
  • Provide knowledge from diverse sources
  • Create opportunities to foster meaningful application of new knowledge
students in Adirondack chairs on a vast green lawn, all on laptop computers

Supportive Resources