Community of Inquiry Theory in E-learning Environments

Introduction | Distance Education: E Learning | Text-Based Communication (Discourse) | A Sense of Community | Theoretical Framework: Community of Inquiry (CoI) | Community of Inquiry Presences | Social Presence | Cognitive Presence | <span style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;">Teaching Presence | References | Web Links for Further Reading:


Since the dawn of humankind, the concept of community has been the fundamental nucleus of survival, interests, and activities: People interacting with and learning from one another. Contemporary e-learning is no different, in terms of community. It provides asynchronous and synchronous learning-spaces, where the ideas, experiences, and viewpoints of e-learners can be discussed and debated, by way of text-based communications (discourse). The community (group) of e-learners seeks understanding, knowledge, analysis, and experience surrounding specific disciplines, goals, and interests, such as psychology, sociology, and education, to name a few. The rationale for this discussion is to examine the multifaceted aspects of the Community of Inquiry (CoI), including its theoretical framework, and presences that formulate meaningful learning experiences, which effectively operates within the e-learning venue of higher education.
Inside e-learning communities, interactive discourse, in relation to learning concepts, topics, and interests, facilitate emerging relationships among community members. Some community members have a strong understanding of the discipline, at hand, while others may be a novice in the topic area. The community members hail from diverse backgrounds and varying experiences. When these diverse individuals join-together as a community of inquiry, personal ties are formed and mutual focus facilitates a condition for social and cognitive capital to flourish. Each member of the community brings unique views, knowledge, and experiences to the table of the community of inquiry. Even in the short timeframe of a single e-learning course, trustful relationships emerge. These relationships augment the community's ability to thrive and maintain opportunities for higher-order learning (cognitive) and a sense of belonging (social/community) (Haythornthwaite & Andrews, 2011).

In addition, shared experiences within the safety of the community of inquiry develop norms that guide the behaviors of the community throughout the learning process. The course mentor and/or leader-members of the community itself may establish the initial norms. It is by way of these norms that the community of inquiry manifests behaviors congruent to the well-being and scholarship of all members. Behaviors, such as respect, shared exchanges of experiences and knowledge, as well as, meaningful learning and mutual understanding define the extent to which each member is committed to the maintenance of the community of inquiry (Haythornthwaite & Andrews, 2011).

Distance Education: E Learning

Higher educational e-learning aims to offer adult learners with quality, flexible learning experiences at a distance. The concept and construction of e-learning environments were initiated following the development of the World Wide Web and the Internet. Initially, the designs of e-learning courses followed closely the designs of face-to-face, brick-and-mortar higher learning courses. However, as asynchronous discussion groups matured, the conceptual basis of e-learning designs began to change and take on a more socially beneficial format, known as community learning. Community (or group) learning has been at the forefront of educational research since the 1970's, when adult learning became popularized via Andragogy and other emerging learning theories dedicated to the study of adults in higher learning situations (Garrison, 2011). Since then, the notions of collaboration (teamwork), engagement (interactivity), reflection, and text-based discourse (asynchronous written communication) have found a significant position in 21st century educational research. Historically, distance education has focused its efforts toward the content of topics and the delivery of that content. E-learning in higher education currently focuses its efforts on learner-centered experiences, independently and collaboratively, in addition to, the learning process and its components.

"E-learning is not a synonym for distance education" (Garrison, 2011, p. 3). It is a distinctive dual-faceted configuration of distance education, which includes: Asynchronous (entirely online) learning and Synchronous (online technologies coupled with synchronous technologies) learning; commonly referred to as Blended Learning. "E-learning has prompted a paradigm shift in pedagogical assumptions and approaches representative of current theory and practice for a new era in distance education" (Ibid p. 3). The intention of E-learning is to afford adult e-learners with opportunities for context-specific, collaborative learning experiences. Context-specific learning centers attention on the individual learner, as well as, the community of learners involved in the mutual e-learning environment. These intentional outcomes are realized via critical discourse, critical thinking and reflection, and deep learning experiences exhibited by the CoI (Ibid).

E-learning integrates independent (self-directed, autonomous) learning with interactive collaborative (connectivity) learning, without the restraints of time and space, respectively, in an effort to emulate the worth of higher education (Garrison, 2011). The conceptual framework of the e-learning context transcends the scope of individual Internet and Web 2.0 usage, by incorporating the added value of collaborative learning occasions. Collaborative learning aids in the facilitation of critical discourse, critical thinking and reflection, and provides avenues for meaningful acquisition of new knowledge, perspectives, and understanding. Computer-mediated technologies play an essential role, in terms of access to e-learning environments. However, the heart and "...value of e-learning is its capacity to support communication and thinking in the quest to construct meaning and confirm knowledge" (Ibid, p. 5). The best way to think of contemporary e-learning is in terms of its competence to ignite, support, and sustain interactivity among diverse learners and mentors (Ibid).

Text-Based Communication (Discourse)

In times past, writing was viewed as a "direct transfer" (Garrison, 2011, p. 16) of the information represented by speech in a visual means. Nevertheless, in a digital information society, writing (keyboarding) has become a significant necessary form of communication. Within the e-learning environment, written communication (discourse) possesses valuable qualities not offered in face-to-face verbal learning circumstance. For example, written communication is important as a permanent record for institutions, educators, and researchers. Permanent documentation is a trusted worldwide means utilized, as evidence for learning, as well as, a proclamation of needed change or reorganization of the mechanisms provided in current e-learning environments. Second, text-based discourse promotes critical discourse and is more attentive to peer-perspectives, in addition to enhancing reflection on the meaning and value of peer-perspectives. Third, verbal communications rarely afford the recipient of a message, time to reflect on the meaning of a message. Since, reflection is a key component of critical discourse and thought, it is imperative for reflection to be embedded into the communicative processes of the e-leaning atmosphere. E-learning text-based discourse affords e-learners multiple opportunities to practice critical reflection skills. The attributes of text-based discourse present e-learners with opportunities for exchanges of mutual understanding and in-depth learning experiences (Garrison, 2011).

A Sense of Community

"Since the late nineteenth century, ‘the use of the term community has remained to some extent associated with the hope and the wish of reviving once more the closer, warmer, more harmonious type of bonds between people vaguely attributed to past ages "(Smith, 2013, p. 1). Smith reflects on the idea of community as a place to personally learn and grow, as part of a nurturing community. When placed in the context of e-learning, Smith supports the idea that community should create that same nurturing sense of belonging, which thrived in the neighborhoods of 19th Century worldwide societies. Within these communities, members felt safe, wanted, needed, valued, and respected. Resources and knowledge were shared commodities. In Smith's analysis, these shared communal attributes, are indispensable and significant to the e-learning shared spaces of the 21st century learning arena. When patterned after and utilized similar to the community-thinking of gone-by-eras, Smith surmises that e-learning communities are formulated with individuals, who eventually, think and act as one knowledgeable unit. The splendor of the computer-mediated e-learning environment is its limitless boundaries that unite members of diverse cultures and backgrounds, as a means to engage, learn from, and appreciate one another's differences, as well as, similarities (Ibid).

Theoretical Framework: Community of Inquiry (CoI)

Garrison (2011) defines " educational Community of Inquiry (CoI), as a group of individuals, who collaboratively engage in purposeful critical discourse, thinking, and reflection to construct personal meaning and confirm mutual understanding" (p. 15).

The requirements of a digital knowledge society create expectations for individuals to play dual roles in the workplace and learning contexts. Contemporary e-learners must be independent from an autonomous-awareness perspective, while simultaneously capable of working and learning collaboratively within a community setting. This dual role enhances the conditions for meaningful, valuable learning experiences. In times past, this dual role in learning and working was non-existent. Today, however, in light of the emergence of global knowledge societies, the capacity of individuals to learn and work autonomously, as well as, collaboratively is a necessity. "The CoI in e-learning is a merging of individual (subjective) and shared (objective) world perspectives" (Garrison, 2011, p. 20).

Matthew Lipman (1922-2010) argues that a learning environment that is of a multicultural, shared nature, where social knowledge is revealed, remains the optimal learning situation, conducive to higher-order thinking and learning (Lipman, 2003). Lipman wrote extensively, in relation to the personal need of all humans, children and adults alike, in favor of entering the learning arena, as an autonomous individual, yet functioning, as a member of a community of inquiry. His philosophy was strong and verbal concerning the ability of all learners to take his or her individual ideas and thinking to the learning situation for the betterment of all. He referred to inquiry, as the active search for meaning (Garrison, 2011, p. 22). Lipman borrowed his philosophy of the CoI from educational reformer and philosopher, John Dewey (1859-1952), who formulated the ideas and importance of social and educational reform, and community, as well as, self-action, interaction, and transaction within learning systems (Smith, 2001). Lipman supported the idea that shared discourse, helped construct higher-order thinking. He explained higher-order thinking, as thinking "...that is conceptually rich, coherently organized, and persistently exploratory" (Lipman, 2003, p. 19).

Zygouris-Coe (2012) outlines the benefits of collaborative e-learning situations on the premises that (a) learning is a social act, (b) learning is an active process; (c) learners benefit from others’ knowledge and viewpoints; (d) dialogue and active involvement promotes learning; and, (e) learning takes place when learners critically reflect on their knowledge (p. 333). Zygouris-Coe's studies surrounded adult learners in the e-learning situation, which provides evidence that those e-learners, who had difficulty working with and learning from peer-learners, also had difficulty in e-learning circumstances overall. She purports that it takes a genuine committed effort to open oneself to critique and debate within serious e-learning discourse, in order to gain the knowledge and learning experiences, necessitated by the current knowledge society, which is upon every learner in the digital era (Ibid).

Schrage (2008) suggests five specific approaches, to effectively produce collaborative exchanges within a learning environment:

1. "Work toward collective results beyond those possible if participants worked alone.
2. Substantial degree of interdependence (collaboration)
3. Substantial degree of individual autonomy
4. Appreciative inquiry, dialogue/discourse, stories, experiences
5. Sense of belonging, open communication, complementary, diverse skills and knowledge, intellectual dexterity
6. Enable the emergence of understanding and realization of shared visions in complex environments and systems" (Schrage, 2008, p. 333).

Schrage (2003) proclaims, “You cannot create shared understanding without shared space (p. 94).” He alleged robustly that shared learning spaces should be planned and developed well, with the community of inquiry in mind, in order to promote and encourage safe, relaxing atmospheres for genuine discourse to transpire (Ibid).

Martin Buber's (1878-1965) philosophy of the learning community supported the idea that all learners should take their respective thinking to the arena of the collaborative learning place, with the intention to share perspectives, and be changed by the perspectives of others. He suggested that in collaborative learning, individualism and collectivism merge into a learning experience, unavailable in any other way. In Buber's view, when individualism and collectivism amalgamate, authentic learning and mutual understanding may be pursued, and community developed (Smith, 2009).

Community of Inquiry Model. Garrison, D. R. (2011) p. 23.

Community of Inquiry Presences

E-learning models are on the rise due to the popularity and demand for e-learning courses and degree programs. "Over 6.1 million students in the USA took at least one online class in the fall of 2010, which represents a 10% growth rate over the previous year" (Allen & Seaman, 2011, p. 4). In 2000, professors Randy Garrison, Terry Anderson, and Walter Archer of the University of Alberta, published their theoretical model of the Community of Inquiry (CoI), that "...identified three presences as essential to forming a Community of Inquiry (CoI)" (Hosler & Arend, 2012). The theoretical model assumes learning occurs in a community-like situation involving “crucial prerequisites for a successful higher educational experience” (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000, p. 87).

Since the e-learning environment is predominately a non-verbal situation, it is imperative that mentors and e-learners rely on the idea of presences within the learning event, in order for in-depth exchanges and learning to emerge. Over the past decade, presences in the e-learning environment have become an emerging topic of contemporary research. Presences refer to the concept of a feeling of interacting with real people verses imaginary: a cyber-knowing and being-known. As bonded-interactive relationships, develop in the CoI, three presences are necessary, in order to achieve successful, nurturing conditions for explicit learning to transpire: Social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence (Hosler & Arend, 2012).
The presences that comprise a Community of Inquiry (CoI) require that a foundation exist from which successful learning can be accomplished" (Athabasca University, 2013). This foundation exists through the concepts of social, cognitive, and teaching presence and assumes that effectual e-learning necessitates a community atmosphere. Moreover, the concept of presences, not only function interdependently, but also overlap within the CoI framework, so as to, fashion a thriving learning experience for each e-learner (Swan, Richardson, Ice, Garrison, Cleveland-Innes & Arbaugh, 2008). In the e-learning venue, "... the simplest definition of presence refers to a student’s sense of being in and belonging in a course and the ability to interact with other students and an instructor although physical contact is not available" (Hosler & Arend, 2012, p. 218).

Social Presence

Social presence is the ability of learners to project their personal characteristics into the community of inquiry, thereby presenting themselves as ‘real people’ (Garrison, Cleveland-Ines, Vaughn & Akyol, 2010b, para 1).
Swan et al (2008) explain the social presence aspect of CoI, as "the degree to which participants in computer-mediated communication feel effectively connected one to another..." (p. 2). In regards to the presences within the CoI framework, social presence has the greatest longevity, in terms of research interest and investigation, which has spanned over two decades. This interest and research began with other disciplines, such as psychology, philosophy, and anthropology before it became imperative to educational venues. Social presence is significant to e-learning situations, due to the lack of physical contact and verbal discourse available during the learning process (Ibid).

Kehrwald (2008) reports, in the early years of investigation concerning social presence in the CoI framework, researchers were chiefly interested in how social presence was affected by the use of media to support social interaction. Nevertheless, over time, the research underwent a shift from the importance of media use to the importance of learner use and perception. Therefore, the description of social presence in the e-learning venue shifted to: “the degree to which a person is perceived as ‘real’ in mediated communication” (Swan et al, p. 2). Since the late 1990's, educators and researcher have analyzed the process and benefits of social presence from the e-learner's perception within the CoI framework (Kehrwald, 2008).

Shen, Yu & Khalifa (2010) have investigated social presence from differing dimensions, and discovered a social identity among e-learners. Social identity is classified from the perspective of how the collective influences the individual learner, in relation to social behavior in the e-learning context. Social identity is a psychological response of e-learners' feelings and perceptions of acceptance, belonging, and oneness with the collaborative learning community. When the e-learner's perception of personal social identity is positive, and even enjoyable, the behaviors of the community member become progressively more proactive and committed to the CoI. In addition, positive social identity lends itself to providing increased autonomy, for increased learning occasions. For this reason, it is crucial for the CoI to be structured with embedded opportunities to build each community member's social identity and sense of value (Ibid).

Garrison (2011) argues that one issue has plagued the CoI, in relation to e-learning, since its conception: Lack of immediacy for social presence. He suggests that when the e-learner is in need of immediate interaction, such as feedback or assistance from the other members of the CoI, the feelings of isolation may be increased. Nonetheless, Shen et al (2010) propose that as individuals become more accustom to less-immediate activities in 'real life' circumstances, such as global social media networking, blogging, wiki memberships, Skype SMS, mobile texting, and the like, the need for socially active immediacy in the e-learning arena will have a lessened affect than it does. Moreover, social perception is considered a part of the cognitive presence of e-learners, therefore, social and cognitive presence overlap and allow for ongoing learning experiences within the CoI that are positive in nature (Ibid).

Leong (2011) agrees with Shen et al, in their estimation of the affirmative overlapping considerations of social and cognitive presence and how it influences the e-learners perceptions of learning and immediacy. In this study, Leong associates cognitive absorptions with social presence from the viewpoint that previous interactions with the CoI are cognitively absorbed and utilized later. This proposal implies a personal increase in autonomy and self-social perception, for the CoI member, as well. For example, when immediacy with the CoI is unavailable, research provides evidence that the individual e-learner cognitively draws from preceding interactive occasions with the CoI. Moreover, the individual e-learner, cognitively applies that prior understanding and knowledge to autonomous activities, such as personal reading and research until feedback and assistance can be obtained from others associated with the CoI. Leong also implies that these autonomous efforts provide considerable opportunities toward ongoing motivation and maturing the social and cognitive presences of the CoI members, which augments the general learning experiences of individual e-learners, as well (Ibid).

Cognitive Presence

"Cognitive presence is the extent to which the participants in any particular configuration of a community of inquiry are able to construct meaning through sustained communication" (Garrison, Cleveland-Ines, Vaughn & Akyol, 2010a, para 1).

From the latter decades of the Nineteenth Century, theorist and researchers have placed vehement effort and attention to the idea of cognitive presence in learning and evidence of learning. Illeris (2009) defined learning as, "...any process that in living organism leads to permanent capacity change, which is not solely due to biological maturation or aging" (p. 7). Cognitive presence is a vital aspect of the learning process and is influenced by external and internal conditions. Internal conditions influencing cognitive presence in the learning process embraces the learner's character, normal functioning capacity, and motivation for pursuing learning. Contrastingly, external conditions influencing cognitive presence in the learning process incorporates the learning space, social views, and learning circumstances. For example, from the perspective of external conditions to cognitive presence, a learner may be enrolled in e-learning courses, due to a profession development requirement of his or her current employer (learning circumstances). Mandatory learning situations (external conditions) may well become a barrier to productive cognitive presence in the learning and interactive processes. On the other hand, the learner might be retired from a long-term career, and enrolled in e-learning to gain skills and knowledge, in order to volunteer, as a community service provider. Here, the motivation (internal condition) for cognitive presence in learning is heightened via autonomous decision-making, as well as, planning for the future (internal conditions). These internal conditions sharpen the learner's cognitive presence toward new knowledge and learning skills. Illeris prescribes to the idea of acute self-awareness, in relation to the conditions that may prohibit or enhance cognitive presence. Cognitive presence is highly subjective and objective in nature, and contributes to a learner's capacity toward critical discourse and reflection, particularly within the complex environment of present-day e-learning (Illeris, 2009).

Garrison (2011) purports that "...cognitive presence is a condition of higher-order thinking and learning" (p. 24). He, too, supports the hypothesis that critical discourse and reflection are significant attributes off cognitive presence in the e-learning venue. Cognitive presence and its attributes, aid in the e-learner's competence toward scholarly discourse, and the evaluation and appreciation of others' ideas and worldviews. In the present climate of great diversity within the e-learning environment, Garrison submits, that cognitive presence is an indispensable factor for well-satisfying learning experiences (Ibid).
Haythornthwaite & Andrews (2011) present cognitive presence for e-learning from the perspective of the CoI norms. These norms represent acceptable behaviors for the CoI and e-learning environment, overall. When the learner's cognitive presence is enhanced through critical discourse and reflection, the learner's attitude and demeanor are consistently more respectful, scholarly, and engaging, with the aim of fulfilling the norms of the CoI. This optimal model of cognitive presence, supports learner satisfaction and augments learning experiences offered in e-learning environments (Ibid)

Gregori, Torras & Guasch (2012) view cognitive presence in the e-learning setting, from the viewpoint of technological presence. "Technological presence can be defined by a wide range of student behaviors" (p. 468), that are directly influenced by the specific e-learning technologies used within the learning environment, and the learners understanding of each. For example, in Gregori et al, recent study of eighty-eight e-learning students, cognitive presence was reported, as increased for students, who were comfortable with their technological presence in the e-learning venue. However, when technological presence was inadequate, students spent more time struggling with the use of technology, than they did interacting from a reflective discourse and interactive perspective. In this situation, the optimal conditions for cognitive presence within the CoI were severely hampered by poor technological presence. Presence encompasses the student's perception of what is happening within the learning environment. Therefore, when a student's technological presence is unsatisfactory, in his or her respective view, the sense of connectedness and belonging to the CoI, suffer as well. Gregori et al, suggest that one way to improve cognitive presence is to assess the student's technological presence prior to course placement. By evaluating and addressing technological presence issues, students will have increased opportunities for improved cognitive presence, where critical discourse and reflection are attained and utilized effectively within the norms of the CoI and specific e-learning environment (Ibid).

Leong (2011) submits that there is a link between cognitive absorption and cognitive flow, both of which are components of cognitive presence in computer-mediated learning atmospheres. For instance, "When a person experiences flow, hours seem to transform into minutes while seconds may last for hours" (p. 9). Therefore, when cognitive flow is increased, so is cognitive absorption, and the reverse is true as well. Cognitive flow; therefore, may hinder or encourage cognitive presence, contingent on the learner's perception. Another component of cognitive presence is space distortion. Space distortion speaks to the sense of being part of something that is not visible or physical, but satisfying to the cognitive presence of the learner in a 'real' way. When space dissociation is a positive experience, learner motivation is also promoted. Learner motivation affecting cognitive presence may be of an intrinsic or extrinsic nature. Extrinsic motivation is manifested through external forces, such as affirmative feedback or accolades from valued members of the CoI or mentor within a discussion forum. Leong advocates that intrinsic motivation is also a precursor to elevated cognitive presence by way of internal forces, such as new knowledge acquisition of a favored topic of interest, produced by autonomous effort exerted in investigating the topic. Leong's study found that although social presence is an important segment of learner satisfaction, in relation to the CoI, it was not as significant, as cognitive presence to e-learners. Cognitive presence and its attributes contributed considerably to the overall satisfaction of learners, because, in the computer-mediated learning environment, " presence is mediated by cognitive absorption" (Leong, 2011, p. 24), which generates opportunities for cognitive presence attainment.

Teaching Presence

"Teaching presence is defined as the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educational worthwhile learning outcomes" (Garrison, Cleveland-Ines, Vaughn & Akyol, 2010c, para 1).

Anderson, Rourke, Garrison & Archer (2001), compared the teachers of the pioneer era to Twenty-First Century e-learning facilitators, because teachers in both eras execute very similar duties with multiple-ages and various learning-ability individuals, as well as, assorted learning communities. First, both design the entire learning experience, in relation to development, organization, management, and appraisal of learning materials and environment, in order to bring forth the best learner experiences possible, for numbers of dissimilar learners. Moreover, in both generations, teachers and e-learning facilitators are expected to be "subject matter experts" (p. 2). Anderson et al, refer to present-day e-learning facilitators, as the pioneers of a new century, due to ever-changing landscape of e-learning. In addition, these all encompassing learning environments and learners, pose never-ending challenges and, at times, frustrating circumstances for e-learning facilitators (Ibid).

Today's e-learning environments and learners are complex and multifaceted, and must be viewed, analyzed, and organized from a teaching presence perspective. The idea of teaching presence in an e-learning context, defers the responsibility of determining when to guide, when to allow students extensive autonomy, and when to intervene, in the hands of the learning facilitator. In most cases, it takes mature understanding and expertise to volley in the correct direction, in order to provide opportunities for higher-order learning experiences. For example, within the CoI, it is typical for a portion of the learners to take deeper-autonomous responsibility for managing time and goals, in order to enjoy and glean from higher-order thinking and learning. At the same time, a portion of learners will attempt to ride the shirttails of those, who are self-motivated and -directed. The learning facilitator is accountable to ensure that each learner in the CoI is challenged toward deep learning experiences, which translates to striving toward collaborative interaction, critical discourse, and reflection that lead to higher-order thinking and learning. When segments of CoI members are not striving toward these lofty outcomes, the facilitator must develop strategies significantly influential to that specific CoI, by way of example. The facilitator may choose to join the discourse by sharing personal reflections on the topic, or ask specific questions of the CoI members, to support further critical reflection appropriate for the discourse venues. Moreover, due to the diverse backgrounds and knowledge bases of the CoI, the facilitator should be obliged to sensitive strategies and approaches that build and sustain the CoI, as well as extrinsically motive individuals (Garrison, 2011).

Additionally, Rodgers & Raider-Roth (2006) advocate that the teaching presence in the e-learning context is fabricated and sustained by ongoing relationship-building events between learners and facilitators. These relationships are usually initiated by the facilitator's efforts toward understanding and addressing barriers that may exist within the CoI, such as English language learner-issues, or cultural diversity. In these situations, it is the teaching presence of an insightful, credible facilitator, which will dismantle the barriers and guide the learner into a respectful relationship with the facilitator, as well as, members of the CoI. Trustful, safe relationships with students through teaching presence, can encourage emerging thoughtful discourse and reflection, and ultimately, encourage prosperous learning experiences (Ibid).

Further, Garrison (2011), Rodgers & Raider-Roth (2006), and others have discovered through interviews and surveys, that from an adult e-learners perspective, the most valued teaching presence continues to be timely, comprehensive feedback. Some feedback is suitable during the critical discourse events with the entire CoI, where encouragement, and supplementary information and resources may be shared through teaching presence. Other feedback is more suitable for private interaction with the learner, utilizing systems e-mail or phone calls, to ensure ongoing exchanges with particular students, who have indicated the desire or need for private interaction. The Rodgers & Raider-Roth studies surrounding teaching presence indicate that teaching presence initiated via skillful feedback is one of the most effective ways to construct worthwhile relationships within the CoI (Ibid).

Jezegou (2012) supports the CoI model in relation to teaching presence and its possible benefits for relationship-building during collaborative events. However, she also points out that to-date, there is no empirical verification suggesting that there is sustainable influence of teaching presence in e-learning CoI. Therefore, Jezegou recommends that ongoing studies are necessary to secure the place of teaching presence within the CoI model (Ibid).

Teaching presence, within some segments of the e-learning context, such as comprehensive feedback, appear to negotiate significant influence in the CoI e-learning context. Conversely, other teaching presence aspects may be questionable, particularly due to the ever-evolving landscape of e-learning in higher education. It is noteworthy to mention here, that the above discussion has provided important evidence of ongoing studies surrounding the other overlapping components of the CoI model, such as cognitive and social presence. Recommendations have also been presented for modifications to the current CoI, particularly for the 21st Century e-learning environment. It is always beneficial to e-learners and e-facilitators, to be well-informed of best practice trends and valuable emerging theories, because the crucially desired outcome of e-learning is to provide quality learning experiences coupled with critical thinking and learning opportunities.


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Web Links for Further Reading:

Matthew Lipman
Martin Buber
John Dewey
The Community of Inquiry