The Community of Inquiry Framework


STEP 1: Read a brief summary of the Community of Inquiry Framework below.

The Community of Inquiry Framework (CoI)is an online learning model that focuses on collaborative and constructivist principles. Constructivist principles “recognize that the learner has prior knowledge and experiences, which are often determined by their social and cultural environment. Learning is therefore done by students’ “constructing” knowledge out of their experiences” (Wikipedia, 2018). The framework is used to analyze online learning environments and consists of three interrelated domains: social presence, cognitive presence, and teacher presence.

By using this framework in your practice, you ensure you are addressing the three critical presences (explained below) that exemplify sound practice in online learning.


Social presence denotes the level to which learners identify and associate with one another. It refers to an online environment that establishes a safe space for learners to share their ideas, explore differences, and collaborate. Building trust is the key to helping learners navigate the online space effectively. By contributing to discourse, articulating their thought processes, and discovering misconceptions, learners can cultivate a community of practice (Anderson, 2004).


Cognitive Presence is the process of learners constructing meaning through dialogue, discourse, and reflection. It is grounded in the “epistemological, cultural, and social expression” (Anderson, 2004, p. 274) of that particular content in a way that supports the advancement of critical thinking skills.


Lastly, teacher presence can be broken down into three critical elements: design and organization of the learning environment, design of interactive learning activities, and design and delivery of multi-modal content. In addition to these responsibilities, teaching presence helps facilitate the creation of new knowledge by both instructor and student. When designing and organizing the learning environment, instructors need to think about how to scaffold learning activities so that learners continuously grow in their autonomy. Learning activities that encourage interaction with the content, community building and self-directed learning exemplify good practice (Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 2000).




In an effort to offer a meaningful educational experience for your learners, view the Community of Inquiry framework here, and explore the website’s related files.



Figure 1:  Community of inquiry framework. Reprinted from The Community of Inquiry, by T. Anderson, R. Garrison, & W. Archer 2000. Retrieved from Reprinted by permission.


Anderson, T. (2004). Teaching in an online learning context. In T. Anderson & F. Elloumi (Eds.), Theory and practice of online learning (pp. 273-294). Athabasca, AB: Athabasca University. Retrieved from

Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, & Archer. (2001). Community of Inquiry. [Vector graphic]. Retrieved April 17, 2020 from

Constructivism. (2018). In Wikipedia. Retrieved April 17, 2020 from

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher educationmodel. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.



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Fit for Online Learning Copyright © 2020 by U of L Teaching Centre: Jördis Weilandt, Erin Reid, Kristi Thomas, Brandy Old, and Jeff Meadows is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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