How do I use online discussion forums to create a community of inquiry?

Communities of Inquiry

The Communities of Inquiry (CoI) Framework is a model that helps to “facilitate the creation of communities of learners actively and collaboratively engaged in exploring, creating meaning, and confirming understanding (i.e., inquiry)” (Garrison, 2000). The COI framework consists of 3 essential, but interdependent elements: (1) cognitive presence, (2) social presence, and (3) teaching presence.  All three elements combine to shape the educational experience, as seen in the diagram below.

Diagram of the Community of Inquiry ModelGarisson, Anderson, Archer, 2000

Social Presence

To foster social presence in your online forums, consider:

  • Modelling social cues to students and encouraging them to follow suit. Increased social presence can support an atmosphere that encourages increased cognitive presence.
  • Facilitating peer discussion and peer-to-peer interaction to create a social online learning environment.

Cognitive Presence

To foster cognitive presence in your online forums, consider:

  • Selecting discussion prompts that encourage structured interaction and critical thinking, and also support course learning outcomes.
  • Using problem-based, project-based, debate and protocol prompts to promote cognitive presence in your discussion boards.
  • Facilitating cognitive presence as an instructor by questioning student responses or assuming a challenging stance.

Teaching Presence

To foster teaching presence in your online forums, consider:

  • Providing prompt but modest feedback. High quality facilitation is essential for promoting enhanced cognitive presence.
  • Instructor presence is critical for effective online discussion, however, providing modest feedback allows for student's to take ownership of their discussion and increases interaction between students.
  • Multimedia feedback (i.e. audio, video) can enhance multiple presences.

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