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This chapter presents a theoretical model of online learning, the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework, which is grounded in John Dewey's progressive understanding of education. The CoI framework is a process model of online learning which views the online educational experience as arising from the interaction of three presences - social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence. Each of these three elements in the CoI framework are described and related to Dewey's work, and research findings and issues concerning them reviewed. The development of a common CoI survey measure that promises to address some of these issues is described and discussed. The chapter concludes with emerging findings from new studies which use the CoI survey, directions for future research, and practical uses of the CoI framework.
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Information Technology
and Constructivism in
Higher Education:
Progressive Learning
Frameworks
Carla R. Payne
Union Institute and University of Vermont College, USA
Hershey • New York
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Information technology and constructivism in higher education : progressive learning frameworks / Carla R. Payne, editor.
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Includes bibliographical references and index.
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constructivist and progressive educational principles in higher education, and that the numerous efforts now under way to realize these principles
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Constructivism (Education) 3. Web-based instruction. 4. Information technology. I. Payne, Carla R.
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43
Chapter IV
A Constructivist Approach
to Online Learning:
The Community of Inquiry Framework
Karen Swan
Kent State University, USA
D. R. Garrison
University of Calgary, Canada
Jennifer C. Richardson
Purdue University, USA
Copyright © 2009, IGI Global, distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.
ABSTRACT
This chapter presents a theoretical model of online learning, the Community of Inquiry (CoI) frame-
work, which is grounded in John Dewey’s progressive understanding of education. The CoI framework
is a process model of online learning which views the online educational experience as arising from
the interaction of three presences – social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence. Each
of these three elements in the CoI framework are described and related to Dewey’s work, and research
ndings and issues concerning them reviewed. The development of a common CoI survey measure that
promises to address some of these issues is described and discussed. The chapter concludes with emerg-
ing ndings from new studies which use the CoI survey, directions for future research, and practical
uses of the CoI framework.
44
A Constructivist Approach to Online Learning
INTRODUCTION
Inquiry and community were at the core of John
Dewey’s educational philosophy and practice.
Dewey (1959) believed that an educational experi-
ence must fuse the interests of the individual and
society, that individual development was depen-
dent upon community. He believed the essence of
community was the organic fusion of the public
and our private worlds. He also believed that the
process of inquiry went to the heart of the educa-
tive experience. For Dewey, inquiry involved the
generalization of the scientic method to practi-
cal problem solving and worthwhile learning.
It dened the relationship between thought and
action. For Dewey, inquiry was also an essentially
social activity. Dewey believed that through col-
laboration that respected the individual, students
would assume responsibility to actively construct
and conrm meaning. It is this collaborative
constructivist approach that is worthy of further
exploration in online learning.
Online learning has evolved from early com-
puter conferencing experiences where the big
question was whether we could create and sustain
a learning community in a largely asynchronous
text based environment. Naturally, much atten-
tion in these early days was directed toward the
question of whether we could establish the social
presence essential to a viable online community of
learners. As we shall see subsequently, consider-
able research established that it was possible to
develop both social presence and online learning
communities. Once this was established, the focus
began to shift to the purposeful nature of a com-
munity of learners collaboratively constructing
meaning.
Higher education has traditionally emphasized
constructivist approaches to learning in the sense
of individual students taking responsibility for
making sense of their educational experiences.
What is less common is the collaborative construc-
tion of knowledge in a community of learners.
This social construction of knowledge must be
reasserted considering the fact that the traditional
ideal in higher education has been discourse
and reection in a collaborative community of
scholars. It is argued here that constructivist ap-
proaches and community are necessary for creat-
ing and conrming meaning and are essential for
achieving effective critical thinking. Therefore,
constructivist approaches and community must
be necessary parts of higher education. In on-
line higher education, building community is
particularly important because it cannot be taken
for granted, nor, for that matter, can inquiry. As
Garrison and Archer (2000) note “construction
of meaning may result from individual critical
reection but ideas are generated and knowledge
constructed through the collaborative and con-
rmatory process of sustained dialogue within a
critical community of learners” (p. 91).
This chapter will present and discuss the Com-
munity of Inquiry (CoI) framework (Garrison,
Anderson & Archer, 2000), a process model of
online learning, the core of which is a collaborative
constructivist approach. Each of the three ele-
ments of the CoI framework cognitive presence,
social presence and teaching presence -- will be
described and related to Dewey’s work, and re-
search ndings concerning them reviewed. Issues
emerging from CoI research and the development
of a common CoI survey measure that promises to
address at least some of these issues will then be
discussed. Emerging ndings from new studies
which use the CoI survey will also be reported.
The chapter will conclude with a summary and
several directions for future research.
BACKGROUND:
THE COMMUNITY OF INQUIRY
FRAMEWORK
The CoI framework (Garrison, Anderson & Ar-
cher, 2000) is a process model of online learning. It
assumes that effective online learning, especially
higher order learning, requires the development
45
A Constructivist Approach to Online Learning
of community, and that such development is not
a trivial challenge in the online environment.
The CoI framework is a dynamic model of the
necessary core elements for both the develop-
ment of community and the pursuit of inquiry,
in any educational environment. Its three core
elements -- cognitive, social and teaching pres-
ence described in the sections which follow,
are viewed as multidimensional, interdependent,
and dynamic. The overlapping nature of these
elements is depicted in Figure 1. At their core is
the unity of a collaborative constructivist learn-
ing experience consistent with the legacy of John
Dewey. Together, the two constituting notions
of community and inquiry form a pragmatic
organizing framework of sustainable principles
and processes for the purpose of guiding online
educational practice. The CoI framework has
provided perspective and guidance to a good
deal of important research on purposeful online
learning over the last decade.
Cognitive Presence
Dewey’s generalization of the scientic method
in the form of reective thinking provided the
foundation for the critical thinking movement
that is the hallmark of higher education. Dewey
(1933) described the complete cycle of reective
activity in terms of a pre-reective state which
starts with a problem, followed by ve phases of
reective thought (suggestion, intellectualization,
guiding idea, reasoning, and testing), and ends
with a satisfactory resolution. Dewey believed
that reective inquiry has practical value in pro-
viding meaning to experience, and so described
a practical method of inquiry, in addition to the
full explanation of reective inquiry, on which
he believed an educational experience should
be based. It is this concept that was the genesis
for the Practical Inquiry model described below
which operationally denes cognitive presence
in the CoI framework.
Figure 1. CoI Framework (Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 2000)
© 2000, D. R. Garrison. Used with permission.
46
A Constructivist Approach to Online Learning
The Practical Inquiry model (Garrison,
Anderson & Archer, 2001) is framed along two
dimensions (see Figure 2). The vertical axis rep-
resents the psychological and sociological sides
of the educational process identied by Dewey.
This reects the individual’s private and reective
world juxtaposed with the community’s shared
world of discourse. Practical inquiry iterates
imperceptibly between these two worlds. It is a
process that includes both deliberation and ac-
tion. That is, practical inquiry is shaped by the
rigorous and purposeful process of reection
and discourse to construct meaning and conrm
knowledge. The second dimension of the model
denes the divergent process of perception and
analysis contrasted with the convergent process
of conception and synthesis. The points of per-
ception and conception are points of insight and
understanding. At each of these points we see the
true fusion of the psychological and sociological
and the unity of the educational experience that
Dewey advocated.
The dimensions of the Practical Inquiry model
provide its conceptual structure; the phases focus
on the pragmatic dynamics of the inquiry process.
Practical inquiry begins with a triggering event
in the form of an issue, problem or dilemma that
needs resolution. As a result of this event, there is
a natural shift to exploration, the search for rel-
evant information that can provide insight into the
challenge at hand. As ideas crystallize, there is a
move into the third phase integration -- in which
connections are made and there is a search for a
viable explanation. Finally, there is a selection and
testing (through vicarious or direct application) of
the most viable solution and resolution. At each
of the stages there may be a need to return to a
previous stage for new direction or information.
The four phases described in the model are a tele-
scoping of Dewey’s phases of reective thinking
for the purposes of parsimony and understanding.
Consistent with Dewey’s rejection of dualism, the
phases should not be seen as discrete or linear. In
an actual educational experience, they would be
Figure 2. Practical Inquiry Model (Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 2001)
© 2000, D. R. Garrison. Used with permission.
47
A Constructivist Approach to Online Learning
very difcult to label, as those that have used this
model to code transcripts will attest (Garrison,
Anderson & Archer, 2001).
In the CoI framework, cognitive presence is
dened as the extent to which learners are able to
construct and conrm meaning through sustained
reection and discourse (Garrison, Anderson &
Archer, 2001). In the CoI framework, cognitive
presence is seen as consisting of the four phases
of practical inquiry. Researchers have been able
to nd evidence of practical inquiry in online
discussion, but initial studies of cognitive pres-
ence revealed that most postings in an online
discussion forum concentrated at the exploration
phase where participants shared information and
brainstormed ideas (Garrison & Arbaugh, 2007).
Indeed, several studies in this area have found
that inquiry revealed in online discussion rarely
moves beyond the exploration phase (Kanuka &
Anderson, 1998; Luebeck & Bice, 2005; Meyer,
2003; 2004; Murphy, 2004).
While various explanations have been ex-
plored, it is most likely that much of this has to
do with the nature of the assignments and instruc-
tional direction provided (Garrison & Arbaugh,
2007; Akyol & Garrison, 2008). In studies in which
students were challenged to resolve a problem
and explicit facilitation and direction provided,
students did progress to resolution (Meyer, 2003;
Murphy, 2004; Shea & Bidjermo, 2008). Further
research exploring the link between teaching
presence and cognitive presence is thus clearly
indicated. This and other issues surrounding
cognitive presence will be discussed later in this
chapter.
Social Presence
Dewey believed that learning results from ex-
perience that is contextually based and socially
situated. Moreover, Lipman (1991) argued that
“the reective model is thoroughly social and
communal” (p. 19). Social presence is therefore
viewed as directly impacting the development of
community and collaboration in online courses,
and so an integral part of the CoI framework.
Social presence, the degree to which par-
ticipants in computer-mediated communication
feel affectively connected one to another, is the
longest researched of the three presences in the
CoI framework, predating the creation of the
CoI model. It arose from concerns among some
communications scholars that computer-medi-
ated communication might prevent students from
developing the sense of belonging with other
students, instructors, and programs of study
which social learning theories suggest support
learning. Short, Williams and Christie (1976)
originally coined the term “social presence” to
refer to the differing capacities various media
have for transmitting non-verbal and vocal cues,
and so, in their opinion, for communicating the
affective and emotional (the social) aspects of
learning interactions.
As educators began experimenting with on-
line discussion in the late 1980s and early 1990s,
however, they quickly noted what Walther (1994)
refers to as the “hyperpersonalness” of online
discussion. Participants in online discussion, they
maintained, project their personalities into online
discussion using text alone (Gunawardena, 1995).
They thus argued that social presence was more
a matter of individual perceptions than an objec-
tive quality of the medium, and so the concept
of “social presence” evolved to the notion more
common among online educators today.
Gunawardena and Zittle (1997), for example,
dened social presence as “the degree to which
a person is perceived as ‘real’ in mediated com-
munication” (p 8). They developed survey items to
measure students’ perceptions of the social pres-
ence of others in an online computer conference
and found that perceived social presence predicted
60% of the variance in students’ satisfaction with
the conference. A number of studies followed
which identify the perception of interpersonal
connections with virtual others as an important
factor in the success of online learning (Picciano,
48
A Constructivist Approach to Online Learning
2002; Richardson & Swan, 2003; Swan, 2002; Tu,
2000; Wegerif, 1998).
It is this sense of social presence that Rourke,
Anderson, Garrison, & Archer (1999) incorpo-
rated into the CoI framework. Their research team
(Rourke, Anderson, Garrison & Archer, 2001)
identied three categories of social presence indi-
cators, based on research on immediacy (Weiner
& Mehrabian, 1968) and their own observations.
Although the elements of social presence have
been variously dened, in this chapter (and in the
CoI survey discussed), we identify them as af-
fective expression, where learners share personal
expressions of emotion, feelings, beliefs, and
values; open communication, where learners build
and sustain a sense of group commitment; and
group cohesion, where learners interact around
common intellectual activities and tasks.
Swan (2003) used Rourke et. al.s categories and
similar indicators of social presence to examine the
ways in which social presence developed among
online students enrolled in an online graduate
course in education. Swan’s coding noted all
uses of paralanguage, emotion, value, humor,
self-disclosure (affective indicators), greetings
and salutations, vocatives, group reference, so-
cial sharing, reection on course itself (cohesive
indicators), acknowledgement, agreement and
disagreement, approval, invitation, personal
advice (interactive indicators) in discussion post-
ings. She documented the use of an average of
almost six social presence indicators per message
in a sample of 235 discussion postings and found
changes in the relative frequencies of text-based
social presence indicators employed over time.
Danchak, Walther and Swan (2001) hypoth-
esized that people communicating online use
such textual immediacy indicators to maintain a
sense of affective equilibrium in their interactions.
Danchak, et. al. argued that participants in envi-
ronments with less affective communication chan-
nels available will evoke more verbal immediacy
behaviors to affect a kind of equilibrium of social
presence with which they are comfortable.
Noting the relationship between perceived
presence and success in online courses, Tu (2000)
linked the development of social presence in on-
line courses to course design. Based on elements
of social learning theory, he distinguished three
dimensions of course design which inuenced the
development of social presence – social context,
online communication, and interactivity, which
includes reciprocal communication patterns and
timely responses. Tu and McIsaac (2002) found
support for these dimensions of social presence
in a factor analysis of student responses to an
online survey concerned with computer-mediated
communication tools.
Swan and Shih (2005) also found support
for the impact of course design on perceptions
of social presence in a study of its development
of four classes (two different courses taught by
two different instructors). Their ndings further
revealed an overlap in perceptions of instructor
and peer presence and indicated that the perceived
presence of instructors was a more inuential
predictor of student satisfaction than the perceived
presence of peers. Additionally, Swan and Shih
found that students perceiving the highest social
presence also employed the greatest number of
social presence indicators to project themselves
into online discussions.
Of course, meaningful research instigates
further research. Perhaps the most signicant
is whether social presence is really a necessary
precursor of cognitive presence. Most researchers
in this area agree that it is, with the caveat that
social presence must be directed toward learning
outcomes (Garrison, 2007). This has led to a revi-
sion of the original social presence categories and
indicators to reect academic purposes (Garrison,
Cleveland-Innes & Fung, 2004). Currently, the
elements of social presence are conceptualized
as consisting of affective/personal communica-
tion, open communication (interaction), and
group cohesion and collaboration (Vaughn &
Garrison, 2006), but the interaction of social and
cognitive presence is still largely unknown and
49
A Constructivist Approach to Online Learning
clearly under-researched. Many other questions
remain and these will be discussed more fully
later this chapter.
Teaching Presence
Dewey (1959) stated that the educational process
has two sides – one psychological and one socio-
logical; and that neither can be subordinated to the
other or neglected without evil results following”
(p. 20). This clearly reects the cognitive and social
presence elements of the CoI framework. He also
explicitly addressed the need for purpose, struc-
ture and leadership; that is, teaching presence.
Dewey (1938) argued that it is the responsibility
of the educator to establish aims and activities, but
not to be straight-jacketed by them. To establish
and sustain a community of inquiry, he main-
tained, educators must be knowledgeable, exible
but focused, and comfortable with uncertainty.
In this regard, he stated, “thought needs careful
and attentive educational direction” (Dewey,
1933, p. 22). Dewey (1938) was also aware of the
need to facilitate appropriate social relationships
by giving as much attention to the organization
of the social environment of the classroom as to
its physical environment. Teaching presence is
established by attending to cognitive and social
presence challenges in a collaborative CoI.
In the CoI framework, teaching presence is
dened as “the design, facilitation and direction
of cognitive and social processes for the purpose
of realizing personally meaningful and education-
ally worthwhile learning outcomes” (Anderson,
Rourke, Garrison & Archer, 2001). The collabora-
tive construction of knowledge in any educational
context is particularly challenging. However, it
is extraordinarily difcult to manage the multi-
faceted responsibilities of teaching presence in a
largely text-based online environment. For this
reason, we need to understand the dimensions of
teaching presence and their roles in the dynam-
ics of a collaborative constructive educational
experience.
The three dimensions or categories of teach-
ing presence alluded to in the previous denition
emerged from a review of the literature related to
the classication of online teaching responsibili-
ties (Anderson et al., 2001). The rst category,
design and organization, cannot be neglected in an
online learning environment. This is particularly
true in terms of the selection of worthwhile col-
laborative learning activities. In an asynchronous
nonverbal context, expectations with regard to
discourse must be clear. For example, message
length and focus of comments must be stated and
modeled. The second category of teaching pres-
ence is facilitating discourse. Regardless of how
clearly stated the expectations for online discus-
sion, there will be a need to guide that discussion
in a meaningful manner, ensuring that students
stay focused. This is essential for students to stay
engaged and to build a collaborative community
of inquiry. Moreover, in a formal educational
context, there will be times when it is necessary
to intervene directly to correct misconceptions,
provide relevant information, summarize the
discussion and/ or provide some metacognitive
awareness. This is the third category of teaching
presence direct instruction (Anderson et al.,
2001).
Researchers have documented strong cor-
relations between learner’s perceived and actual
interactions with instructors and their perceived
learning (Jiang & Ting, 2000; Richardson & Swan,
2003; Swan, Shea, Fredericksen, Pickett, Pelz &
Maher, 2000), and between all three elements of
teaching presence and student satisfaction and
perceived learning in online courses (Shea, Pickett
& Pelz, 2004). Teaching presence has also been
shown to be linked to the development of a sense
of community in online courses (Shea, Li, Swan
& Pickett, 2005). Indeed, the body of evidence
attesting to the critical importance of teaching
presence for successful online learning contin-
ues to grow (Garrison & Cleveland-Innes, 2005;
Meyer, 2003; Murphy, 2004; Swan & Shih, 2005;
Vaughn & Garrison, 2006; Wu & Hiltz, 2004).
50
A Constructivist Approach to Online Learning
There is, however, some confusion about the
elements of teaching presence. In his study of
teaching presence and sense of community, Shea
(2006) found that items developed to measure the
three dimensions of teaching presence yielded a
two factor solution he interpreted as instructional
design and organization and directed facilitation
(merging the instructor behavior dimensions of
the construct). Conversely, in their study of MBA
students’ perceptions of teaching presence, Ar-
baugh and Hwang (2006) found support for the
three-dimensional teaching presence construct.
This and other issues surrounding the teaching
presence construct will be discussed in greater
detail later this chapter.
SUMMARY
Table 1 below summarizes the three presences in
the CoI framework and their respective categories.
It also gives examples of indicators of the presences
and categories that have been used over the years
to test the structure of the framework (Arbaugh
& Hwang, 2006; Garrison, Cleveland-Innes and
Fung, 2004; Shea, Li and Pickett, 2006), to ex-
plore various aspects and issues associated with
online learning (Garrison & Arbaugh, 2007) as
well as providing the inspiration for the develop-
ment of a quantitative CoI questionnaire (Swan,
Richardson, Ice, Garrison, Cleveland-Innes &
Arbaugh, 2008).
As noted above, research on each of the pres-
ences that combine to form the CoI framework
has revealed issues unique to them. Research on
cognitive presence, for example, has found that
inquiry revealed in online discussion rarely moves
beyond the exploration phase (Garrison, Anderson
& Archer, 2001; Kanuka & Anderson, 1998; Lu-
ebeck & Bice, 2005; Meyer, 2003; 2004; Murphy,
2004). Several explanations might account for
such results; it might simply be that integration
and resolution take place in other parts of online
courses (e.g., essay assignments) or internally in
learners’ minds (Arnold & Ducate, 2006). Meyer
(2003) suggests that sufcient time to reach these
phases is not often available in online discussions.
Recent research, however, suggests that moving
inquiry through to integration and resolution, or
the lack thereof, is related to aspects of teaching
presence (Garrison & Arbaugh, 2007). There
is growing evidence that discussions organized
around problem solutions, the production of ar-
tifacts, or the completion of tasks are more likely
ELEMENTS CATEGORIES INDICATORS
(examples only)
Cognitive Presence Triggering Event
Exploration
Integration
Resolution
sense of puzzlement
information exchange
connecting ideas
application
Social Presence Affective Expression
Open Communication
Group Cohesion
self projection/expressing emotion
trust/risk free climate
collaboration/interactivity
Teaching Presence Design & Organization
Facilitating Discourse
Direct Instruction
setting curriculum & activities
shaping constructive exchange
focusing & resolving issues
Figure 3. CoI categories and indicators; (Garrison & Anderson, 2003) Issues Related to the Community
of Inquiry Framework
© 2000, D. R. Garrison. Used with permission.
51
A Constructivist Approach to Online Learning
to move to resolution (Arnold & Ducate, 2006;
Murphy, 2004), and that progression through
inquiry requires direction from instructors or
tutors (Vaughn & Garrison, 2005).
Most studies of social presence have noted
the highly democratic nature of online discussion
(Harasim, 1990; Kanuka & Anderson, 1998) and
accordingly conceptualized social presence as
a single construct with an emphasis on percep-
tions of the presence of peers. As noted above,
there is some indication that instructor presence
may be equally important (Swan & Shih, 2005).
While the social presence of instructors has been
considered in explorations of “teaching presence”
(Anderson, Rourke, Garrison & Archer, 2000;
Shea, Pickett & Pelz, 2003), it has not been iso-
lated therein. In addition, while most studies of
social presence implicitly locate its development
in online discussion, survey questions have not
explicitly addressed it in that context. Indeed,
Richardson and Swan (2003) found strong cor-
relations between perceived social presence and
student satisfaction and perceived learning in a
variety of course activities outside course discus-
sions including such seemingly asocial activities
as quizzes and tests, individual assignments, and
lecture notes. Their ndings may be yet another
example of the overlap and interchange that exists
between the presences. Finally, recent research on
emotion in online learning suggests a principal
role for acknowledgement and support of student
emotion. Cleveland-Innes and Campbell (2006)
dene emotional presence as the extent to which
learners and teachers transform their behavior to
accommodate the overt and covert presence of
emotion. While Garrison, Anderson and Archer
(2000) suggest that emotional expression is a sub-
component of social presence, Cleveland-Innes
and Campbells research ndings suggest that
emotion plays a role in all three elements of the
CoI framework.
As noted previously, another issue that has
arisen in the literature involves the categories
associated with teaching presence. While some
studies have conrmed the presence of three
categories (Arbaugh & Hwang, 2006; Akyol &
Garrison, 2008), Shea, Li and Pickett (2006) con-
ducted a large scale factor analysis that suggested
a two factor solution was most interpretable. The
two factors (i.e., categories) were labeled “design”
and “directed facilitation.” The second factor
was clearly an amalgamation of facilitation and
direct instruction. The question is whether this
was simply contextual (e.g., these students could
not distinguish between facilitation and direct
instruction) or whether the structure of teaching
presence needs revision. Although it is becoming
clear as to the importance of teaching presence,
much more empirical research in a variety of
contexts is required to conclusively dene the
categories of teaching presence.
While the CoI framework holds great prom-
ise for bringing order and a theoretical base to
research in online learning, there is obviously
much work to be done before it can meet that
promise. Perhaps most importantly, it needs to
be kept in mind that the theoretical foundation
of the CoI framework is that of a collaborative
constructivist educational experience. As such, it
is a dynamic model that is in constant search for
balance among the presences. That is, the inu-
ence of each of the presences and their categories
interact and shift over time, and across courses.
Most research to date has concentrated on single
presences in the CoI framework, while its theo-
retical strength lies in the dynamics of the whole
community. In particular, better understanding of
evolving interactions among the CoI presences and
their respective categories is needed. In addition,
much of the CoI research has employed different
measures and sometimes different terminology,
especially as regards the elements of social pres-
ence. Finally, with some important exceptions, the
research has mostly involved single institutions
and often single courses. Inter- and intra-insti-
tutional research is needed, both to validate the
model as a whole and to make use of the model
in a myriad of studies that could move online
learning research signicantly forward.
52
A Constructivist Approach to Online Learning
NEW DEVELOPMENTS:
THE COMMUNITY OF INQUIRY
INSTRUMENT
To address some of the issues noted above and to
move CoI research forward in many other ways, a
group of CoI researchers from a variety of institu-
tions and with expertise in the various components
of the model collaborated in the development of a
CoI survey instrument. The resulting instrument
was adapted from measures group members had
successfully used to measure individual presences
in the CoI framework. It includes twelve items
designed to measure cognitive presence (3 for
triggering events, 3 for exploration, 3 for integra-
tion, and 3 for resolution), nine items designed to
measure social presence (3 for affective expres-
sion, 3 for open communication and 3 for group
cohesion), and thirteen items designed to measure
teaching presence (4 for design and organization,
6 for facilitation of discourse, and 3 for direct
instruction). In the summer of 2007, the survey
was tested in graduate courses at four institutions
located in the United States and Canada using
principal component factor analysis and the three
factor (presences) construct predicted by the CoI
framework was supported (Swan, et al., 2008).
Results of the factor analysis provide evidence
that, as currently dened and operationalized,
an online community of inquiry emerges out of
social, cognitive and teaching presence. Student
responses to the survey’s statements about their
online experience clustered around items as de-
ned by the theory. The results also validate a
measurement tool of agreed upon and statistically
conrmed items that operationalizes the concepts
in the CoI framework (Swan, et al., 2008). This
measurement tool may be used for continued ex-
plication of concepts in the model, and can serve
as a ground for more qualitative investigations in
mixed methods studies.
For example, a recent study by Akyol and
Garrison (2008) attempted to understand how a
community of inquiry changes over time. The
authors employed content analysis to explore
the dynamics of social presence as students’ pro-
gressed through an online course. As expected,
social presence was initially the most frequent
type of response, but was over taken by cognitive
presence by the end of the course. There were also
changes in the relative frequencies of the social
presence categories as the course progressed, with
group cohesion responses gradually increasing
and open communication and affective expression
decreasing over time. Similarly, within teaching
presence facilitation responses declined and direct
instruction increased as the course progressed.
Akyol and Garrison suggest that as open com-
munication was established and group cohesion
grew, there was less need or perhaps time for
affective expression. The focus appeared to be
on the task and so direct instruction and cogni-
tive presence grew. It would also appear that as
students adjusted to their roles they needed less
encouragement and support.
This study was perhaps the rst to employ the
recently developed CoI instrument to measure the
relationships among the three presences, students’
satisfaction and perceived learning. The results
showed signicant relationships between teach-
ing presence and cognitive presence (p=.001);
between teaching presence and perceived learning
(p=.03); between teaching presence and satisfac-
tion (p=.011), between cognitive presence and
perceived learning (p=.007); between cognitive
presence and satisfaction (p=.009), and between
social presence and satisfaction (p=.038) (Akyol &
Garrison, 2008). However, the analysis did not nd
a signicant relationship between social presence
and perceived learning. It is also worth noting the
concurrent rise of particular categories in each
of the three presences. That is, group cohesion,
integration and direct instruction responses all
increased over the time of the course of study. The
question is whether there is a reinforcing effect:
Is it that group cohesion (i.e., social presence) and
direct instruction (teaching presence) sets the stage
for integration (cognitive presence)?
53
A Constructivist Approach to Online Learning
Evidence to this effect, and more insight into
the lack of nding a relationship between social
presence and perceived learning, has been pro-
vided by another new study using the CoI survey
by Shea and Bidjermo (2008). Shea and Bidjermo
(2008) used Structural Equation Modeling (SEM)
to study the impacts of teaching and social pres-
ence on cognitive presence, all as measured by
the CoI survey. The results of their analysis are
shown graphically in Figure 3. They reveal that
teaching and social presence together account for
70% of the variation in students’ reported level
of cognitive presence. However, the authors also
found that the development of social presence
was contingent on the establishment of teaching
presence; that is, social presence did not in itself
directly affect cognitive presence but rather served
as a mediating variable between teaching pres-
ence and cognitive presence. This nding helps
explain those of Akyol and Garrison (2008). Shea
and Bidjermo concluded that the “teaching and
social presence represent the processes needed to
create paths to epistemic engagement and cogni-
tive presence for online learners.” (p. 14)
FUTURE AND EMERGING TRENDS
As one might expect, several institutions have
begun to look to the CoI framework as a devel-
opment tool for their online courses (Shea, P., &
Bidjeramo, T., 2008; Vaughan & Garrison, 2006).
In general the CoI model, while considered valu-
able by researchers and practitioners alike, has
not generally taken root at an institutional level
for course development. With the validation of
the framework and the development and valida-
tion of the CoI instrument (Swan, et al., 2008;
Shea and Bidjermo, 2008) the framework can be
more easily operationalized by developers and
practitioners, especially those moving beyond
the traditional online course format to a more
constructivist one.
One of the fastest growing areas of non-
traditional online learning is blended learning.
As higher education institutions are looking at
asynchronous online discussions as a means to
increase students’ higher order thinking skills
and outcomes they often utilize blended learning
environments. Traditionally blended learning en-
vironments have mirrored face-to-face teaching
Figure 4. SEM analysis of effects of social & teaching presence on cognitive presence; Detail adapted
from Shea & Bidjeramo, 2008; “© 2008, Peter Shea. Used with permission.”
54
A Constructivist Approach to Online Learning
and learning, with the exception of having online
discussions and using the online environment as
a repository. However, several institutions have
begun to look to the CoI framework as a model
for these blended learning environments (Garrison
& Vaughan, 2008; Vaughan & Garrison, 2006).
For example, in a work by Vaughan and Garrison
(2006) the authors concluded that, “The key to
creating a cohesive, purposeful and worthwhile
community of inquiry is the integration of social,
teaching and cognitive presence… Each of the
three presences manifest themselves and evolve
in different ways in a face-to-face or online con-
text.” (p. 150)
As research continues on the CoI framework
and how it can improve online courses, CoI re-
search is also branching out into other environ-
ments. For example, a research group at Purdue
University (Radcliffe, D., Strobel, J., Brophy, S &
Richardson, J.C., personal communication, April
21, 2008) is looking to the CoI framework as a
means for examining and categorizing virtual
communities of practice, specically communi-
ties using HUB-Zero technology. The hope is that
the CoI framework will be able to serve as a tool
for developing successful virtual communities of
practice for discovery and learning.
Finally, the CoI framework is also being tied
to other emerging online technologies that can
help develop the presences within courses. For
example, a recent study by Ice, Curtis, Philips
& Wells (2007) looked at the effects of audio
feedback from instructors embedded in student
assignments to enhance teaching presence and
learning. They found that audio feedback was
associated with the perception that the instructor
cared more about the student and that students
were three times more likely to apply content for
which audio commenting was provided in class
projects than was the case for content for which
text based commenting was provided. In two
subsequent multi-institutional studies (n= 287,
n=1138) employing the CoI survey, Ice (2008)
found signicant differences between students
in courses in which embedded feedback and stu-
dents in courses where it wasn’t used that favored
embedded feedback on three teaching presence
items. Interesting, signicant differences fa-
voring embedded feedback were also found on
one social presence and two cognitive presence
items as well, again providing evidence for the
integration of the three presences conceptualized
in the model.
CONCLUSION
The CoI framework, stemming from Dewey’s
emphasis on collaborative constructivism and
practical inquiry holds promise as a theoretical and
practical model for online learning. At the heart
of the CoI framework is the idea that community,
critical reection, and knowledge construction are
integral to learning, especially learning online
(Garrison & Archer, 2000, p. 91). Moreover, the
CoI framework, based on the constructs of cog-
nitive, social, and teaching presence, takes into
account the various stakeholder groups involved
in an online course (student, instructor, designer)
and what each can do to make their course a suc-
cessful learning experience.
To date, research related to the CoI framework
has focused mostly on single presences instead
of the framework as a whole. It has also focused
on individual courses and institutions with few
exceptions, but the research tells us that the inu-
ence of each of the presences and their categories
interact and shift over time, and possibly across
courses (e.g. disciplines, course level). As such,
research needs to be conducted not only at an
inter-and intra- institutional level but also across
disciplines and course levels. Researchers have
developed and validated a “common” CoI survey,
which has in turn validated the CoI framework.
The instrument not only allows for continued
investigation of the constructs in the model
(cognitive, social and teaching presence) but can
also serve as an evaluation tool for online courses
utilizing the model for development.
55
A Constructivist Approach to Online Learning
We are seeing the CoI framework evolve into
a tool for environments outside of its original
purpose, namely virtual communities of practice,
blended learning environments, and as a theoreti-
cal basis for tool development to strengthen the
presences in online learning. Finally, current
and future research in this area abounds, and
with each new research study more is learned
about the elements and components of the model,
the shifts in CoI over time, and how the model
can be used by and for practitioners developing
online courses.
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... Numerous studies have been conducted to test and validate the CoI model in online education (e.g., Garrison and Arbaugh, 2007;Arbaugh et al., 2008;Swan, Garrison and Richardson, 2009;Garrison, Cleveland-Innes and Fung, 2009;Akyol and Garrison, 2011). Nowadays -twenty years after its inception -the CoI model has become indispensable and reliable in the theoretical understanding and practical research of online education. ...
... According to the theoretical basis of Community of Inquiry, effective online teaching is reflected in a successful development of a community of students and teachers that encourages meaningful and deep learning (Garrison, Anderson and Archer, 1999). Several studies over the last twenty years (Swan et al., 2009;Garrison, Cleveland-Innes and Fung, 2009;Gutiérrez-Santiuste, Rodriquez-Sabiote and Gallego-Arrufat, 2015) have proven that all three CoI elements are connected: Teaching and Social Presence had a direct influence on Cognitive Presence. ...
... This would consequently lead to the increase of Cognitive Presence. Research on online teaching practices in higher education had already shown that in practice a strong Social Presence can be established in online learning communities (Swan et al., 2009), in which a sense of belonging and connection develops and strengthens students' motivation and engagement (Lee, 2021). Moreover, Janssen et al. (2021) even considered the interaction between students and teachers and students themselves (Teaching and Social Presence) to be so important that CoI model should be turned into the model the Relationship of Inquiry (RoI), and that another component should be added -Emotional presence. ...
Article
Full-text available
This paper presents a study of online teaching in higher education during the 2021/2022 school year, during the Covid 19 pandemic. The theoretical foundation of this research is Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework, according to which online teaching is realized through social presence (students’ interaction), teaching presence (student-teacher interaction) and cognitive presence (student-content interaction). This quantitative research was conducted in six countries: Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Romania and Russia, and the answers were received from 808 students. At all participating faculties, online teaching was applied during the observed period, and in almost 80% of cases it was realized in full or to a greater extent than in in-person classes. The aim was to determine CoI presences and to identify possible differences among countries. The obtained data was processed with quantitative descriptive analysis and Kruskal–Wallis H test. The highest values of CoI presence were noted in Russia and Romania, then Slovenia and Croatia, and the lowest in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. In the whole sample, teaching presence has been most represented, followed by social presence, while the cognitive presence has been scored the least. Entire CoI presence was assessed as partially represented, as well as its three elements, the lowest of which is cognitive presence. In order to improve the online teaching process, in this paper technological and pedagogical training of teachers for online teaching, support for students for the use of digital tools for online learning and the provision of IT experts as necessary technical support are recommended.
... The developers of the CoI model have provided evidence that a meaningful teaching presence potentially reduces the impact of the challenges that blended learning represents, as the model focuses mostly on how learning happens and the process of learning instead of concentrating on the outcomes Swan et al, 2009;Garrison et al, 2000;Swan, 2002). In addition, Benbunan-Fich et al (2005, p. 27) report that real evidence of teaching presence in the online environment provides observable proof for students of "how present the instructor is in the virtual classroom". ...
... As mentioned earlier, the present study is framed on the Community of Inquiry for best fitting the researcher's purposes for a number of reasons that are comprehensively discussed in the following section (see 2.3). The CoI has a social-constructivist orientation towards learning Akyol et al, 2010;Akyol et al, 2009;Arbaugh et al, 2008;Shea et al, 2011;Swan et al, 2009;Swan & Ice, 2010). This is, according to social-constructivism, learning is developed by the learner's interactions in a socio-cultural context through a sense-making process (Oldfather et al, 1999). ...
Thesis
Blended learning has emerged in the context of new learning environments and pedagogies offering its potential for maximising the effectiveness of contemporary teaching and learning. If full advantage is taken of technology, there are opportunities to trigger new relationships among the teacher, the learner and the educational context. However, to achieve this, the use of technology must be re-thought in terms of how teachers handle their teaching time and pedagogy (Laurillard, 2002). The focus and interest of this study are on the role of teachers and how they work to develop concrete skills and strategies for teaching effectively. It looks at how they attempt to bridge the distance between teachers and learners and to establish their presence in blended learning environments in both face-to-face and online contexts. Teaching in blended learning environments requires specific pedagogical approaches; and how educators prepare to teach in these environments will potentially impact the quality of the learning experience they provide (Kim et al, 2015). Given the importance of teaching presence and based on the assumption that teachers are key if learners are to achieve appropriate learning outcomes, this study sets out to examine the role of the teacher and the perceptions of their learners through an analysis of teaching presence (Garrison et al, 2000) in both environments, face-to-face and online, and understand how teachers and learners make sense of that blend. The data was collected at a university in Northwest Mexico over three years between 2016 and 2019 from four undergraduate-level blended learning courses in the field of English Language Teaching, Software Engineering, and International Commerce. Findings suggest that teaching presence can enhance the learners´ educational experience as it emphasises the organisation of instructional design in their courses. Evidence showed that learners feel a disconnection between the face-to-face and the online components if their teachers lack ownership of their blended course. Thus, there seems to be a need to further integrate both environments so that they become a real blend. In addition, the study reported lower levels of perceived teaching presence in the online component. Teacher immediacy is experienced by learners only in the classroom which does little to encourage their engagement as online learners.
... The Community of Inquiry framework provides a model for the collaborative construction of critical inquiry and shared understanding that represents deep and meaningful online learning experiences (Garrison et al. 2000;Garrison, 2017). The Community of Inquiry model is grounded in the constructivist theory of learning (Swan et al., 2009), which draws on Dewey's inquiry-centered approach to learning (Dewey, 1959 as cited in Swan et al., 2009, p. 44) and implies that all learning is social and situated. (Garrison et al., 2000, p. 88) Based on the model, three types of 'presence' shape the overall educational experience: social presence, teaching presence, and cognitive presence. ...
... The teacher is expected to take responsibility and play an important role in providing structure, facilitation, and direction during the learning process to make it cohesive, stable, and progressive. Swan et al. (2009) pointed out that teachers will facilitate purposeful and targeted learning by maintaining teaching presence. The term social presence mainly refers to the development of social interactions among different learning groups in a social climate because interaction plays a decisive role in social existence (Horzum, 2015). ...
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The purpose of this study was to qualitatively explore how students experienced the MOOC-based flipped learning and how should different scaffolding be emphasized in different stages in such educational contexts through the lens of the revised community of inquiry (CoI) framework. In total, 22 first-year undergraduate students were invited for one-on-one in-depth interviews. The results indicated that MOOC-based flipped learning allowed students to experience all four types of presences outlined in the revised CoI framework. In terms of each presence, students highlighted that the MOOC-based flipped course provided more learning presence in the form of monitoring and strategy, greater cognitive presence through integration, more social presence through affective expression and open communication, and increased teaching presence through enhancement of direct instruction and assessment during both online and in-class sessions. And the challenges of implementing MOOC-based flipped learning in university courses were also mentioned ranging from the need for group cohesion in in-class learning designs, the necessity of helping students improve planning, triggering events, to the enhancement of design, and organization between MOOCs and the existing formal curricula. The findings have implications for practitioners who hope to build an integrated learning experience around MOOCs. ARTICLE HISTORY
... It is disappointing that, despite the increase in social learners and average comments per step after lockdown and after the restructuring of discussion prompts, we did not see more evidence that our learners were actually interacting with each other because the Community of Inquiry (CoI) model [47,54] sees "social presence" as one of three key ingredients needed for a worthwhile educational experience (whether offline or online). ...
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Recent Higher Education Statistics Agency data shows that only 20% of engineering students at UK Universities are female, despite the hard work being undertaken by many educational institutions to address this gender imbalance via outreach events and special interventions focussing on girls/women in STEM. It has been argued that student-centred teaching methods, together with changes in the engineering curriculum itself, which emphasise the social, creative, and human-centred aspects of the discipline, are required to effect real change in engaging with those from traditionally underrepresented groups. Through analysing quantitative data on age, gender, learner type, and commenting rates in peer-to-peer discussions, we examine the development and delivery of an engineering MOOC, before, during, and after COVID-19-related lockdowns in the UK, to identify what aspects of online learning might be harnessed to improve diversity in engineering education. The results show that the MOOC attracted a better gender balance than reported for UK-based in-person engineering programmes. In addition, we show that careful structuring of discussion prompts encouraged higher levels of social learning. We recommend the continued use of interactive and discursive elements within a blended learning environment to positively impact diversity and inclusion in engineering education specifically, and STEM education in general.
... Sun and Chen's article (2016) reviewed 47 published studies and research on online teaching and learning since 2008, primarily focusing on how theories, practices and assessments apply to the online learning environment. In her many works, Karen Swan has also addressed the topic of online learning from various perspectives, including but not limited to online learning effectiveness (2003), social support for learning and the development of virtual learning communities in online educational environments (Swan & Shea, 2005), or Community of Inquiry framework (Swan et al., 2009). Nwankwo (2015, conducted a qualitative case study that was aimed at examining the learning experiences and perceptions of students in online courses at a university in the western United States, to mention just a few authors. ...
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Background. Although not a novelty in education, online teaching and learning has come to the fore with the COVID-19 pandemic. As opposed to the time before this crisis, when it had been an option for certain categories of learners, with the pandemic going on, there has been emergency and forced shift to online environment which has had its impact on both teaching and learning. Purpose. This qualitative research was aimed to investigate the perception of the students of the University of Criminal Investigation and Police Studies (UCIPS) in Belgrade regarding the English Language 2 course primarily, but also regarding their online education in general. The questionnaire was designed, consisting of 11 multiple choice and open-ended questions combined. The goal was to investigate the opinions and experiences of the UCIPS students in order to get an in-depth insight into the problems related to online education. Results. The results suggest that in addition to the initial practical problems related to equipment and technology, the students faced other problems as well, including the lack of concentration, insufficient interaction, etc. However, there are some positive results: the students reported the overall satisfactions with the academic outcomes, and in their opinion the optimum way of teaching/learning would be a blended model. Conclusion. Our sample of Digital Natives have demonstrated the ability to recognize the main characteristics of online learning, its advantages and disadvantages, but also the objective and subjective aspects of problems. Although it was not a matter of choice for them, they have adapted to it well, as well as their teachers. The challenges however remain for both students and teachers in order for online education to be accepted even better in the future.
... Section 3 will first concentrate on the challenges posed by ERT and on our response to these. Next, we will evoke some basic principles and models of distance learning that were a source of inspiration for defining our pedagogical approach and the objectives of our "learning community" (Swan et al. 2009). Data discussion (section 4) will finally be an occasion to comment on our solutions to transform our lessons into an ERT mode. ...
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The sudden shift from a traditional to a virtual classroom in the COVID-19 era has resulted in a radical re-organisation of courses not conceived initially as online learning. The Internet availability of materials and tools has been an excellent resource for the so-called "emergency remote teaching" (ERT); however, the passage was somewhat problematic. This paper presents our experience of teaching dialogue interpreting (DI) by distance mode in two beginner interpreter classrooms during the COVID-19 era. We present three different kinds of data: a questionnaire concerning our first ERT experience (2020), observation sheets, and two excerpts of transcriptions (made after recording the students' role-play performances in 2021). Our aim is to analyse how ERT can affect course delivery and design and to evaluate whether the pedagogical measures we took to mitigate the drawbacks of ERT were effective. In essence, we were faced with the paradox of using distance learning methods for training students to work as dialogue interpreters in face-to-face interactions. Needless to say, some problematic aspects emerged during our lessons. Therefore, the present study is also intended to highlight strengths and weaknesses in teaching dialogic interpreting by remote.
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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. Garrison draws on his decades of experience and extensive research in the field to explore the technological, pedagogical, and organizational implications of e-learning. Most importantly, he provides practical models that educators can use to realize the full potential of e-learning. This book is unique in that it focuses less on the long list of ever-evolving technologies and more on the search for an understanding of these technologies from an educational perspective.
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“Social presence,” the degree to which participants in computer-mediated communication feel affectively connected one to another, has been shown to be an important factor in student satisfaction and success in online courses. This mixed methods study built on previous research to explore in greater depth the nature of social presence and how it develops in online course discussions. The study combined quantitative analyses of survey results from students enrolled in four online graduate courses, and qualitative comparisons of students with the highest and lowest perceptions of social presence. Quantitative results revealed significant correlations between perceived social presence and satisfaction with online discussions, and teased apart the respective influences of the perceived presence of instructors and peers. The findings indicate that the perceived presence of instructors may be a more influential factor in determining student satisfaction than the perceived presence of peers. Correlations with other course and learner characteristics suggest that course design may also significantly affect the development of social presence. Qualitative findings support the quantitative results. In addition, they provide evidence that students perceiving the highest social presence also projected themselves more into online discussions,and reveal meaningful differences in perceptions of the usefulness and purpose of online discussion between students perceiving high and low social presence.
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This study focuses on understanding the social and teaching presence required to create a blended faculty development community of inquiry. Garrison, Anderson and Archer’s community of inquiry framework was used to analyze transcripts from the face-to-face and online sessions of a faculty learning community focused on blended learning course redesign. All three categories of social and teaching presence were detected in both forms of transcripts. The pattern of social comments changed considerably over time within the online discussion forum. The frequency of comments reflecting affective and open communication decreased while those with group cohesion increased dramatically. A similar trend was not observed within the face-to-face transcripts. In terms of teaching presence, the percentage of comments coded for design & organization and facilitating discourse decreased over time in both the face-to-face and online transcripts while comments containing an element of direct instruction increased considerably.
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The purpose of this study is to validate an instrument to study role adjustment of students new to an online community of inquiry. The community of inquiry conceptual model for online learning was used to shape this research and identify the core elements and conditions associated with role adjustment to online learning (Garrison, Anderson and Archer, 2000). Through a factor analytic process it is shown that the instrument did reflect the theoretical model. It was also useful in refining the items for the questionnaire. The instrument is for use in future research designed to measure and understand student role adjustment in online learning.
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