Community of Inquiry

According to Rourke, Anderson, Garrison, and Archer (2001), a community of inquiry is comprised of three overlapping key elements: cognitive presence, social presence, and teaching presence. Deep and meaningful learning is generated through the interaction of these three core elements within a community

3 core elements within a community

Rourke, Anderson, Garrison, & Archer (2001)

Social Presence: Social presence is the complete and interactive educational experience of participants in the didactic process. When participants in an online course help establish a community of learning by projecting their personal characteristics into the discussion or other activities, they present themselves as real people.

Cognitive Presence: The extent to which the professor and the students are able to construct and affirm meaning through sustained discourse (discussion) in a community of inquiry is cognitive presence. It is a vital element in enhancing critical thinking. Cognitive presence can be demonstrated by introducing factual, conceptual, and theoretical knowledge into the discussion.

Teaching Presence: Teaching presence supports the design and management of an educational experience and facilitates the communication between teachers and students. Teaching presence supports and enhances both cognitive and social presence in achieving educational outcomes.

Building a community is essential for online courses. It is important to emphasize the joint development of cognitive presence, social presence and teaching presence in order to foster community in the class. This encourages students to feel comfortable in the course, establishing relationships and openly discussing course content with peers.  Cultivating a strong sense of community takes time, commitment and good planning. The following are some suggested activities in an online course to help build a social learning community:

  • Ice-breakers/Introductions
  • Case Studies
  • Group Projects
  • Group Discussions
  • Role-Playing
  • Summarizing

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