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The Community of Inquiry Framework Ten Years Later: Introduction to the Special Issue

by Karen Swan


It has been 10 years since Randy Garrison, Terry Anderson and Walter Archer (2000) first introduced the Community of Inquiry (CoI) model. As recounted in the first article in this special issue, the CoI framework was developed to help them make sense of issues confronting their new online graduate program, a program in which computer-based discussion forums played a central role. Because the pedagogy behind online discussion forums assumes that students will work together, not independently as in traditional distance education, a new theoretical model was needed to explain and explore the online educational experience. Thus was born the CoI framework. The Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework is social constructivist in nature and grounded in John Dewey's (1938) notion of practical inquiry. It is a dynamic process model designed to define, describe and measure elements supporting the development of online learning communities. The three principle elements identified by the CoI model are social presence, cognitive presence and teaching presence. Social presence is defined as the degree to which participants in computer-mediated communication feel affectively connected one to another; cognitive presence is conceptualized as the extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse; and teaching presence is defined as the design, facilitation and direction of cognitive and social processes to support learning (Swan, Garrison, & Richardson, 2009). The model suggests that the online learning experience unfolds in the interaction of these three (Figure 1).

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