Elements of the Community of Inquiry Framework (Garrison et al., 2000)

The Community of Inquiry Framework has three elements: teaching presence, social presence and cognitive presence.

  • Teaching Presence refers to the ability of the course instructor, which is you, to design and facilitate the course in ways that support the development of social and cognitive processes.
  • Social Presence can be defined as the ability of learners (your students) to present themselves as "real people" and to connect socially and emotionally with the learning community.
  • Cognitive Presence means that your students can construct meaning and think critically through sustained communication and engagement.

Best practices in developing a successful online educational experience

Below are some strategies to develop the Community of Inquiry model in your online courses. Click each title to expand.


Apply to your course: Resources & Tools 

The table below outlines questions to ask when applying the Community of Inquiry to your online courses:


Reflection Questions

Resources/ Tools

Teaching Presence

• Is the design organization of course content clear and accessible?
• Am I actively involved in helping students build their understanding of course content?

• Canvas Page - structure and design
• Assessment Page

Social Presence

• Do I regularly communicate and promptly reply to students?
• Do I create opportunities for students to interact and learn from one another?

• Communication page
• Engagement page
• Voicethread
• Echo360
• Canvas grading

Cognitive Presence

• How do I encourage critical thinking in my course?
• Can I create more opportunities for students to problem-solve, collaborate, critically discuss, apply to the real work, and/or reflect?

• Canvas Pages/ Discussions/ Assessments


Watch a short video below to learn more about the Community of Inquiry framework.


Garrison, D. R. (2016). E-Learning in the 21st Century: A Community of Inquiry Framework for Research and Practice: Third Edition. United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis.

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

Jeffery, M. and A. Ahmad (2018). "A conceptual framework for efficient design of an online operations management course." Journal of Educators Online 15(3): 112-125.

Picciano, A.G. (2009). Blending with purpose: The multimodal modelJournal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 13 (1). Needham, MA: The Sloan Consortium. pp. 7-18.

Pool, J., Reitsma, G., & van den Berg, D. (2017). Revised community of inquiry framework: Examining learning presence in a blended mode of delivery. Online Learning, 21(3), 153-165.

The Community of Inquiry. https://coi.athabascau.ca 

Xin, C. (2012). A critique of the community of inquiry frameworkJournal of Distance Education26(1), 1-15.

How to cite this page:

UMass Amherst IDEAS Team. (2024, February). Online Teaching and Learning Theory. https://www.umass.edu/ideas/online-teaching-learning-theory