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Community of Inquiry and Student Engagement

Research on effective course design provides several avenues for examining outcomes such as student perceptions, achievement, motivation, and satisfaction. The Community of Inquiry (COI) is a theoretical framework utilized as a tool to examine effective course and task design, learner perceptions of learning, and effective tools for fostering presence (Garrison et Al, 2000). Derived from Dewey’s idea of practical inquiry, Garrison, Anderson, and Archer’s study (2000) examined the elements necessary to develop a meaningful educational experience and lead to learner success (Garrison et. Al, 2001). Through this endeavor, they concluded that interaction was a crucial component of a successful online course, however, interaction alone is not enough. This interaction must lead to something more—namely an amalgamation of the elements responsible for creating a meaningful learning experience. Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2000) outlined three interdependent presences that form the basis of the learning experience –teaching, social, and emotional.

Social presence is “the ability of participants in the Community of Inquiry to project their personal characteristics into the community, thereby presenting themselves to the other participants as ‘real people,’” (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000, p.59) Social presence is essential to online learning as it provides an opportunity for students to develop critical thinking, leading to further cognitive development (Rourke, Anderson, Garrison, & Archer, 2001). When group members feel engaged and stimulated, they are more likely to interact and integrate on multiple levels (Tinto, 1987).

Simple and effective strategies can be utilized in online course design to increase social presence and engagement. Providing students with creative outlets for expression can improve their ability to demonstrate who they are as “real people.” Discussions can be a great tool and with options like emojis and video and gif embedding, students are able to express their moods, emotions, and feelings. Group projects and activities such as role-playing provide students with the opportunity to develop interpersonal relationships, sharing and synthesizing newly acquired knowledge. When students must bargain between their own knowledge and a collection of relevant and necessary data through inquiry—interaction with others—they are better able to integrate this knowledge and apply it in daily life.

Jessica Krentzman, M.A. Doctoral Student

Instructional Designer, Academic Services and Products

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