Social presence within the community of inquiry framework

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    111 Citations (Scopus)


    The role of social presence as defined by the community of inquiry (CoI) framework is critiqued through a review of recent literature. Evidence is presented that questions the actual extent of knowledge co-construction that occurs in most higher education settings and therefore challenges the framework's underlying assumption of the need for sustained, contiguous, two-way communication in higher-level online learning environments. The CoI framework has evolved from the description of a learning process within a social constructivist paradigm to an empirically testable construct in an objectivist paradigm. Related research results indicate that social presence does not impact cognitive presence in a meaningful way and that best teaching practices suggested by CoI-based studies are informed by objectivist, cognitively oriented learning theories. These suggest that higher-order cognition may be achieved through wide and varied combinations of learner-teacher, learner-content, and learner-learner interaction. Controlled studies can and should be undertaken to compare learning outcomes using sustained, contiguous, two-way communication to other learning models. To facilitate this, subcategories of social and teaching presences need to be revamped and analysis adjusted to separate processes that support explicitly group-based learning activities from those used by individual students.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)38-54
    Number of pages17
    JournalInternational Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


    • Cohort-based learning
    • Communities of inquiry
    • Constructivism
    • Distance education
    • Individualized learning
    • Online learning
    • Online pedagogy


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