A Constructivist Approach to Online Learning: The Community of Inquiry Framework

A Constructivist Approach to Online Learning: The Community of Inquiry Framework

Karen Swan, D.R. Garrison, Jennifer C. Richardson
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-654-9.ch004
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This chapter presents a theoretical model of online learning, the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework, which is grounded in John Dewey’s progressive understanding of education. The CoI framework is a process model of online learning which views the online educational experience as arising from the interaction of three presences – social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence. Each of these three elements in the CoI framework are described and related to Dewey’s work, and research findings and issues concerning them reviewed. The development of a common CoI survey measure that promises to address some of these issues is described and discussed. The chapter concludes with emerging findings from new studies which use the CoI survey, directions for future research, and practical uses of the CoI framework.
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Background: The Community Of Inquiry Framework

The CoI framework (Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 2000) is a process model of online learning. It assumes that effective online learning, especially higher order learning, requires the development of community, and that such development is not a trivial challenge in the online environment. The CoI framework is a dynamic model of the necessary core elements for both the development of community and the pursuit of inquiry, in any educational environment. Its three core elements -- cognitive, social and teaching presence – described in the sections which follow, are viewed as multidimensional, interdependent, and dynamic. The overlapping nature of these elements is depicted in Figure 1. At their core is the unity of a collaborative constructivist learning experience consistent with the legacy of John Dewey. Together, the two constituting notions of community and inquiry form a pragmatic organizing framework of sustainable principles and processes for the purpose of guiding online educational practice. The CoI framework has provided perspective and guidance to a good deal of important research on purposeful online learning over the last decade.

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