An educational community of inquiry is a group of individuals who collaboratively engage in purposeful critical discourse and reflection to construct personal meaning and confirm mutual understanding.

The Community of Inquiry theoretical framework represents a process of creating a deep and meaningful (collaborative-constructivist) learning experience through the development of three interdependent elements: social, cognitive and teaching presence.


The Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework theory, methodology and instruments were developed during a Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities research funded project entitled "A Study of the Characteristics and Qualities of Text-Based Computer Conferencing for Educational Purposes" project which ran from 1997 to 2001. Central to the original study was the creation of a framework of a community of inquiry comprised of three essential elements of an educational experience: cognitive, social and teaching presence

Outcomes of the original project were published in peer reviewed journals which, in turn, have resulted in hundreds of research studies applying and extending the original CoI theory, method, and instruments. The seminal paper "Critical Inquiry in a Text-Based Environment: Computer Conferencing in Higher Education" (Garrison, Anderson and Archer, 2000) has been cited more than 2,800 times (as reported by Google Scholar August 2015) and provided the foundation for valuable empirical research in learning theory across multiple disciplines and in varied educational settings.

In the following interview for the Reflective Teaching in a Digital Age podcast, Dr. Randy Garrison describes the history of the CoI framework, including its role in the thoughtful design of online education, and practical ways of helping students learn through active participation and shared meaning making.

Reflective Teaching in a Digital Age: Community of Inquiry (CoI) Framework and Online Teaching


The Community of Inquiry questionnaire is developed and validated by a collaborative research team. The members of the team, in alphabetical order, are Ben Arbaugh, Marti Cleveland-Innes, Sebastian Diaz, D. Randy Garrison, Phil Ice, Jennifer Richardson, Peter Shea and Karen Swan.

The results were presented at the Sloan-C Conference in Orlando in November 2008. A three factor solution with oblique rotation was presented. All variables loaded cleanly on the expected factor/presence. This suggests a stable instrument that could be used in a variety of studies, including large scale inter-institutional or cross-disciplinary studies.

The survey in English: PDF | Word
La encuesta en español está disponible aquí.

The CoI Survey is an open resource under Creative Commons license (CC-BY-SA). Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of the CoI survey to use, share, copy, adapt, merge, publish or distribute the document in any medium or format for any purpose, provided that appropriate credit is given, and any modified material is distributed under the same Creative Commons license.


Our sister site at Athabasca University features an extensive set of publication references, including papers, dissertations, and books about the Community of Inquiry, as well as further and more detailed information on the CoI framework, its presences, and the CoI survey. Visit the CoI Research Site.

Student populations today are more diverse than ever before. Differences in ability levels, ethnicity, cultural background, and gender identity, among other factors, can provide learning environments with a rich kaleidoscope of features. With inclusive leadership and practice, student diversity can add value to the learning environment, providing opportunities for meaningful learning, personal growth, and community building. Join the Inclusive Educators' Toolbox community and contribute your own tools and ideas for inclusive education.

Technology-enabled learning (TEL) has the power to transform both teaching and learning in classroom-based, online, and blended education by introducing the digital tools and resources 21st-century learners will need in order to explore, understand, and express themselves. These technologies can transform teaching by creating new, connected relationships between teachers, students, and content to improve instruction and create a more personalized form of learning. Join the TEL Resources Repository community and contribute your own resources and ideas for technology-enabled education.

Dan Wilton on Blended Learning in Higher Education
1 week ago
Test comment for Blended Learning in Higher Education - Dan.

Kristin Millard on The CoI Community
1 month ago
Hi, everyone. I am a Higher Education Leadership doctoral student at Maryville University in St. Louis, MO. My dissertation is a mixed-method study on the persistence of international students who study online while living in their home countries. I am using CoI as my framework. I am just beginning my research, and I ...

Diana Gobin on The CoI Community
1 month ago
Greetings for my native land, the Cooperative Republic of Guyana in South America. I am a lecturer at the University of Guyana in the School of Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation. I have been teaching for fourteen years in higher education. I look forward to the connections formed through this ...

Tristan Cui on The CoI Community
1 month ago
Hi all, I am from Monash University in Australia. I have always been interested in the application and research of the CoI framework since I read about it several years ago. Just submitted my first journal article related to CoI. I am looking forward to meeting colleagues and learning more about the current research ...

Dr Tommie Hamaluba on The CoI Community
1 month ago
Nice meeting you too. I am Dr Tommie Hamaluba from Botswana Open University's centre for Open Schooling where I serve as a programme Developer. I look forward to meeting many colleagues, especially those attached to any Open Schooling ...

Valarie Kerr-Davis on The CoI Community
1 month ago
Hello everyone, I am from a beautiful island in the Caribbean named St. Lucia. I am an Elementary teacher for twenty-four years. I enjoy doing online classes and always look forward to learn something new. I am looking forward also to meet persons from all across the world here so we can share common interests and ...

Timothy Berg on The CoI Community
3 months ago
I am currently working at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico-San Antonio, a satellite education institute of Mexico National University. However, I have just started an online EdD in Organizational Leadership at the University of Dayton-Ohio and working on my research project for Research Methods. I discovered ...

Anastasios Katsaris on CoI Questionnaire: 2.0?
10 months ago
Thank you so much professor for bringing to our attention interesting new research on your inspirational work.

Wawan Krismanto on The CoI Community
1 year ago
Hi everyone, i am lecturer and doctoral student from Indonesia. I am interested on online teacher professional learning. I am really excited to see someone with a similar research focus. I will investigate are basically designed using the CoI framework in the Indonesian teachers online leaning communities. I am ...

Jean Smith on The CoI Community
1 year ago
Hi! I am a baccalaureate nursing instructor at Red Deer College and a student in the Athabasca University Doctor of Education in Distance Education (EDDE) program. I am passionate about educating novice nurses about rural acute care nursing and generating knowledge about how professional development in a blended ...
The Community of Inquiry is a project of the Centre for Distance Education at Athabasca University, researchers of the Community of Inquiry framework, and members of the CoI community.