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.

Anastasios Katsaris on CoI Questionnaire: 2.0?
4 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
6 months 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
7 months 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 ...

Lindie on Supporting Discourse using Technology-Mediated Communication: The Community of Inquiry Model in Second Level Education
7 months ago
Which level is the second level?

Anastasios Katsaris on Purposeful and Social Interaction
7 months ago
Thank you professor.

Lora B. Pezzell on The CoI Community
7 months ago
Hello everyone! My name is Lora Pezzell. I am an instructional designer at the University of Central Oklahoma, in Edmond, Oklahoma. I am passionate about helping faculty design online courses with humanizing and pedagogies of kindness. I am excited to be in this ...

Michellea Millis on The CoI Community
7 months ago
Greetings and Salutations everyone! Excited to be a member of this community!

Steve A. Solano on The CoI Community
7 months ago
Hi! My name is Steve. I'm from the Philippines but currently teaching in Seoul, South Korea. I'm now using the CoI framework for my AR project.

Andrea E. Blair on The CoI Community
8 months ago
Hi Elizabeth, I am currently researching a similar focus. I am completing my dissertation with a focus on teacher perception of their online instructional practice during Covid-19. Do you have any suggestions or tips for a qualitative approach and building a qualitative instrument for focus groups? I am really ...

Andrea E. Blair on The CoI Community
8 months ago
Hi Everyone! My name is A.E. Blair. I am an educator and doctoral student in the United States. My current research focus is Online Math Instruction in grades 9-12 during Covid and am use COI as my theoretical framework. I am interested in a qualitative approach and qualitative instruments that can be used for ...
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.