D. Randy Garrison
July 10, 2018

In this post I will pick-up on the topic of learning outcomes and the CoI framework that I addressed in a previous editorial (June 19, 2017). At the time I had emphasized that the CoI framework is a model founded on the process of collaborative inquiry. To be clear, a CoI may be transactional but it has specific, intended, and worthwhile learning outcomes. Furthermore, the CoI transaction is based upon the premise that a collaborative constructivist learning experience may be the most effective means to achieve deep and meaningful learning outcomes. While there is evidence that perceived and real quality outcomes are associated with a CoI experience (Garrison, 2017, p. 59), further evidence is required to validate this premise.

With this in mind I was pleased to see new research emerge that explored the interdependencies of the CoI presences and learning outcomes (Yussiff, Ahmad, & Mustapha, 2018). This study used experimental and control groups (60 and 42 participants respectively) to assess the influence of the presences (using the CoI questionnaire) on actual learning outcomes in an e-collaborative learning environment as measured by pre and post-test syllabus performances. The findings validated the CoI questionnaire and using a structural equation model it was “demonstrated that collaborative learning experience strongly predict learning outcomes indirectly through the mediating and moderating effects of the three presences” (Conclusion).

I find these results encouraging but not surprising. We have predicted such results from the outset based on the premise that when deep and meaningful learning expectations exist and care is given to designing and facilitating a collaborative constructivist learning experience, quality outcomes will result. Future research, however, should also consider the quality of learning outcomes. I have argued that a CoI approach (collaborative inquiry) is not required for simple recall of information (surface learning). Collaborative inquiry is simply not necessary or efficient as a means to transfer knowledge in whole. On the other hand, if the goal is to construct deep learning outcomes, then investment in collaborative inquiry is not only justified but arguably essential. The research challenge is to demonstrate that deep learning outcomes are the result of a CoI approach.

Therefore, it is clear to me that linking learning outcomes to the concerted influence of the CoI presences is an area that deserves further study such that it will contribute to the validation of the CoI framework as a means to achieve deep and meaningful learning outcomes.


Garrison, D. R. (2017). E-Learning in the 21st Century: A Community of Inquiry Framework for Research and Practice (3rd Edition). London: Routledge/Taylor and Francis.

Yussiff, A-S., Ahmad, W. F. W. & Mustapha, E. E. (2018). E-Collaborative Learning experience, Interdependencies of Presences and Learning Outcomes: Evidence of Mediating and Moderating Effects. International Journal of Business Information Systems, forthcoming article.



D. Randy Garrison
Professor Emeritus, University of Calgary
D. Randy Garrison is professor emeritus at the University of Calgary.Dr. Garrison has published extensively on teaching and learning in adult, higher and distance education contexts. He has authored, co-authored or edited twelve books and well over 100 refereed articles/chapters.His recent books are Thinking Collaboratively: Learning in a Community of Inquiry (2016) and E-Learning in the 21st Century: A Community of Inquiry Framework for Research and Practice (3rd Edition) (2017); for which he won second place for the Association for Educational Communications and Technology, Division of Distance Learning Book Award, 2017.


Hierarchical Validation of the CoI Framework
D. Randy Garrison
April 3, 2019
Without question the most important feature of the Community of Inquiry (CoI) theoretical framework is the growing evidence as to its construct validity (see September, 2018 post

Implementing Shared Metacognition
D. Randy Garrison
February 27, 2019
Metacognition is key to learning how to learn. Metacognitive approaches to learning starts with designing and planning the learning experience. Metacognition means increasing awareness of the learning process and taking responsibility to control the ...

Design Principles
D. Randy Garrison
January 4, 2019
At the core of the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework is critical discourse in the service of inquiry. The CoI framework identifies three overlapping elements (social, cognitive and teaching presence) that create the conditions for open communication ...

MOOCs and the Community of Inquiry
D. Randy Garrison
December 5, 2018
Structured massive open online courses (MOOCs) provide cost-effective access to high quality course materials. This approach to online learning, however, exhibits an inherent limitation in that they are implicitly large enrollment courses with ...

Shared Metacognition
D. Randy Garrison
October 23, 2018
If I had to pick an area of research with the greatest potential for understanding thinking and learning in a collaborative setting it would have to be shared metacognition . The primary reason for this is that deep and meaningful learning (ie, ...
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.