D. Randy Garrison
May 25, 2017
Kadir Kozan (2016) provides us with a significant piece of research that provides important insights with regard to the relationships between and among the presences of the CoI framework. This research builds on work with Jennifer Richardson (Kozan & Richardson, 2014). Their previous research confirmed a three factor structure and concluded the findings “align completely with the theoretical assumptions of the Community of Inquiry Framework” (Kozan & Richardson, 2014, p. 39). Moreover, this research supports an earlier study that confirmed the hypothesized causal relationships among the presences of the CoI framework (Garrison, Cleveland-Innes & Fung, 2010).

The Kozan study of the causal relationships among teaching, cognitive and social presence revealed a complexity with regard to the nature of the CoI framework. The model with social presence as a partial mediator was confirmed. A second model, however, was intriguing. Kozan (2016) found that one model:
... included cognitive presence as a full mediator between teaching and social presence. This implies that instructors would first focus on increasing the cognitive presence of online learners, which would then increase online learners’ social presence. In other words, an increase in online learners’ social presence would be a byproduct of efforts by the instructor to increase their cognitive presence. (p.222)
This reinforces previous arguments I have made that in a purposeful community of inquiry the primary focus should be on the intended learning experience without an undue emphasis on either social or teaching presence. Too much emphasis on social or teaching presence will very likely undermine critical discourse and deep thinking and learning. The take away for me is that relationships of the presences are dynamic and will inevitably evolve over time as educational experiences and tasks fluctuate (Akyol & Garrison, 2008).

The importance of the concurrent influence of all three presences was also highlighted in another recent article by Peacock and Cowan (2016). While the focus was on the overlap of each pair of presences, the authors note that all three presences need to be “interwoven” to properly influence the educational experience. They reference Xin (2000) to emphasize that specific presences and pairs of presences are only abstractions much like the colors of a rainbow. However, it is crucial that we not lose sight of the rainbow itself. While it is important to explore the structure of the presences and understand the relationships between pairs of presences, it is essential we always keep the full community of inquiry in mind or we risk losing sight of the rainbow.


Akyol, Z., & Garrison, D. R. (2008). The development of a community of inquiry over time in an online course: Understanding the progression and integration of social, cognitive and teaching presence. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 12(3-4), 3-22.

Garrison, D. R., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Fung, T. S. (2010). Exploring causal relationships among teaching, cognitive and social presence: Student perceptions of the community of inquiry framework. The Internet and Higher Education, 13, 31-36.

Kozan, K. (2016). A comparative structural equation modeling investigation of the relationships among teaching, cognitive and social presence. Online Learning, 20(3), 210 - 227.

Kozan, K., & Richardson, J. C. (2014). New exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis insights into the community of inquiry survey. The Internet and Higher Education, 23, 39-47.

Peacock, S. & Cowan, J. (2016). From presences to linked influences within the communities of inquiry. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 17(5), 267-283.

kadir · 9 months ago
Dr Garrison,

Thanks a lot for all those informative comments and I agree completely. Speaking of our work, one critical aspect is that data collection occurred towards the end of (online) semesters thereby mainly telling us about presence relationships at that time. The findings seem to be in line with the dynamic nature of the CoI/the presences and their evolution over time. Therefore, cognitive presence as a full mediator towards the end of an online learning experience appears to be possible given that the online learning experience is successful. It is so intriguing that, by the end of an online learning experience, learning or cognitive presence may relate closely to learners' social presence, satisfaction etc. Looking at such connections at different time points in an online learning experience would provide further insights into how they change over time. As you pointed out, all these would be enriched further by keeping the big CoI picture in mind.
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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), and he recently won the Association for Educational Communications and Technology, Division of Distance Learning Book Award (2nd place), 2017.



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I have described teaching presence as the essential element of a community of inquiry that sustains a purposeful collaborative inquiry learning experience. Moreover, research has supported the theoretical claims of the Community of Inquiry (CoI) ...

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The focus of this post is an examination of two recent articles that suggest adding a fourth presence within the Community of Inquiry framework. This issue of adding a fourth presence (learner or learning presence) emerged from the work of Shea et al. ...

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I would like to continue my consideration of cognition in a community of inquiry with an examination of the foundational literature associated with critical thinking. A recent examination of the Cognitive Presence construct by Jens Breivik (2016) ...
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.