D. Randy Garrison
November 27, 2017

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) framework. From this perspective my goal here is to highlight and comment on recent evidence in support of the essential role of teaching presence in a CoI.

The first research article is conclusive with regard to the positive impact of teaching presence "on learners' constructive and interactive engagement behaviors" (Zhang et al., 2016, p. 896). This is consistent with previous research and theoretical constructs with regard to the central role played by teaching presence (TP) (Garrison, 2017). Furthermore, their findings demonstrated enhanced communication and the construction of new knowledge beyond the explicit learning materials made possible through a community of inquiry. This adds additional evidence to the power of a CoI to achieve deep and meaningful learning processes and outcomes. Another recent article found that TP affected the degree of connectivity in a CoI (Chuang et al., 2016). They also concluded that TP may positively affect SP and CP.

Beyond TP specifically, another recent article confirmed the hypothesized relationships among the CoI presences (Saadatmand et al., 2017). Similar to previous research (see previous editorial), this study validates the structure and dynamics of the CoI framework. However, with regard to the focus here, the researchers argued "that teaching presence in the phase of pre-course design and organization and the facilitating role of instructors is significant in establishing a learning community that trigger learners' interaction during the course" (p. 72). This reinforces the essential role of TP to move discussion from the "exploration phase to integration of ideas into solutions" (p. 72). It is clear that TP in the form of design, facilitation and direction is crucial to the full development of practical inquiry.

The findings of the Saadatmand et al. (2017) article are further strengthened with the realization that this study was conducted within a massive open online course (MOOC) with the goal to create opportunities to think and learn collaboratively. As the study suggests, this can be done in a MOOC with good instructional design and the appropriate tools. The interesting insight and conclusion is that a CoI can be created and sustained in a MOOC with sufficient focus on TP. At the same time it must be realized that with a MOOC there is likely going to less flexibility in terms of design during the implementation phase of a CoI depending on the size of the cohort and duration of the course (Kovanovic et al., 2017).

In conclusion, the third edition of E-Learning in the 21st Century (Garrison, 2017) has a full discussion in support of the importance of the role of design and leadership in TP. I am hoping that a focus on TP will encourage a shift in our editorials and discussion to practical concerns and issues associated with the design and facilitation of learning in a collaborative environment. To this end my next post will focus on the use of the CoI framework to guide instructional design of a community of inquiry. In this regard I hope we can explore the function of TP further in the New Year.


Chuang, V. J., Garcia, A. R. C., Bundgaard, H., Furu, P., Bregnhøj, H., Harker-Schuch, I. E.P., & Henriksen, C. B. (2016). Visualising the dynamics of online learning communities in online and blending learning courses: experiences from three university courses. Læring Og Medier, 10(16). Retrieved from

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.

Kovanović V.,Joksimović, S., Poquet O., Hennis T., Čukić I., de Vries P., Hatala M., Dawson S., Siemens G., & Gašević D. (2017). Exploring communities of inquiry in Massive Open Online Courses. Computers & Education, Retrieved November 28, 2017 from:

Saadatmand, M., Uhlin, L., Åbjörnsson, L., & Kvarnström, M. (2017). Examining Learners’ Interaction in an Open Online Course through the Community of Inquiry Framework. European Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 20(1), 61-79.

Zhang, H., Lin, L., Zhan, Y., & Ren, Y. (2016). The impact of teaching presence on online engagement behaviors. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 54(7), 887-900.



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.



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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.