Applying the Community of Inquiry Framework

The Community of Inquiry framework "represents a process of creating a deep and meaningful learning experience through the development of three interdependent elements – social, cognitive and teaching presence." This framework has been grounded in research and proven over the last three decades to be effective. In applying this framework to online courses, research has shown that the intersection of the three presences has a strong positive influence on students’ experiences in their online courses.

For an overview of the CoI framework, watch this short video created by Online Learning Programs Director Kristin Palmer.


Below you can find information on and strategies for creating each presence in your online course. More on the CoI framework can be found on the UVA Teaching Continuity website.


Teaching presence is a component of the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework for teaching effective, engaging courses. Other components include social presence and cognitive presence. Teaching presence is defined as the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educational worthwhile learning outcomes (Anderson, et al., 2001). In short, teaching presence is how the instructor shows up and facilitates the class, and it may be a little more difficult to create in an online environment.

20 Ways to Create Teaching Presence Online

  1. Create an introductory video of yourself for your students and don’t be afraid to let students learn more about you personally – pets, family photo, book you are reading, etc.
  2. Check in with students regularly and reach out to those who fall behind.
  3. Hold online office hours.
  4. Resolve student problems and questions.
  5. Be present in discussion forums.
  6. Provide timely, actionable, and substantive feedback.
  7. Provide clear expectations on how students can reach you both synchronously (office hours) and asynchronously (email, text, etc.).
  8. Clearly explain how the assignments will help students obtain the learning objectives.
  9. Include early activities to make students comfortable with technology.
  10. Ask students to turn on their webcams.
  11. Show up 10-15 minutes early to class.
  12. Encourage students to use the “raise hand” and “chat” functions in Zoom.
  13. Use formative assessments such as polls, quizzes, discussion posts, reflective writing assignments, and participation in class sessions to provide ample opportunity for feedback.
  14. Use discussion prompts to engage students.
  15. Use an icebreaker with a poll or by posting a question in chat (muddiest point, weekend plans, what is your favorite…, etc.).
  16. Try to draw in participants so that all students are able to contribute. This may be done more effectively by coordinating small breakout rooms or group assignments.
  17. Encourage, acknowledge, and reinforce student contributions.
  18. Help students develop skills to manage their time.
  19. Praise students with a shout-out to those who are being supportive of their peers.
  20. At the end of the week, create a highlights reel of what happened in the class and insightful contributions by students.


This information was compiled by Online Learning's Kristin Palmer and can be accessed in the below document.

Social presence is a component of the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework for teaching effective, engaging courses. Other components include teaching presence and cognitive presence. According to Garrison (2000), social presence has three categories: (1) emotional (affective) expression, where learners share personal expressions and values; (2) open communication, where learners develop aspects of mutual awareness and recognition; and (3) group cohesion, where learners build and sustain a sense of group commitment. In short, social presence is allowing students to show up as themselves and building a sense of community and belonging within the online environment. 

20 Ways to Create Social Presence Online

  1. Post a welcome message to the course, setting expectations for communication.
  2. Create course rules for what is and is not acceptable.
  3. Publish a guide to “netiquette” as part of the course materials.
  4. Have students post profiles or introductory videos of themselves and their interests.
  5. Include visiting during office hours as a graded assignment with a sign-up sheet for coming in 10- or 15-minute intervals either alone or, for larger classes, coming in groups of 3-5.
  6. Allow students to do assignments that align with their personal interests.
  7. Design courses for learner choice, flexibility, and control.
  8. Encourage all students to participate and respond to each other in discussion boards.
  9. Encourage or require participation in class discussions.
  10. Have students incorporate content from the discussions or discussion forums into their assignment.
  11. Model posting and responding on discussion forums and in class activities.
  12. Have team-based, collaborative or problem-solving activities.
  13. Encourage both peer-to-peer and peer-to-instructor connections.
  14. Develop initial course activities that are icebreakers to encourage interaction. Ideas for ice breakers: The Discussion Book by Stephen D. Brookfield and Stephen Preskill.
  15. Use short videos to introduce the course, different topics and tech how-to.
  16. Use real time communication channels such as text, chat, or shared whiteboard space.
  17. Use audio and video for feedback on student assignments.
  18. Share stories and experiences with students.
  19. Have students lead discussions and be subject matter experts on topics.
  20. Develop peer-review assignments with clear rubrics for grading.


This information was compiled by Online Learning's Kristin Palmer and can be accessed in the below document.

Cognitive presence is a component of the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework for teaching effective, engaging courses. Other components of CoI include teaching presence and social presence. Cognitive presence is the academic content and engaging of the mind in the online environment.

20 Ways to Create Cognitive Presence Online

  1. Start with the end in mind. Clearly communicate to students what they will learn in class.
  2. Provide a variety of assignments that students can pick and choose from to demonstrate learning.
  3. Provide a variety of different types of content and assignments: video, writing, audio, reflection, team-based work, readings, games, etc.
  4. Provide many low-stakes formative assessment opportunities.
  5. Encourage reflection.
  6. Design discussion prompts and dive deep into engaged discussions.
  7. Use roleplaying activities to illustrate multiple points.
  8. Have students lead discussions.
  9. Develop group work where students work as teams.
  10. Provide peer-review opportunities with clear rubrics for assessment.
  11. Connect current learning content to previous content/learning.
  12. Have students reflect on what they are learning now and how they will use this knowledge in the future.
  13. Encourage multiple perspectives and dialogue to understand those perspectives.
  14. Model and support diverse points of view in online discussions.
  15. Provide opportunities for group brainstorming, such as designing concept maps together.
  16. Provide opportunities for insight on how others are thinking through tools such as polling, breakout rooms, or team assignments.
  17. Develop grading rubrics that clearly indicate the quality of different answers and the corresponding scoring.
  18. Post examples of completed assignments.
  19. Have students create or find relevant materials and post them to the class as resources.
  20. Provide frequent opportunities for feedback and testing.


This information was compiled by Online Learning's Kristin Palmer and can be accessed in the below document.

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