Having defined what the Community of Inquiry is, we can better appreciate its contribution to online learning. Let’s explore a useful tool to assess presence in online learning: the Community of Inquiry Survey Tool, a 34-item instruments validated by several researchers in four Canadian and American institutions.
What is the Community of Inquiry Survey Tool?
This survey tool consists of nine social presence items: affective expression (3), open communication (3), group cohesion (3); twelve cognitive presence items: triggering (3), exploration (3), integration (3), resolution (3); and thirteen teaching presence items: design (4), facilitation (6), direct instruction (3). It is useful in that it allows you to find out “what’s going on” in a virtual classroom. It can be used to guide the design of an upcoming online course or to assess an existing one.
Because it’s been tested and validated, one can be fairly confident that survey results will provide a good indication of presence in an online class. A strong presence will lead to the emergence of a community of inquiry whose role is so valuable in the virtual classroom. Why? Research indicates that sustaining a learning community is a recommended online educational practice (Larramendy-Joerns & Leinhardt, 2006). Moreover, in the everyday world, humans “naturally work together in learning and knowledge-building communities […] to help them solve problems and perform tasks” (Jonassen, Howland, Marra, & Crismond, 2008:4). As online collaboration develops, this natural trait guides virtual interaction. For Garrison (2009), significant discussion among peers is the foundation for sound learning in higher education.