VALIDITY OF CoI
D. Randy Garrison
September 29, 2018
Students have frequently asked me for references that validate the CoI framework and associated survey instrument. My first response was to share the data that I had discussed in the third edition of E-Learning in the 21st Century; but this was neither convenient nor complete. However, thanks to two excellent articles, researchers will be able to succinctly address the validity of the CoI framework. More importantly, I hope this will stimulate further research using and validating the CoI framework. The studies I am referring to are:
Caskurlu, S. (2018). Confirming the subdimensions of teaching, social, and cognitive presences: A construct validity study. Internet and Higher Education, 39, 1-12.

Stenbom, S. (2018). A systematic review of the Community of Inquiry survey. Internet and Higher Education, 39, 22-32.
The first study by Stefan Stenbom provided an exhaustive search and analysis of 103 peer reviewed journal articles that used the CoI framework and survey. Stenbom (2018) concluded that “the combined result of this study is that the CoI survey is a widely accepted instrument for revealing participants' perceptions of a learning experience [and] … it is clear that the CoI survey provide[d] a reliable and valid measure of cognitive, social, and teaching presence as outlined in the CoI framework” (p. 27). However, the caveat and challenge is that future success must involve more scholars and “expand the settings in order to make more general claims about the nature of online and blended learning” (p. 22). Therefore, notwithstanding “the CoI survey is a widely accepted instrument for revealing participants' perceptions of a learning experience” (p. 27), there is greater potential in expanding the use of the CoI survey (and framework) to a wide range of educational contexts; including, I might add, face-to-face environments.

The second study I wish to draw to your attention is by Secil Caskurlu who took the next step by examining the individual construct validity of the CoI presences. Based on a sample of twelve online graduate courses (310 participants), the confirmatory factor analysis “empirically supported the conceptualization of all three presences as initially proposed by the CoI framework … as well as the reliability and validity of the CoI instrument” (p. 9). The findings, however, raised issues identified previously in the literature with regard to the structure of teaching and social presence. For example, notwithstanding the confirmation of a three factor solution for teaching presence, there was a question as to the uniqueness of facilitation and direct instruction. Similarly, social presence demonstrated a clear hypothesized factor structure but the caveat was “that affective expression and group cohesion might not be unique factors” (p. 10). The helpful explanation was that this was likely due to cross loading of two items and therefore some refinement of these items may be justified. On the other hand, with regard to teaching presence, the outcome was clear. A four factor solution showing a distinction among the phases of practical inquiry was demonstrated. Personally this was encouraging in that historically resolution was not always apparent. Finally, while the general conclusion of this study revealed a data fit with the hypothesized factor structure of each of the presences, it was concluded that the structure be examined across institutions, disciplines and students. This recommendation is consistent with Stenbom in that we should focus on generalizing the application of the CoI framework.

For researchers using the CoI framework these studies are significant in that they provide powerful evidence in support of the validity of the conceptualization of the CoI framework and its corresponding survey questionnaire. These validation studies are an invaluable foundation and also guide in refining the framework and survey. In general they provide increased confidence using this framework to study collaborative approaches to deep and meaningful inquiry.


REFERENCES

Caskurlu, S. (2018). Confirming the subdimensions of teaching, social, and cognitive presences: A construct validity study. Internet and Higher Education, 39, 1-12.

Stenbom, S. (2018). A systematic review of the Community of Inquiry survey. Internet and Higher Education, 39, 22-32.




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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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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.