D. Randy Garrison
June 17, 2019

In this blog my focus is on a very interesting research publication by Rolim, V., Ferreira, R., Lins, R. D., & Gasevic, D. (2019). Let me begin with a caveat that this needs to be read and studied in its entirety given its complexity. Notwithstanding this, considering its importance I do wish to draw your attention to this research by way of highlighting some of its findings. The focus of this research was on the links between social and cognitive presence and how they changed over time. This interests me because of our previous research indicating the important but mediating role of social presence (SP). The research of Rolim et al. provides depth of insight into the relationship of SP with cognitive presence (CP).

First, in general, it was found that SP does support CP but in different ways as the course of studies developed. Interestingly, the results “showed that indicators of social presence had more association with the exploration and integration phases of cognitive presence” (Abstract). Specific to the exploration phase, the authors stated they observed “an  extensive increase of the weights of the links with all indicators of social presence; this increase could mean the creation of a group cohesion identity, because the students were more open to sharing their thoughts about the content using different expressions of social interactions” (Conclusion, p.12). Notwithstanding the obvious importance of SP, I would emphasize that cohesion is dependent upon a strong academic focus and collaborative inquiry (CP). That is, the purpose of a CoI must be on CP which in turn leads to learner satisfaction.

However, this is a bit misleading as the indicators of SP showed differential effects. For example, the affective category had stronger links to integration and resolution, while the open communication (interactive) category had stronger links to triggering events and exploration. On the surface, the association of integration and resolution with the affective category (expressing emotions) seemed puzzling to me. However, this was explained “... by the fact that at the beginning of the discussion (Triggering event) the students, in general, did not share affective messages” (Discussion, p. 12). On the other hand, there was apparently greater cohesion at the Integration phase which “could indicate that the students improved the social “climate” of the online discussion forum, because of the increase in the affective relationships” (Conclusion, p. 12). This, however, contrasted with the Resolution phase which showed a decrease in SP likely “due to the fact that in the Resolution phase the students were exhibiting their final findings and solutions, reducing their interaction” (Conclusion, p. 12). This is consistent with our speculation in that resolution is often more reflective and project based (Garrison, 2017, p. 58).

Notwithstanding the interesting findings in terms of fleshing out the effects of a CoI, I would be remiss not to draw your attention to the methodology as it provides a more refined and detailed analysis of the relationship between social and cognitive presence. Although coding of transcripts is onerous, this methodology appears to have promising practical findings. Serious consideration needs to be given to this approach in providing new perspectives and understanding of the relationships and dynamics associated with the CoI framework and an enhanced educational experience.

In conclusion, findings such as these could have enormous practical benefits to designing and facilitating the educational experience. As the authors state, this would “enable instructors to provide a better facilitation of the course participation of the students by offering timely feedback concerning both presences” (Abstract).


Rolim, V., Ferreira, R., Lins, R. D., & Gasevic, D. (2019). A network-based analytic approach to uncovering the relationship between social and cognitive presences in communities of inquiry. Internet and Higher Education, 42, 53-65. doi: 10.1016/j.iheduc.2019.05.001



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.