D. Randy Garrison
October 30, 2019

After taking a short sabbatical this summer I return to a couple of recent studies that I believe enhances our understanding and credibility of the CoI framework with regard to CoI presence relationships. The first study by Kucuk and Richardson (2019) “investigated the structural relationships among the three CoI presences ... and satisfaction in fully online courses (p. 206). They concluded that “teaching presence, cognitive presence, emotional engagement, behavioral engagement, and cognitive engagement were significant predictors of satisfaction, and these determinants explained 88% of the variance in satisfaction” (p. 196). Moreover, “the dominant determinant of satisfaction was found to be teaching presence, which had direct and indirect effects on satisfaction (p. 196). According to this result, we can infer that when teaching presence is strong, online learners are more likely to be satisfied with their online courses.

It was also shown “that cognitive presence is very important to maintaining engagement” (p. 208) and facilitating deep engagement in learning. From this Kucuk and Richardson stated that “triggering cognitive engagement may lead to deep engagement in all aspects of the learning process” (p. 208). The significance here is that cognitive engagement (collaborative inquiry) leads to deep and meaningful approaches to learning which is the core premise of the CoI framework. Another important conclusion of this study that I want to draw your attention to is that:

... increasing learners’ perceptions of levels of teaching and cognitive presence enhanced their satisfaction with emotional engagement in online courses. Therefore, online instructors and instructional designers should apply teaching and cognitive presence strategies as suggested by the CoI framework.” (Kucuk & Richardson, 2019, p. 208).
To me all this this speaks to the value of the CoI theoretical framework when the goal is a collaborative constructive approach to learning.

Zhu, X. (2018) reports on another study that investigated CoI presence relationships. The purpose of Zhu’s research “was to examine the relationship among social presence, cognitive presence and teaching presence in online learning within a Community of Inquiry (CoI)” (p. vi). Zhu found “strong relationships among the three presences” (p. 35) and that “social presence and teaching presence are both significant predictors of cognitive presence” (p. 34). This, of course, appears to support the validity of the CoI framework.

However, after further examination of social presence, it was suggested that “there may exist additional latent factors” (p. 38). This has always been an issue with other researchers suggesting other possible categories such as motivation and emotional. While there is evidence of close relationships among the three presences (reflecting a true CoI), social presence has been more of a mediating variable as opposed to a predictor of cognitive presence. That is, cognitive presence may be high when social presence is low. As we explored in the previous post “indicators of social presence had more association with the exploration and integration phases of cognitive presence” (Rolim, V., Ferreira, R., Lins, R. D., & Gasevic, D., 2019). Social presence could also have avariable impact in some subject areas with highly motivated students. Finally, Zhu notes that social presence is not equal to interaction.  Social presence goes beyond “simple interaction, which could be understood as a social interaction, or a lower level cognitive exchange” (p. 38). As I have noted previously, many questions remain with regard to refining the social presence construct. This construct is embedded in a complex and dynamic CoI concurrently influenced by varying degrees of the other presences. This is why I encourage others to continue to examine the relationships among the presences.


Kucuk, S., & Richardson, J. C. (2019). A structural equation model of predictors of online learners’ engagement and satisfaction. Online Learning, 23(2), 196-216.

Rolima, V., Ferreiraa, R, Linsa, R. D., & Gǎsević, D. (2019). Network-based analytic approach to uncovering the relationship between social and cognitive presences in Communities of Inquiry. Internet and Higher Education, 42, 53-65.

Zhu, X. (2018). Facilitating effective online discourse: Investigating Factors influencing students’ cognitive presence in online learning. Masters thesis, University of Connecticut. Retrieved October 30, 2019 from: https://opencommons.uconn.edu/gs_theses/1277/



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.