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D. Randy Garrison
July 4, 2022

The purpose of this post is to explore the connection between collaborative inquiry (cognitive presence) and asynchronous discourse. As noted in a previous post (Editorial 34), collaborative inquiry is increasingly being viewed as the foundational approach to guiding faculty through the design and delivery of online and blended learning. Furthermore, the evidence is growing that collaborative inquiry has a positive effect on learning outcomes (Sholeh & Hermanto, 2021). The primary issue I want to explore here is the context to support collaborative inquiry that includes the nature of communication (synchronous, asynchronous) and teaching presence. More broadly this reflects the ongoing challenge to understand and prescribe teaching presence (design and delivery) in an online community of inquiry.

I have consistently argued that asynchronous online discourse is particularly advantageous for reflective critical thinking (Garrison, 2017). The affordance of time to consider alternative and dissonant perspectives is invaluable as an educational experience. For this reason, my attention was drawn to an article that studied the benefits and drawbacks of synchronous and asynchronous courses (Wu & Jung, 2022). This research concluded “that students prefer an equal split between synchronous and asynchronous components for conceptual courses but prefer additional synchronous components for quantitative courses” (p. 1). Moreover, the authors “urge educators and administrators to develop a hybrid approach that leverages the benefits of synchronous and asynchronous courses and optimizes online learning and teaching experiences” (p. 1). This blended approach makes perfect sense and an approach that we argued for over a decade ago (Garrison & Vaughan, 2008).

However, this perspective was brought home to me in a powerful manner when I read an article that went further regarding discussion forums (Leslie & Camargo-Borges, 2022). The authors not only argued for education as a community endeavor but explored more deeply how critical discourse and metacognition can be realized in a community of inquiry (CoI). They conclude “that discussion forums are a medium with the potential to increase the quality of engagement between students by providing metacognitive direction and facilitation, thus provoking a focused cognitive dissonance” (p. 30). They also support the position above regarding asynchronous discourse when they state that in “contrast to a F2F format, the participants enjoyed the time afforded by the asynchronous format to reflect on their peers’ ideas before responding” (p. 24).

Leslie and Camargo-Borges (2022) also go on to offer strong pragmatic suggestions regarding teaching presence to achieve successful outcomes. Of particular interest to me was the statement regarding the critical role of the instructor “in providing metacognitive direction to the community” (p. 1). Most importantly from my perspective, they found that as “students’ metacognitive understanding with the CoI model increased, they became more at ease with each other, allowing an increase of 74% in facilitation in the fourth forum assignment, asking more questions, challenging ideas and pursuing cwelelep [cognitive dissonance]” (p. 16). This is collaborative inquiry and the essence of learning in a community of inquiry. The practical implications of shared metacognition to develop awareness and regulation for learning in a collaborative learning environment is explored more fully in Garrison (2022). Shared metacognition addresses the intersection of teaching and cognitive presence as essential to practically monitor and manage collaborative inquiry.

The theme they identified was the importance of support from the instructor. Teaching presence goes to the heart of monitoring and managing (metacognition) collaborative inquiry and the co-construction of knowledge. With increased shared metacognitive awareness learners see the potential of discourse to identify cognitive dissonance and creating shared understanding. More specifically, instructor “engagement provides a metacognitive direction in the formation of questions, thus expanding the nature of the teaching presence, and adding to the initial inquiry a wider range of contextualized questions and cognitive dissonance (Leslie & Camargo-Borges, 2022, p. 18). They also emphasize that learners have the responsibility to manage inquiry through questions and challenges (critical discourse) and to overcome the desire to “be nice” (p. 23). It is noted that this again is where shared metacognition can guide and encourage respectful but challenging discourse. Pathological politeness was a challenge we identified in the early stages of applying the CoI framework.

The focus of the Leslie and Camargo-Borges (2022 study was directed to critical discourse, creating cognitive dissonance and shared metacognition. They provided a strong argument for asynchronous discussion forums and practical insight into providing teaching presence to support collaborative inquiry. However, the critical insight from my perspective is that metacognitive awareness and direction greatly enhanced critical discourse in a community of inquiry. The central question to collaborative inquiry is how to develop shared metacognition to enhance the educational transaction and learning outcomes. The awareness and evidence is growing in the understanding that shared metacognition and regulation greatly facilitates collaborative inquiry and efficiently and effectively moves discourse to resolution.

The challenge from a research perspective is to understand how to develop metacognitive awareness and regulatory strategies that will support a collaborative learning environment. In this regard we have offered the shared metacognition construct and a quantitative instrument to study the complexities of a community of inquiry (Garrison & Akyol, 2015a, 2015b). The Shared Metacognition Questionnaire we have developed has been validated and provides an invaluable instrument to explore the theoretical and practical questions associated with a community of inquiry. Shared metacognition is the prime mover in collaborative inquiry and, therefore, effective inquiry is dependent upon such shared monitoring and management abilities. Moreover, shared metacognition is an essential ability in a complex information society requiring an ability to acquire a version of the truth (Editorial 10).


Garrison, D. R. (2017). E-Learning in the 21st Century: A Community of Inquiry Framework for Research and Practice (3rd edition). London: Routledge/Taylor and Francis.

Garrison, D. R. (2022). Shared Metacognition in a Community of Inquiry. Online Learning Journal, 26(1).

Garrison, D. R., & Akyol, Z. (2015). Toward the development of ametacognition construct for the community of inquiry framework. (Developing a shared metacognition construct and instrument: Conceptualizing and assessing metacognition in a community of inquiry). The Internet and Higher Education, 24, 66-71.

Garrison, D. R., & Akyol, Z. (2015). Corrigendum to ‘Toward the development of a metacognition construct for communities of inquiry.’ The Internet and Higher Education, 26, 56.

Leslie, P., & Camargo-Borges, C. (2022). Education as a Community Affair: Digitally Designing Knowledge. International Journal of E-Learning & Distance Education, 37(1), 1-34.

SP, E. F. J., Sholeh, M., & Hermanto, F. Y. (2021). How Inquiry Learning Model Affects Students’ Learning Results and Critical Thinking Skills in Covid-19 Pandemic? Dinamika Pendidikan, 16(2), 113-123.

Wu, L., & Jung, S. Y. (2022). Synchronous or Asynchronous Course: Business Students’ Perspectives on an Optimized Modality of Online Teaching and Learning. Journal of Marketing Education.



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 fifteen books; 94 articles; 68 book chapters; 40 conference proceedings; and more than 100 academic presentations. His major books are: Garrison, D. R. (2017). E-Learning in the 21st Century: A Community of Inquiry Framework for Research and Practice (3rd Edition); Garrison, D. R. (2016). Thinking Collaboratively: Learning in a Community of Inquiry; Garrison, D. R., & Vaughan, N. (2008). Blended learning in higher education: Framework, principles and guidelines; Garrison, D. R., & Archer, W. (2000). A transactional perspective on teaching-learning: A framework for adult and higher education. Curriculum vitae



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The Community of Inquiry is a project of Athabasca University, Mount Royal University, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and the Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, as well as researchers and members of the CoI community.