Communities of Inquiry

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

I want to preface this post with the following information:

Before a few days ago I had never heard the term Community of Inquiry, which is exactly why I’ve chosen to write and learn about it.

Now for the why because I wouldn’t just pull this one out of a hat and decide to delve deeper.

I’m joining in (if even partially) to a cMOOC called Exploring Innovations in Networked Work and Learning which I found out about from Tanya Lau. This means being buried in heaps of information that I’ve only been able to glance over a few pieces from, but I’ve accepted that as my fate for the time being.

So, if you’re curious about learning more about this cMOOC then I’d head over to the class blog here and perhaps check out the Google+ Community which is where all the conversation happens. I’m sure nobody would mind if you stopped in and checked it out and maybe even joined in a discussion or two.

Oh, and can’t forget the wonderful Twitter, my favorite place to interact on the Internet, that’s with the hashtag #msloc430.

Why Communities of Inquiry

Sorry about the detour of information there. I’ve been thinking about all this for a while so am somewhat excited to put it down in words finally.

We were asked to “explore a model that is new to you” which is exactly what I did because I’ve never heard of the term Community of Inquiry before. From this point forward I’ll refer to it as CoI (or maybe I won’t, we’ll find out).

Other models we could choose from were:

  • Networked learning (familiar)
  • Personal learning networks (very familiar)
  • MOOCs (way way too familiar)
  • Communities of inquiry (WTH?)

I’ve caught a few random discussions on CoI here and there in the community and on Twitter but I must say I’m still completely clueless as to what it is, and I like it like that for now.

So, that’s my stance in this blog post. I know nothing about it and am going to document my first impressions of what it means to me. As time goes on I’m sure I’ll learn more and have more intelligent things to say. For now you’ll have to live with this being my uninformed opinion.

I’ve warned you.

Defining CoI

I don’t know how to define it really, and it doesn’t seem anybody does thus far which means nobody understands it very well either. That’s good for me because I’m in the same boat! Although everyone else is probably ahead of me now because I’m a slacker at heart.

Here’s the information to help clarify it from the msloc430 blog:

Community of Inquiry

Anderson, A. , Butler, R., Kyle, N., & Wess, Y. (2014). Community of Inquiry (Video file). Retreived from

Synopsis: Simple presentation based upon referenced research outlines Community of Inquiry model and how it works in a learning environment. (Cartoon in the middle was bit jumpy for me?)

Community of Inquiry:

Synopsis: Website providing a reference point for description and research on the model.

Swan, K., Garrison, D & Richardson J. (2009). A constructivist approach to online learning: The community of inquiry framework. In Payne, C. (Ed.) Information Technology and Constructivism in Higher Education: Progressive Learning Frameworks. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

Retrieved from

Synopsis: Downloadable chapter presents the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework of online learning as the interaction between and amongst three presences: social, cognitive and teaching.

Now it’s all clear to you right?

Not me!

I must say though, after watching the video I find it has my absolute favorite word in the world scattered throughout: learners.

What is Community Of Inquiry

What It Is To Me

Before I start in on this I want to give a second warning about my lack of knowledge on the topic so my ignorance is covered.

At about 6 minutes in the video it suddenly clicked for me that I’ve probably experienced CoI before. A recommended strategy is to require people (yes people, not learners) to contribute a minimum number of posts to a discussion. My master’s program was based almost entirely off of this!

Every week we had a required reading which the instructor then presented a group of questions for us to reflect on and answer. After a certain day of the week it was a discussion free for all but we were required to comment on at least two other people’s posts. In this process the instructor would even join into the discussion and ask additional questions as needed.

So, there’s what CoI means to me. Well, that’s what it means to me in a traditional education setting. I even went as far as to recommend that as a solution to some of the problems of the xMOOC. Yes, it might not scale to the xMOOC size of 100k plus people, but it’s a start because it’s just so difficult and lonely being in the sea of an xMOOC with noone to talk to.

That covers exactly what CoI is to me in an education setting, I think. I would like to move on to what it could mean to the business world though. Not sure if it is useful there but it deserves some thinking and discussion.

CoI In Business

This is the important part for me because I’m heavily involved in the business world now. I’ve parted ways with higher education and will never return, I’ve even written a bit about how it might do some more harm than good (notice I said some).

Learning & Development would be the most logical place to go for those instructors that will guide people in their discussions in a CoI. I don’t know if that’s a wise choice though. It may be best for L&D to act more as a consultant to those who are trying to solve a problem using discussions between a group of people.

Honestly, I can’t even think how that would all work, and it’s late.

I think this is something I’d have to leave for discussion which I’m sure has already been brought up. I’ll be catching up with what people are saying how CoI could apply to business organizations.

Your Call

What do you say about the place of CoI in business?

Does it have a place?


What’s your experience and thoughts on CoI?

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on the topic, please join in the discussion below.

You just saw my first learning process of Communities of Inquiry, pretty messed up isn’t it?