Practical Applications and Innovative Tips for Designing Courses with the Community of Inquiry Framework

Concurrent Session 5

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Due to the current reality, many instructors are now teaching online that have little to no prior experience doing so. This session looks at how the online experience can be enhanced by utilizing the Community of Inquiry Framework and presents instructional design elements that positively impact students’ online educational experiences.



I received my initial teaching certification at Western Michigan University triple minoring in Math, Science, and Social Studies. After graduating, I pursued a career as a public school educator in Las Vegas, Nevada from 1996-2005 teaching both 5th and 7th grade. My graduate course work was completed at UNLV with both a Masters and Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction focusing on literacy. I was a tenured Associate Professor of Education at Georgia Southern University from 2007-2017. I am now working as an Instructional Designer at the University of Nevada Las Vegas in the Office of Online Education.
Kristina Schmid is an Instructional Designer at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She works in the Office of Online Education. She has been immersed in online education since 2001. Kristi graduated in May, 2021 with an Ed.S. degree in Curriculum and Instruction from UNLV. She also earned an M.S.Ed. in Learning Design and Technology from Purdue University in 2014. She also holds a M.Ed. in Math Education from the Ohio State University which she earned in 1998. In her previous role as a math instructor, Kristi taught Algebra and Math for Elementary Teachers courses in both online and hybrid modalities. She believes that her own experience as online student and instructor enrich the student-centered perspective that she aims for in online course design. She is excited to be at UNLV and is eager to contribute to the university’s creative and innovative cultural environment.

Extended Abstract

With the current reality, colleges and universities across the globe have shifted the majority of their courses fully online. Many have done so with faculty that have no prior experiences or minimal understanding of teaching online. Unfortunately, the quick move to online instruction does not address what effective online learning looks like, which can totally set-back faculty and student attitudes about the quality of online courses (Lederman, 2020). It's not just “if you build it they will come”. Having online syllabi, assignment prompts, and modules for each week does not necessarily ensure student engagement and success. Now more than ever, faculty are understanding that effective online teaching combines an awareness of course design with effective strategies for supporting diverse learners.

The Community of Inquiry (CoI) theoretical framework is a social constructivist model of learning processes in online and blended environments. This framework assumes that learning occurs through the interaction of three essential elements – social, cognitive, and teaching presence (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000). Research has shown that there is a relationship between the three presences in relation to students’ perceived learning, course satisfaction, satisfaction with the instructor, and their sense of belonging (see Akyol & Garrison, 2008; Richardson, et. al., 2017). Teaching presence involves instructional design and organization of the course and activities, facilitation of the course and activities, and direct instruction. Social presence involves open communication, group cohesion, and the creation of a trusting environment. Finally, cognitive presence is where learners construct and confirm meaning. It is through the intersection of these three elements that deep and meaningful learning occurs in online courses (Castellanos-Reyes, 2020).

Establishing teaching, social, and cognitive presence in an online course can be more effectively accomplished in a variety of ways by utilizing the CoI Framework when designing online courses. These presences are important, both instructors and instructional designers need guidance on how to foster these within online environments. This approach requires reflection and consideration on how you might adapt and redesign elements of your course to engage students as a community of learners. This session will not only look at the framework, but will also present effective strategies and methods utilized in online courses to address each presence. The CoI framework is a concrete asset for creating online environments and works to eliminate the disconnect issues that learners in online courses can experience.

According to the CoI framework, teaching presence can be established by intentional course design, active facilitation, and direct instruction. All of these work together to promote social and cognitive processes to achieve meaningful learning. It is essential that we rethink how courses can be designed and delivered in the online space to engage students. Instructional strategies we will present in this session will include: facilitated discussions, frequent, timely and formative feedback, and unique formats for explicit instructions.

Social presence enables students to communicate purposefully in a trusting environment, and develop interpersonal relationships. It is through intentional course design that we can create and facilitate social presence in an online learning environment. Instructional strategies presented will include: H5P interactive activities, enhancing your teaching persona activities, collaborative discussions and projects, initial icebreakers that develop trust, study groups, and virtual meet-ups.

Cognitive presence relates to the extent that learners are able to construct meaning through sustained discourse and reflection. It is essential for instructors to consider the big ideas and topics they want students to know from their course and design the activities and assessments around these. Instructional strategies presented will include: H5P quick checks, multiple content representations, open-ended assessments, and problem-based discussions.

The CoI Framework creates deep and meaningful learning through the three main presences (social, cognitive, and teaching), and it is through the intersection of each of these areas that significant and impactful learning takes place. This includes supporting discourse, regulating learning, and setting the climate. This session will address design and instructional elements that enhance student experience by addressing how these areas work together to positively impact students’ online educational experiences.

Level of Participation- The session activities include sharing recent research and theory for the CoI Framework (5 minutes), presentation of the various strategies and techniques that effectively address the CoI framework that have been utilized at our institution (30 minutes). Throughout the presentation we will have a backchannel open for attendees to ask questions or seek clarification that will be monitored and addressed and responded to individually. The last 10 minutes we have a structured opportunity for intentional engagement with diverse perspectives by having participants share their experiences and expertise which will encourage participants to explore future directions and consider new avenues in supporting effective online course design by utilizing the CoI framework.

Session Goals- Individuals attending this session will discuss the challenges of online teaching and will learn effective strategies for utilizing the CoI Framework with online course design. This session furthermore supports OLC’s mission by creating a community and knowledge around quality online instruction while promoting collegiality and inclusion of diverse perspectives and formats.