Academic journal article Quarterly Review of Distance Education

MEASURING PRESENCE: A Review of Research Using the Community of Inquiry Instrument

Academic journal article Quarterly Review of Distance Education

MEASURING PRESENCE: A Review of Research Using the Community of Inquiry Instrument

Article excerpt


Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2000) published "Critical Inquiry in a Text-Based Environment: Computer Conferencing in Education," in which they described a community of inquiry framework and its elements: teaching presence, social presence, and cognitive presence. In creating this process-oriented framework, their goal was to "define, describe and measure the elements of a collaborative and worthwhile educational experience" (Bangert, 2009; Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2010). The authors presented the community of inquiry (CoI) framework as a model for measuring and incorporating strategies to improve learning and teaching in online and blended environments. Since then, the framework has been used and adapted by researchers worldwide. It was developed as a combination of John Dewey's writings on community and inquiry, higher education theories of learning, research on computer conferencing, and ideas from the fields of communication and linguistics (Arbaugh et al., 2008). The focus of Garrison et al. (2000) was on online and blended text-based learning environments, which were nascent then and have since expanded dramat ically with the increasing popularity and ubiquity of online learning.

Early research using the CoI framework involved analyzing discussion board transcripts to identify elements of the framework, and it was exploratory and descriptive by nature. This kind of research was limiting, however, and in 2008 Garrison and his colleagues developed and refined a sound instrument to expand the opportunities for quantitative research (Arbaugh et al., 2008). The CoI instrument has undergone many iterations, and currently consists of 34 Likert-type scale items corresponding to the three previously identified elements of the framework along their sub-elements. Since its development, many studies have been conducted using the CoI instrument, but there has been no examination of how the instrument is being used and what its uses reveal. This paper explores the findings and discussions that have emerged from studies using the CoI instrument.


In locating studies to use in this review, we first searched the university's electronic database using search terms including the subject community of inquiry and survey (n = 287). From these results, we then narrowed only peer-reviewed studies from journal articles (n = 107). To exclude studies that had been conducted before the development of the CoI instrument, we narrowed the date range from 2008 through 2017 (n = 99). Additional exclusions were studies using surveys or instruments other than the CoI instrument and those in contexts outside of higher education. Finally, we searched Google Scholar to ensure we had included all relevant articles. The 24 remaining articles were then sorted chronologically and placed in a matrix that included authors, dates of publication, research methods, purposes of study, environments, participant information, and the finding and suggestions of each study.

The final step in preparing this review involved identifying common themes in the studies. By reviewing notes and rereading each article, we identified four themes: testing the CoI instrument for validity and reliability, measuring CoI presence in different environments, examining causal relationships among the elements, and exploring potential revisions to the framework. Readers may note that one study is included in the discussion of several themes.


The Validity of the CoI Instrument

During and soon after the development of the CoI instrument, researchers conducted studies to measure its validity and reliability (see Table 1). In the seminal study that introduced the CoI instrument, Arbaugh et al. (2008) distributed the instrument to 287 graduate students in online and blended classes. They found construct validity of all items, reflecting the teaching, cognitive, and social presences in their 34-item survey. …

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