Developing a community of inquiry in distance education using computer conferencing

Sarah Hyde, Yann Guisard, Peter Mills, Caroline Love, Kerri Hicks, Karl Behrendt, Katherine Egerton-Warburton, Sid Parissi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Promoting student-student engagement in online courses is one way in which to enhance overall student engagement with subject content, and to also enhance retention through making students feel less isolated and more satisfied. Creating a sense of community in this way has also been shown to be a successful strategy to enhance motivation, achieve greater connections between students, and to ultimately support students both socially and cognitively (deNoyelles et al 2014). To improve student engagement in our online learning subjects we implemented short-term online problem based learning (PBL) over a series of subjects, from first to third year level, using Adobe Connect as the platform. Group based authentic assessment tasks complemented the PBL cases, and the online collaborative small group work was implemented as one part of the university’s online learning model to increase interaction between students. We modelled the design and delivery of the activities, as well as subsequent analysis, on the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework (Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 2000). This paper explores the utility of this framework in a large cohort of online learners, describes the implementation of the framework in several online courses, and provides a narrative of the results using mixed methods. In particular, we focus in on each of the presences described in the CoI and illustrate the strategies used to foreground and sustain them at different time points, with examples from group chats and student interviews to show how this eventuated in practice.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Internet and Higher Education
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


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