Communities of Inquiry (CoI): Teaching Presence

In my last post, I introduced Charles Sander Pierce’s Community of Inquiry (CoI) model and discussed the importance of an instructor’s social presence in an online course. To recap, Communities of Inquiry form when teachers and students are “dialogically inquisitive, active and reflective, articulate, cognitively adept, cooperative, sensitive to context, and explorative” (Pardales & Girod, 2006, p. 305).

According to Pierce, Communities of Inquiry produce knowledge that leads us from doubt to belief, and eventually helps us discover the ‘real.’ The ‘real’ evolves through the three presences of the CoI Model:

  • social presence
  • teaching presence
  • cognitive presence

Venn diagram shows interplay of Community of Inquiry

Today we’ll look at practical ways you can implement teaching presence in your online course.

What is Teaching Presence in the CoI Model?

Teaching presence revolves around the “design, facilitation, and direct instruction” of online courses (Beck, 2015). Recent studies show that “teaching presence is more predictive of student success in online learning than interactions with peers (Marks, Sibley, & Arbaugh, 2005; Means, Bakia, & Murphy, 2014)” (as cited in Pearson, 2016). In addition, Garrison and Cleveland-Innes (2005) discovered “a strong teaching presence, as evidenced by a robust course structure and active instructor leadership, is crucial for achieving deep and meaningful learning outcomes” (as cited in Pearson, 2016).

Using Teaching Presence as You Design Your Course

Teaching presence begins with the design, structure, and organization of your course. You need to make careful, conscientious decisions regarding your course’s structure and the “processes that will facilitate student success” (Beck, 2015). Many online instructors, subject matter experts, and instructional designers are familiar with defining learning outcomes, and creating assignments and assessments that will “demonstrate student progress” (Beck, 2015). In her article, Beck challenges readers to “find engaging new ways to share content and bring it to life for students” (2015). She admonishes readers to ask the following questions when it comes to including activities and tools in online courses:

  • How comfortable are your potential students with the tools they will be asked to use?
  • What is a reasonable technological stretch for them?
  • How will you support their skills development for tools that are new to them?
  • What kind of ongoing support are you willing to provide as they work through the assignments using those tools?

When it comes to adding new technology, tools, and activities in online courses, you need to take a step back. Ask yourself, “Who are my students?” Knowing your students will help you design a course that’s relevant to (and motivates) the learner.

While it is important to be creative and innovative, you want to ask students “to make realistic stretches (especially when introducing technology they are likely to use in the future), but don’t push them to a breaking point” (Beck, 2015). Remember, once a course has been created, an instructor’s teaching presence “continues during the course, as he or she facilitates the discourse and provides direct instruction when required” (Pearson).

Teaching Presence During Facilitation of Discourse

Facilitation of discourse directly relates to my last blog post on social presence. Your presence and accessibility are imperative in online learning environments.

As Beck (2015) asserts, one of the responsibilities of an online instructor is to “convey expectations as clearly as possible—in the syllabus and elsewhere—and to be reasonably accessible to respond to students’ questions. Students need to know how to reach you, and how you will respond back to them.”

As I’ve mentioned before, student-teacher relationships are the key to motivating students. In your facilitation, think of how you would feel as a student if your instructor did not interact with you, give you feedback, or even share how to get in touch with them—you don’t want your student to feel like you’re disconnected from their success in the course.

Direct Instruction in Teaching Presence

According to Garrison and Cleveland-Innes (2005), direct instruction takes place when an online instructor exercises “scholarly leadership, through coherent content presentation and the injection of external resources/perspectives, and conducting evaluative activities, such as providing feedback or assessing student understanding” (as cited in Pearson, 2016).

Direct instruction also includes other types of communication between an instructor and students including “assistance with technical issues and responses to general questions about the course or specific assignments” (Beck, 2015).

In addition to the questions online instructors should ask when they are creating their course, Beck provides another set of questions you should ask in regard to direct instruction:

  • How will you create new content and adapt content created by others?
  • How will you share that content in ways that are engaging for the student?
  • How will you accommodate different modalities to stimulate learner interest and curiosity?
  • How will you add a human dimension to your teaching presence?

Adding Human Dimension in My Online Course

As I redeveloped my online speech class this summer, I added two technological components that combine social and teaching presence. These additions added a human dimension to my teaching presence and also stretched me and my students in healthy, constructive ways.

The first technological change was to have my students record their speeches using Screencast-O-Matic, a “fast, free, and easy to use screen and webcam recorder” that allows students up to 15 minutes of free recording time (Screencast-O-Matic). Since their longest speech is 7-9 minutes, students don’t pay a dime—which makes the tool more accessible. Screencast-O-Matic offers many tutorial videos on the website to help students record their speeches. In addition, the tool allows my students to record themselves with their webcam and also record their PowerPoints with the screen recorder at the same time.

The second technological change I added was having my students present their speeches in real-time for their final speech, using BigBlueButton, an open-source web conferencing tool similar to Skype and Google Hangouts. In this final project, students sign up to be in one of two groups so they can see and communicate with each other. The groups record the live conference as each student presents his or her speech for the other group members. Once the speeches/conference has ended, I have access to the links to watch what went on during both conferences and give students grades based on their performance.

Both Screencast-O-Matic and BigBlueButton have been new territory for me and my students. The tools stretched both my social and teaching presence as an online instructor and an instructional designer—and also allowed my students to build better community with me and with each other.

Implementing Teaching Presence in Your Course

As you look for ways to incorporate teaching presence into online courses, consider Beck’s three tips:

  • Be present in your class
  • Be prepared to stretch yourself technologically
  • Select technology as carefully as you choose your assignments

In addition, we’ve created a chart, adapted from the one offered by Pearson (2016), to help you find practical ways to implement teaching presence in your online courses:

Communities of Inquiry Teaching Presence

In the CoI model, an online instructor’s teaching presence builds off of social presence. This presence shows your students that you not only care about the content and structure of the course, but also that you care about how they learn and retain the information in the course. This connection with the instructor and the curriculum builds stronger communities of inquiry. Next time, we’ll discuss how cognitive presence fits in the CoI model.

What are some of your favorite ways to incorporate teaching presence in your online courses? What new ideas and strategies did you gain from this post about teaching presence? We’d love to hear about them in the comments or on Twitter!

Broda, Ann


Beck, D. (2015, September 16). Community of inquiry: Teaching presence. The EvoLLLution, Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from

Pearson. (2016). Teaching presence [PDF]. Retrieved from

Screencast-O-Matic. (n.d.). Retrieved from


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