The Community of Inquiry in Writing Studies Survey: Interpreting Social Presence in Disciplinary Contexts

Mary K. Stewart, Lyra Hilliard, Natalie Stillman-Webb, Jennifer M. Cunningham


This article applies the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework to a particular disciplinary context: first-year writing (FYW). Students enrolled in online FYW courses across three institutions (n = 272) completed a version of the CoI survey that was slightly modified to fit the disciplinary context of writing studies. A factor analysis was conducted to determine how well the CoI in Writing Studies data aligned with typical CoI survey research; teaching presence and cognitive presence loaded onto single factors, but the social presence items divided into multiple factors. The authors put their findings in conversation with other scholarship about social presence, especially Carlon et al. (2012) and Kreijns et al. (2014), and advocate for differentiating between survey items that relate to “social presence,” “social comfort,” “attitude,” and “social learning.” They also recommend that future disciplinary uses of the CoI Survey include survey items that ask students to report on the extent to which they engaged in the types of social learning that the discipline values.


community of inquiry, first-year writing, blended, online, CoI survey

Full Text:



Akyol, Z., & Garrison, D. R. (2008). The development of a community of inquiry over time in an online course: Understanding the progression and integration of social, cognitive, and teaching presence. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 12(3), 3–22.

Annand, D. (2011). Social presence within the community of inquiry framework. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(5), 40–56.

Arbaugh, J. B., Cleveland-Innes, M., Diaz, S. R., Garrison, D. R., Ice, P., Richardson, J. C., & Swan, K. P. (2008). Developing a community of inquiry instrument: Testing a measure of the Community of Inquiry framework using a multi-institutional sample. The Internet and Higher Education, 11, 133–136. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2008.06.003

Arbaugh, J. B., Bangert, A., & Cleveland-Innes, M. (2010). Subject matter effects and the community of inquiry (CoI) framework: An exploratory study. Internet and Higher Education, 13, 37–44.

Armellini, A., & De Stefani, M. (2016). Social presence in the 21st century: An adjustment to the Community of Inquiry framework. British Journal of Educational Technology, 47(6), 1202–1216. doi:10.1111/bjet.12302

Bartlett, M. S. (1954). A note on the multiplying factors for various χ 2 approximations. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series B (Methodological), 16(2), 296–298. doi: 10.1111/j.2517-6161.1954.tb00174.x

Boston, W., Díaz, S. R., Gibson, A. M., Ice, P., Richardson, J., & Swan, K. (2009). An exploration of the relationship between indicators of the community of inquiry framework and retention in online programs. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 13(3), 67–83.

Bruffee, K. A. (1999). Collaborative learning: Higher education, interdependence, and the authority of knowledge. Johns Hopkins University Press.

Caskurlu, S. (2018). Confirming the subdimensions of teaching, social, and cognitive presences: A construct validity study. Internet and Higher Education, 39, 1–12.

Carlon, S., Bennett-Woods, D., Berg, B., Claywell, L., LeDuc, K., Marcisz, N., Mulhall, M., Noteboom, T., Snedden, T., Whalen, K., & Zenoni, L. (2012). The community of inquiry instrument: Validation and results in online health care disciplines. Computers & Education, 59(2), 215–221.

Cattell, R. B. (1966). The scree test for the number of factors. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 1(2), 245–276.

Cleveland-Innes, M., & Campbell, P. (2012). Emotional presence, learning, and the online learning environment. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 13(4), 269–292.

Corbett, S. J., LaFrance, M., & Decker, T. (2014). Peer pressure, peer power: Theory and practice in peer review and response for the writing classroom. Fountainhead Press.

Dewey, J. (1993). How We Think. Health.

Díaz, S., R., Swan, K., Ice, P., & Kupczynski, L. (2010). Student ratings of the importance of survey items, multiplicative factor analysis, and the validity of the community of inquiry survey. Internet and Higher Education, 13, 22–30. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2009.11.004

Garrison, R. D. (2017). E-learning in the 21st century: A Community of Inquiry framework for research and practice (3rd ed.). Routledge.

Garrison, D. R. (2007). Online community of inquiry review: Social, cognitive, and teaching presence issues. Online Learning 11(1), 61–72.

Garrison, D. R., & Arbaugh, J. B. (2007). Researching the community of inquiry framework: Review, issues, and future directions. Internet and Higher Education, 10(3), 157–172.

Garrison, R. D., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2–3), 87–105.

Gere, A. R. (1987). Writing groups: History, theory, and implications. Southern Illinois University Press.

Gillam, K. W., & Shannon, R. (2013). Re-embodying online composition: Ecologies of writing in unreal time and space. Computers and Composition 30, 24–36.

Hilliard, L. P., & Stewart, M. K. (2019). Time well spent: Creating a community of inquiry in blended first-year writing courses. The Internet and Higher Education, 41, 11–24.

Kaiser, H. F. (1970). A second generation little jiffy. Psychometrika, 35(4), 401–415.

Kaiser, H. F. (1974). An index of factorial simplicity. Psychometrika, 39(1), 31–36.

Kennedy, K., & Howard, R. M. (2014). Collaborative writing, print to digital. In G. Tate, A. R. Taggart, K. Schick, & H. B. Hessler, A Guide to Composition Pedagogies, Oxford University Press (pp. 37–54).

Kozan, K., & Richardson, J. C. (2014). New exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis insights into the community of inquiry survey. The Internet and Higher Education, 23, 39–47.

Kreijns, K., Van Acker, F., Vermeulen, M., & Van Buuren, H. (2014). Community of Inquiry: Social presence revisited. E-learning and Digital Media, 11(1), 5–18.

Lambert J. L., & Fisher, J. L. (2013). Community of inquiry framework: Establishing community in an online course. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 12(1), 1–16.

Lowenthal, P. R., & Snelson, C. (2017). In search of a better understanding of social presence: An investigation into how researchers define social presence. Distance Education, 38(2), 141–159.

Peacock, S., & Cowan, J. (2019). Promoting a sense of belonging in online learning communities of inquiry. Online Learning Journal, 23(2), 67–81.

Rockinson-Szapkiw, A. J., Wendt, J., Wighting, M., & Nisbet, D. (2016). The predictive relationship among the Community of Inquiry Framework, perceived learning and online, and graduate students’ course grades in online synchronous and asynchronous courses. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 17(3), 18–34.

Shea, P., & Bidjerano, T. (2009). Community of Inquiry as a theoretical framework to foster “epistemic engagement” and “cognitive presence” in online education. Computers & Education, 52(3), 543. https://10.1016/j.compedu.2008.10.007

Shea, P., Hayes, S., Smith, S. U., Vickers, J., Bidjerano, T., Pickett, A., ... & Jian, S. (2012). Learning presence: Additional research on a new conceptual element within the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework. The Internet and Higher Education, 15(2), 89–95.

Short, J., Williams, E., & Christie, B. (1976). The social psychology of telecommunications. John Wiley & Sons.

Stenbom, S. (2018). A systematic review of the community of inquiry survey. The Internet and Higher Education, 39, 22–32. https://10.1016/j.iheduc.2018.06.001

Stewart, M. K. (2019). The community of inquiry survey: An assessment instrument for online writing courses. Computers & Composition, 52, 37–52.

Stewart, M. K., Cunningham, J. M., Stillman-Webb, N., & Hilliard, L. (in press). How and what students learn in hybrid and online FYC: A multi-institutional survey study of student perceptions. College Composition and Communication.

Wardle, E., & Adler-Kassner, L. (2015). Naming what we know: Threshold concepts of writing studies. Utah State University Press.

Wicks, D. A., Craft, B. B., Mason, G. N., Gritter, K., & Bolding, K. (2015). An investigation into the community of inquiry of blended classrooms by a faculty learning community. The Internet and Higher Education, 25, 53–62.


Copyright (c) 2021 Mary K. Stewart, Lyra Hilliard, Natalie Stillman-Webb, Jennifer M. Cunningham

License URL: