KeywordsOnline education; distance education
Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework; CoI survey; higher education; online learning; social-constructivist paradigm; objectivist-rational paradigm
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AbstractThe Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework is critiqued by examining differing assumptions of reality between the objectivist-rational and social-constructivist paradigms. The conclusion is that the CoI framework emerges from an objectivist-rational paradigm, not a social-constructivist one. As a result, the framework’s underlying premise that sustained, contiguous communication is necessary for effective learning to occur is called into question. This needs to be empirically tested. Additional weaknesses of CoI research carried out to date are examined and directions for future research are suggested. The types of questions that could be pursued in CoI research have been inadvertently limited by unchallenged assumptions that may mistake predominant practice for preferred. Overall, the value of the CoI framework as an adequate explanatory model for learning in online higher education needs to be more critically examined.