Week 7- LA #2

The Five Stage Model and the Community of Inquiry (COI) framework are influential concepts in online and blended learning, offering perspectives on how to foster effective learning environments. They share common goals in enhancing educational experiences but approach them through different lenses. Here’s a comparison highlighting their similarities and differences:

Five Stage Model

Gilly Salmon developed the Five Stage Model, a structured framework designed to facilitate online learning and e-moderation.  She explains it by using the metaphor of climbing a mountain with the support of the sherpa who is there to guide, support and assist. It outlines five progressive stages that learners move through in an online course:

  1. Access and Motivation: Ensuring participants can access the online environment and are motivated to engage. The learner sees the mountain.
  2. Online Socialization: Encouraging participants to connect and form a learning community. The learner begins to form groups to support the ascent.
  3. Information Exchange:  Involves sharing and disseminating information among participants. The learners share what they know about climbing the mountain and use the sherpa’s support to deepen their understanding.
  4. Knowledge Construction: Collaboratively building knowledge through dialogue and interaction. Through the interaction in their groups and the sherpa’s support and guidance, the learner has reached the summit.
  5. Development: Applying the knowledge gained in practical or reflective ways. Now that the learner is at the summit of the mountain they can use all they have learned getting to this place and start to apply it to other areas of learning, This allows the learner to integrate the learning.

Community of Inquiry (COI) Framework

The COI framework, developed by Garrison, Anderson, and Archer, focuses on creating a deep and meaningful learning experience through the development of three interrelated presences:

  1. Social Presence: The ability of participants to project their personal characteristics into the community, thereby presenting themselves as “real people.”
  2. Cognitive Presence: The extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse.
  3. Teaching Presence: The design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes to achieve personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes.


  • Both models emphasize the importance of building a learning community where participants feel connected and supported.
  • Both suggest that learning occurs through a progression of stages or steps, whether it’s the development of community and cognitive abilities or the sequential stages of engagement in the learning process.
  • Both frameworks value interaction and collaboration among learners and between learners and instructors as essential for effective learning.


  • The Five Stage Model provides a more structural approach to the development of online learning, focusing on activities and strategies across different stages. The COI framework, on the other hand, centres on the qualitative aspects of the learning environment through social, cognitive, and teaching presences.
  • The COI framework distributes the responsibility for facilitating learning more broadly across social, cognitive, and teaching presences without specifying a particular role like an e-moderator.


The Five Stage Model is a practical guide for structuring online courses, and the COI framework provides a theoretical foundation for understanding the dynamics of online learning environments. Despite their differences, the Five Stage Model and the COI framework contribute valuable insights into designing and facilitating effective online learning experiences. They complement each other, with the Five Stage Model offering a practical roadmap for course development and the COI framework providing a deeper understanding of the essential elements that constitute a rich learning environment. Integrating the strengths of both models could lead to more engaging, effective, and meaningful online learning experiences.


Vaughan, N. D., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, R.D

Salmon, G. (2006). 80:20 for e-moderators. In: The challenge of ecompetence in academic staff development . CELT, NUI Galway, Galway, Republic of Ireland, pp. 145-154. Retrieved from https://eprints.usq.edu.au/18862/2/Salmon_Ch16_2006_PV.pdf

Salmon, G. (2006). Climbing the Learning Mountain [Video file]. Source: https://youtu.be/GbwJMKWFfbI

. (2013). Facilitation. In Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry (pp.45-62). Athabasca, AB: Athabasca University Press. Retrieved from http://www.aupress.ca/books/120229/ebook/03_Vaughan_et_al_2013-Teaching_in_Blended_Learning_Environments.pdf CC BY-NC-ND 2.5 CA

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