The Community of Inquiry (CoI) model provides a well-researched theoretical framework to understand how learners and teachers interact and learn together in computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL). Most CoI research focuses on asynchronous learning. However, with the arrival of easy-to-use synchronous communication tools the relevance of the CoI model needs verification for these new environments. Synchronous communication is (assumed to be) superior in establishing discourse due to the ability to express immediate feedback, intonation, body language, and thus the affordance to increase social presence. In a quasi-experimental design, this research analysed whether increased social presence led to (perceived) improved learning satisfaction and an increased pass rate. That is, the learning experiences of 147 students using discussion forums (2005-2007) and 256 students using both discussion forums and web-videoconferencing (2008-2011) over seven consecutive summers were compared using the self-developed Students Evaluation of Online Remedial Education Experience questionnaire. Results indicate that students in the web-videoconference design were not more satisfied about their learning experiences, except for the clarity of goals and tasks. Furthermore, in the four years of using the web-videoconference design, a lower pass rate was found compared to the discussion forum-only designs in the years before. Although web-videoconferencing provides an experience that seems more conducive to social presence, more research is needed into how to effectively use synchronous communication in e-learning.
Giesbers, S. J. H., Rienties, B. C., Tempelaar, D. T., & Gijselaers, W. H. (2014). Why increased social presence through web videoconferencing does not automatically lead to improved learning. E-Learning and Digital Media, 11(1), 31-45. https://doi.org/10.2304/elea.2014.11.1.31