Cognitive Presence and Student Engagement

May 28, 2024

One component of the Community of Inquiry framework, cognitive presence focuses on the participants’ ability to build meaning for themselves through engagement in the course. This can be difficult for instructors to measure and design for as it is highly dependent upon the individual learner. 

In her presentation earlier this month, Digital Learning Strategist Leslie Fuller, Ph.D., discussed the theoretical basis for engaging learner’s cognitive presence as well as some specific ideas for increasing their engagement in online courses. 

For learners, cognitive presence is both constructive (internal) and collaborative (external). Constructive methods include reflection, self-direction, and metacognition. Consider asking learners to reflect on instructor feedback or study processes: what was successful and what could be improved for the next assignment? Build in opportunities for self-direction by incorporating projects with multiple stages, allowing them to adapt to feedback and propose new solutions. 

Some methods for engaging collaborative cognitive presence include facilitated discussions and team-based collective decision-making so that learners have a role in shaping the learning experience. Have learners discuss expectations and how they will work together at the outset of the project and commit to upholding them. Incorporate opportunities for students to create their own materials to explain concepts to one another. The more learners can incorporate their own experience and materials from outside the course, the more interesting and engaging those exchanges will be. 

With all of these approaches, the emphasis is on encouraging a process of inquiry. Learners are challenged by a big idea or to solve a problem using their own discovery and research to propose active solutions. This requires an environment in which they have both freedom and support from the instructor. Students need to be taught how to engage in the process of inquiry, and modeling by the instructor is often the best way to do this. Share your own research and questions as you demonstrate the creation of knowledge in your discipline.

Upcoming Events

Fostering Online Classroom Communities

Students working together at a table
Students working together in class. 

Wednesday, June 5th, 1:30-2:30 PM

Social presence is an essential element of online learning and student engagement. Drawing from the Community of Inquiry framework, this workshop will provide tools and best practices for increasing meaningful community in your online course. When registering, please include any questions you have about this training topic.

Facilitated by Millie Tullis, Digital Learning Strategist.

Registration:WW: Fostering Online Classroom Communities.

Clemson Online Summer 2024 Events Calendar

Review our Summer 2024 Events Calendar to see what Online Instruction Development opportunities await!

We have a robust lineup of topics and live training formats to support your use of Canvas and other e-learning tools. Topics cover demonstrations of using Kaltura, engaging your students, and workshops to get your Canvas site ready to teach!

All of our live training is recorded. Registrants will automatically receive a link to that day’s video after it has been processed.

Contact Millie Tullis with any questions regarding these sessions.

Clemson Online – Where Tech and Teaching Meet

Blog Home


Orange Clemson Online logo with the word blog in purple below it

Visit our website or use the direct links below for more:

Self-enroll in our Faculty Resource Center for up to the semester information about online teaching at Clemson:

Click on the icons below to check out our social media channels: