In Vaughan et al’s (2013) discussion of blended learning and the planning and design modifications required to facilitate effective communities of inquiry they introduce an intriguing term – presence.

Vaughn et al (2013) introduce three types of presence:

  • Teaching Presence: achieved through the design, facilitation and direction of social and cognitive processes in communities of inquiry with the goal of delivering meaningful and worthwhile learning.
  • Social Presence: achieved through the establishment of trust, open communication and group cohesion. Social presence is developed through the facilitation of the teacher.
  • Cognitive Presence: establishes a critical component in the community of inquiry and facilitates construction and confirmation of meaning through reflection and discourse.

Effective blended learning occurs where these three forms of presence intersect.

Garrison, Anderson, and Archer’s (2000) online Community of Inquiry framework distinguishes the central presence of the teacher as a “sage on the stage” in a face-to-face environment and their peripheral presence as a facilitator (“guide on the side”) in distance education. In a blended learning environment, the teacher is present in the design, facilitation, and direction of the educational experience as a collaborator.

Vaughn et al (2013) also provide principles for building effective communities of inquiry by planning for open communication and trust, critical reflection and discourse; by establishing community and cohesion; inquiry dynamics; sustaining respect and responsibility and inquiry that moves to resolution; and lastly ensuring assessment is congruent with intended processes and outcomes.

It was interesting to reflect on the concept of presence and how it is is affected by the medium employed for teaching/communication. We take teacher presence as a given in f2f communities, but how are learners, the learning community, the network of relationships and the activities required for success affected when the physical/tangible presence of the teacher, other members of the community or artifacts required for critical inquiry are altered or removed? The idea that facilitation (along with design and direction) is the key activity in a blended environment highlights that the physicaly absent teacher plays a less dominant role in blended learning and they must establish teacher (as well as social and cognitive) presence primarily as facilitators who enable the formation of cohesive communities, open communication, trust and reflection.



Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical thinking in a textbased environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. Internet and Higher Education, 11(2), 1–14.

Vaughan, N. D., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Teaching in Blended Learning Environments: Creating and Sustaining Communities of Inquiry. Edmonton, AB, CAN: Athabasca University Press.

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