Future practices of teaching

This is my final entry addressing the ONL course – it’s on topic 5 “lessons learned – future practices”

This course was quite an experience! It kept me breathless throughout – from being overwhelmed in the beginning by being confronted with a completely new experience of course design and learning activities, to further taking part in all these activities while also having to teach and the rest of the every day of an academic life, all the way to A LOT of new knowledge and ways of thinking and approaching the online classroom.

The structure of this course was very didactic and a wonderful template for how a well-functioning online course could be designed and taught, e.g. structured by weekly, bi-weekly topics/themes, a blog entry per topic, one webinar with discussion part, a bi-weekly Twitter chat, and twice a week a PBL group meeting with new tools of presenting the discussion results after each theme. We had great facilitators in the PBL group, two people who had taken this course earlier and mentored our discussions and kept the group on track with the tasks and the content.

Throughout this course, I essentially learned that the online classroom is not the same as the IRL classroom. It’s a dimension of teaching that takes engagement, guidance, and emotional presence not so different from the face-to-face classroom yet maybe even more intensified in order to bridge the gap left by the absence of a shared physical space and academic geography with a library, teacher offices, learning spaces, fellow students on a daily level and actual classrooms. To consequently, an increased emotional resonance is important to keep the students engaged, to keep them involved in the course work despite the often parallel running activities outside of any academic environment, and also to create the best possible learning – “transformative learning” (Vaughan et al. 2013).

For me, this component of emotional presence apart from a range of structural elements, theories, and concepts of how learning works (e.g. the Community of Inquiry framework, PBL groups) were extremely valuable. Structural elements and concepts I enjoyed learning about were the digital tools we started to engage with in order to accommodate the general course structure but also to present our discussion outcomes. I started to blog in this course, and I twittered for the first time – I became even more aware of the dangers of social media and am cautious of using this as a teaching requirement – yet, chat rooms as a written discussion form of engagement with students is something I will immediately implement in my next online course starting in a few weeks. Blog writing is great but requires too much technical knowledge to integrate into my online courses – It’s a question of teaching hours which are accounted for face-to-face classrooms and are not adequate for the complex forms of online teaching. However, a chat room on Slack (instead of Twitter) will be a standard tool for my next course. Also online webinars, pre-recorded lectures and a slightly altered form of PBL – weekly seminars that try to get as close to the PBL frame as possible. To provide PBL groups, regularly meeting small groups with a mentor/tutor is not accounted for in my hourly budget and unfortunately impossible until the online classroom is recognized institutionally as a different teaching and learning space (which might require more resources). I really enjoyed beginning to work with presentations using tools such as prezzi, moovly, mindmeister, and coogle; all really nice tools to suggest for students as platforms for their future assignments.

Overall, this course is an extremely really valuable resource, an inspiration in itself to teach online, and do it well – and see how this can be done in a way that is fun, engaging, and connecting.



Vaughan, N.D., Cleveland-Innes, M. and Garrison, D. R. (2013) Teaching in blended learning environemnts: Creating and sustaining communiteis of inquiry. Edmonton: AU Press.






Teaching and Emotions

This entry is part of the course ONL192 (topic 4 “Blended Learning / Design”)

In which way can emotions facilitate students’ learning experience? How can they create more commitment in students and in which way do they help the course to be completed by a majority of participants rather than a few?

This entry, as part of my course work for the ONL course 192, addressed emotional presence online learning environments (“Topic 4” of the course). Learning about emotions in the classroom in a conventional course on online pedagogies, outside of a Gender Studies context, was highly surprising, wildly interesting and really productive for considering my own design for future online courses.

As a lecturer in Gender Studies, the connection between teaching, learning and emotion is obvious. Emotions are a significant part of every class, feminist theory has for a long time emphasised the close links between feelings, learning through emotions, embodied knowledge and rational learning. While academic knowledge production traditionally privileges rationality and detached, non-situated positivist knowledge production, Gender Studies jointly with other fields of study that originated through a critique of conventional knowledge production and its erasures.

Encountering the relevance of emotion in the modern classroom, and particular the online learning environment is thus exciting and gratifying. It confirms an otherwise marginalised idea of the significance of collectivity, connection, relationality and commitment in learning.

Vaughan/Cleveland-Innes and Garrison outline in their book the three significant elements of presence, teaching presence, social presence and cognitive presence (2013). These are part of their developed framework called Community of Inquiry (COI):

A community of inquiry is where “students listen to one another with respect, build on one another’s ideas, challenge one another to supply reasons for otherwise unsupported opinions, assist each other in drawing inferences from what has been said, and seek to identify one another’s assumptions.” (Vaughan et al., 2013).

COI is structured by emotional presence in three elements:

  • Social presence
  • Teaching presence
  • Cognitive presence

I will not elaborate these three elements in detail here but only those I find particularly remarkable and want to remember for my own classroom design.

In relation to teaching presence Vaughan et al. outline 7 principles that are important for a teacher to consider when designing a course:

  1. Encourage contact between students and faculty.
  2. Develop reciprocity and cooperation among students
  3. Encourage active learning
  4. Give prompt feedback.
  5. Emphasize time on task.
  6. Communicate high expectations.
  7. Respect diverse talents and ways of learning.

Teaching Presence

  • This is achieved through a new way of approaching and offering teaching and learning
  • It requires a rethinking of the role of teacher and the role of student.
  • The classroom becomes a collaborative learning space with different levels of responsibility, social and emotional presence for all participants.



Vaughan, N.D., Cleveland-Innes, M. and Garrison, D. R. (2013) Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry. Edmonton: AU Press.

Cleveland-Innes, M. (2019) “Emotion and learning – emotional presence in the Community of Inquiry framework (CoI).






Learning through friendship

This entry is part of the course ONL192 (topic 3 Learning in Communities)

Online teaching and learning can be a very distanced, detached experience – high drop out rates and incomplete assignments haunt the online learning environments in many conventional distance courses. Taking this course, the ONL 192, helped me to understand why this happens and how to avoid this problem. The online learning environment, even more than the face-to-face classroom, needs to be guided by emotional presence in the teaching practice and the learning activities of the participants. Online small-group work, similar to PBL groups, guided by a tutor or the course facilitator, can help to avoid this and create better learning and a stronger commitment in the students.

According to the article by Bindley/Blaschke/Walti article (2009), small group learning experiences are a vital tool for creating a lively and engaging online learning environment. It increases the sense of community and deepens the learning and the achieved skill sets.  

I want to add here seven points highlighted in the article which help me as a teacher to consider the importance of online learning groups for my own courses. How can these groups be assembled and structured so that they are a productive experience for the course participants and students? The article emphasises seven important aspects:

 1.     Facilitate learners’ readiness for group work and help with scaffolding, e.g via instructional design (sequencing activities within the course that build towards a final assignment).

2.     Establish a good balance between structure and learning autonomy – (instructions need to be clear – but also allow a certain amount of autonomy of the learner to adapt it flexibly to their interest and direction of discussion).

3.     Nurture a sense of community (create informality, honesty, familiarity, openness, heat, passions, empathy, trust, humor; Chapman, Ramondt, and Smiley 2005) if facilitators help introduce and model these items – the students can learn better and have a better learning experience.

4.     Monitor group activities actively and closely (not via formal assessment but through continuous feedback for instance, that helps students to develop specific skills).

5.     Make the group tasks relevant for the learner (authentic real-world environment and relevant content).

6.     Chose tasks that are best performed by a group.

7.     Provide sufficient time.


Small online-learning groups help to :

·      develoment of critical thinking skills

·      co-create  knowledge and meaning

·      provide a reflection space

·      help to experience transformative learning


I would add to this list also the vital element of friendship, responsibility, and care as aspects of supporting and deepening the learning in online classrooms. In my own experience of online learning, feelings of commitment are created through sympathy, of slowly knowing the other, getting to know them, feeling interested and respect for them as a person. This is a significant element in the learning and is particularly vital when considering a norm-critical and transfeminist learner space. Community and collectivity are significant for many gender-nonconforming students who otherwise often experience resistances, violence, and stigma on campus and in different classrooms. The importance of friendship and the support and respect gained from this, are a vital instrument of establishing oneself as a subject in the academic environment and build a reality in an environment that is usually not prioritizing “minority students”.



Brindley, J., Blaschke, L. M. and Walti, C. (2009).“Creating Effective Collaborative Learning Groups in an Online Environment”. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 10 (3). Available online.

Chapman, C., Ramondt, L., and Smiley, G. (2005). “Strong community, deep learning: Exploring the link”. Innovations in Education and Teaching International 47 (3): 217- 230.

Further reading:

Brookfield, S.D. (1995). Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.