Unwrapping Presence

Learning is complicated. Teaching is complex. These are not new ideas. It’s been like this for humans since caves and forests were our homes. But the new terrain in which we teach and learn has ongoing challenges for those who teach and learn as humanly as possible. So taking time to unwrap how to BE human in digitized learning spaces is important work. When blending, flipping or online teaching and learning processes move the human tasks of teaching and learning into digital places, it’s essential we don’t lose focus on the individuals. The human can become lost among the trees.

graphic for humanizing online learningSo, with a carefully crafted digital space like #HumanMOOC, I was able to take some time to unwrap my human presence in digital teaching and learning spaces. While this open, online course was intended for online teachers, I jumped into the conversations and activities looking for a way to bring my fully human self into my own digital teaching spaces. I found many ways to unwrap my presence.

HumanMOOC was designed to apply elements of a community of inquiry into a discovery of presence in online learning. This course, found within a variety of spaces (Canvas, WordPress, Google community) shapes an understanding of how to build instructor presence, social presence and cognitive presence into digital learning spaces. Readings and activities have incorporated video, audio, and text in collaborative, engaging and innovative ways to show how ‘presence’ can be designed into online teaching and learning.

Instructor presence includes how the course is designed, how feedback is provided, how discourse and interactions are facilitated and when direct instruction is provided. The instructor guides and provides a range of strategies and builds connections with both synchronous and asynchronous methods. A variety of media are applied depending on student need, subject content and instructor familiarity with tools and techniques.

Social presence outlines the personal and affective interactions between all participants. It includes social rapport, open communication and building group cohesion. This can be structured through the strategic use of humour, emoticons, setting up online teams, and sharing personal interests. Since tone of voice and nuanced non-verbal cues can be inferred or directly shared through a variety of media, being socially present within a digital café is essential.

Cognitive presence is developed through exploration, a triggering event, integration and resolution. Selecting, exchanging, communicating, brainstorming, suggesting, connecting, testing, defending, applying and synthesizing are all relevant actions to establish cognitive engagement with subject content. Facilitating cognitive presence can be done through discourse, collaboration, self-monitoring and reflection. Instructors and students work together to unwrap ideas and concepts while sharing a variety of media productions.

Unwrapping some newly discovered presences include the notions of learning presence and emotional presence. These two are still being uncovered and examined. These concepts will impact teaching and learning in online spaces. Being emotionally engaged with content, with others in the course and with the instructor will allow students in physical or digital spaces to care and empathize. Bringing an inquiring mind and a growth mindset into learning events will engage students and instructors in deeper learning.

Unwrapping presence is not an easy process. It can’t be done alone. Knowing what it looks like, sounds like and feels like can uncover the mystery that lies within the complex and complicated learning and teaching process. Sharing the gift with others can enrich the understanding of what it means to be humanly ‘present’ in online and digital learning spaces.

The HumanMOOC is a gift that allows us to peek inside and uncover what it means to be human…. and to do IT with others. Take a closer look at what I’m unwrapping from this #HumanMOOC experience HERE.  Let’s continue to uncover our presence together. Share your presence and comment.

References and Resources

Many readings, resources, videos, conversations are available within these sites:

More about Community of Inquiry can be found here:

Morrison, D. (Jan. 30, 2015). A new twist to teaching online: Considering learners’ emotions. [blog post] https://onlinelearninginsights.wordpress.com/tag/emotional-presence-online/

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3 Responses to Unwrapping Presence

  1. Wendy says:

    Hi Helen, Just re-reading this as I’m working on the HumanMOOC eBook for Humanising Instruction. It’s great that you have the links to the various areas of the HumanMOOC. Very easy for tracking. Was there a Google+ Community? Or just the Google Hangout recordings?

    • HJ.DeWaard says:

      Because the course was open on the blog site, but also done within the Canvas learning management system, there wasn’t really a Google community component to this course. The community resided within the LMS walls.
      Nice to hear you are also writing! I’m in the editing and reference checking stage on my work for this project. Looking forward to reading your work. Connect with DM in Twitter if you want an editing buddy! 🙂 Helen

    • HJ.DeWaard says:

      Hi again. There’s a link to the G+ community in the Week 0 list of activities on this blog page. Hope it works for you. https://humanmooc.wordpress.com/schedule-of-activities/

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