During our PBL work on this topic it first seemed to me as if we got routed away from the original scenario or topic. We chose to work a real course example which was really interesting for us. However, actually we were not that far off in the end. We still digested the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework quite a bit and the ‘real’ example helped to actually think it through all the way and digest which implications and consequences the application of this framework has. Thanks again to Per for providing the example.

In line with the focus of the webinar, our last discussion was on emotional presence in learning and teaching. Everybody seemed to resonate with the idea that emotion is crucial for learning in general. So do I. If it gets to specifics however, it is far less clear of a picture. Are any emotions better than none? The latter would be neglect and will likely not provoke any learning. Nevertheless, it would be an unrealistic standard that every learner needs to happy at all times. Some frustration and confusion, irritation or puzzlement are inherent in discovering something really new to you. However, I believe that overall positive emotion improves learning compared to negative emotion. This idea is easy to follow through as long as you need to learn something you are genuinely interested in and/or enjoy. However, a much bigger challenge to enforce positive emotion on something you need to learn but do not enjoy so far. Probably, if you consider the other presences dimensions, these can help. For example, strong intellectual challenge could motivate you as well as teaching or the other learners’ social presence. Can they make up for a lack in another dimension? Probably only to a certain extent.

While all presences seem to be necessary, in some phases of your learning process they still seem to have different impacts. This reminded me of a discussion on my volunteer work, which is always an interesting example a bit outside of academia. The discussions’ conclusion could be summarized as ‘Volunteers join a group for the cause, but they stay long-term for the people.’ This indeed parallels the CoI concept. The cognitive interest first is a strong motivator to join and start something. To keep going, learn and contribute over a longer period of time, this is not enough though. You also need a community (social presence). I was prompted to wonder about the other presences then. The volunteer group is not technically a learning/teaching context, but it might still work by the same principles. There are always tasks and problems that need to be dealt with or solved. This seems to work well if there is a kind of teaching presence provided by the group members. Interestingly, we do not have any formal hierarchical structure or leader, but this is rarely a problem. The group members take leads or initiatives for certain projects in turns. A ‘teacher’ or teaching role is sometimes established based on experience in certain areas or topics. This seems to be fully sufficient and it seems that this very loose structure helps a lot for the social aspect of the group. Of course, emotional presence influences all aspects of the work and meetings. It seems to be most critical that people feel safe and welcome. This seems to be the case usually, which is nearly surprising as the people present for each meeting change all the time, nearly every time there is a stranger present, and we meet in a public place. Maybe the voluntary basis and the (emotional) openness of people helps.

Design for online and blended learning