Topic 4 reflection: Emotional Presence

Over the last two weeks of ONL201, the topic has been “Design for online and blended learning”, and I have learned about the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework and about the important role of emotions in learning (Cleveland-Innes, 2019a, 2019b). When I first skimmed the content of our work for Topic 4, I immediately thought of work by an applied linguistics scholar, Jean Marc Dewaele, whom I have heard presenting at conferences several times. His expertise is in emotions in language learning (see, e.g., Dewaele, 2010). As some readers might have experienced abroad… When you have been on vacation, paying loads of money and, suddenly, something is not up to standards, you know. You are upset for some reason (often a good reason). At such moments, it can be extremely difficult to get your message and emotions across in a suitable way, especially if you would like to convey a not-so-pleasant-message. Why? Because you have to express message and emotions, at the same time, in a foreign language. It is so much more difficult accomplishing doing so in a foreign language, compared to conveying the same message (and feelings) in your first language. Dewaele often has a ton of good stories incorporated into his talks about the topic, and to be quite honest, they have been at the back of my mind during these two weeks. In this blog post, I will reflect on how it is possible to provide support and scaffolding for students in online learning environments (and relate my reflections to some of the readings), and I will draw on my own experiences of online teaching and learning.

Salmon’s (2013) Five Stage Model describes ways in which online teachers can scaffold for learners in online courses. It offers a structured program of various activities online. The first stage is called Access and Motivation. At this stage, I think about what we have experienced ourselves in this ONL201 course. For instance, it was important to agree on rules of engagement early on, and also to use icebreakers. We did this in ONL201 and I try do this as a teacher too. As far as I understand the second stage, Online Socialization, it serves the purpose of slowly (but surely) getting participants used to doing the e-tivities they are told to be involved in, together with others. We got the hang of this, too, in PBL-group 13. We did some small talk and got to know one another. It wasn’t much, but it was enough. The third stage is Information Exchange. In our PBL-group, I think we did a particularly good job in terms of information exchange, and we all seemed to gain confidence as we moved forward in the course.  I think at this stage, it is possible to actually see the strengths of different peers, and whatever collaborative work you may be involved in, therefore, becomes easier. For example, we decided to create a manifesto for blended learning by using the manuscript from a jointly created manuscript of an argumentative speech on the ONL topic. We video recorded ourselves and sent the files to one of the team members, who put it all together (Forget the classroom. Long live the online!). Interestingly, this ‘video editor’ had just missed a meeting, and I think the person was truly sorry about that (emotional connection). As a consequence, I think it was a combination of emotions and skills that made this specific group member quickly volunteer to do the video editing work (which the rest of us first seemed to think would be a bit of overkill – wasn’t the written manifesto enough? No, it was not!). This video editing bit bridges over to the next stage in the model, because it all has to do with Knowledge Construction. At this stage, one is able to start taking charge of one’s own learning, much in line with the principles of learning autonomy (cf. Holec, 1981). It seems as this fourth stage is a lot about a ‘sense of belonging’, being part of an online community, making contributions, and so forth. As in our case, I think our PBL-group had developed such a feeling of commitment for the group itself that it was only natural for the person who had missed a meeting to step forward and volunteer as video editor. (I may be wrong, of course, but it follows logically from the model.) The fifth and final stage is Development. At this stage, both as a learner and as a member of an online group/community, confidence should be up and new knowledge should be used. And I am using it now, in writing this blog post… Applied to our PBL-group, I would say the Five Stage Model fits neatly.

Emotions cannot possibly be considered separate from learning environments, and this must be the origin of the so-called Community of Inquiry theoretical framework from the 1990s (Cleveland-Innes, 2019a, 2019b). In one of our readings (Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes, & Garrison, 2013), there is a quote about what a Community of Inquiry is. The quote is from Lipman (2003, p. 20), who describes CoI as a community 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”. I can relate to that, based on the participation in my PBL-group. Further, Cleveland-Innes offers some good research data on emotional presence, which she argues goes through all three others of the CoI framework (i.e., through social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence). She establishes that emotion is present also online, and argues that as teachers, we need to observe, acknowledge, and support the emotional experiences of our students. Recently, doing online teaching in the times of the Corona virus, observing students have been more important than ever. Personally, over the last two months, I just started hanging around in zoom after the official scheduled time with students was up… There seemed to be a need for that, for some students. Sort of like lingering on in the classroom afterwards. It hasn’t been much. Didn’t take a lot of time. But it felt very good. It made me feel good. I think it made some students feel good. They showed me their pets. Their kids.

Emotional presence.


Cleveland-Innes, M. (2019a). The Community of Inquiry – What is it really about? Introductory video on the Padlet

Cleveland-Innes, M. (2019b). Emotion and learning –  emotional presence in the Community of Inquiry framework (CoI)? Introductory video on the Padlet

Dewaele, J.-M. (2010). Emotions in multiple languages. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Holec, H. (1981). Autonomy and foreign language learning. Oxford: Pergamon.

Lipman, M. (2003). Thinking in education (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Vaughan, N. D., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry. Edmonton: AU Press. Chapter 1 “The Community of Inquiry Conceptual framework”.

Published by Pia Sundqvist

I am Pia Sundqvist and work as an associate professor of English language education at the University of Oslo, Norway, and as an associate professor of English lingustics at Karlstad University, Sweden. I My research is within the field of applied English linguistics, more specifically in English 'didactics' (English language education). My main research interest is informal learning through extramural English (digital gaming in particular), often with a focus on L2 vocabulary acquisition. I also do research on (the assessment of) L2 oral proficiency, multilingualism, and English language teaching.

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