Creating Presence in an Online Course

Creating a high presence environment is key to the emotional experience of the online course, the engagement engendered  and thus the course’s ultimate success in conveying durable and actionable knowledge. We’ll think about this in three dimensions according to the “Community of Inquiry” Model.

Cognitive Presence How does the student make sense of the course content, and develop a meaningful personal understanding?

–  Offering the basic instruction in modes that are accessible to different types of learners. Offering, narrative explanations, providing simple textual summaries, developing visual maps and metaphors.

–  Making rich use of resources elsewhere on the internet: Original source documentation, the best of other professors’ online teaching, coaching guide. There are already a vast array of material developed for anything we might teach, which can be curated for our students

–  Ensuring that content reoccurs in the course module by module, as it would naturally in the in-person classroom.

Teaching Presence How can we structure and implement  the class so it is understandable and rendered meaningful through collaboration?

–  Providing clear syllabi and course maps as we would in the in-person classroom. Using Zoom setting to discuss the course approach and any questions before we reach content. Holding an in-person kick-off where feasible.

Providing Lectures is traditional classroom lecture format to cognitively cue the context and establish traditional classroom norms in virtual space.

Personal Storytelling, use story to establish a persona and create a memorable narrative to which students can orient through the asynchronous and solitary parts of the course.

Social Presence How do we become real with one another and become intimate in the online environment?

–  Use regular synchronous sessions to have live conversation among the groups and subgroups.

–  Create virtual conversation spaces that shadow the regual spaces (which are graded. Consider free, unmoderated facebook spaces for students to collaborate and support one another informally.

–  Form intentional pairs, triads, and groups to work on specific problems together. Create one to one conversation partnership which use synchronous and asynchronous modes to create specific relationships among the many. Encourage communication outside the canvas platform to  for real collaborative relationships.



Marion Tricoire Scholar Blogs Assignment

The activity I have in mind is neither from my current course nor a course in development (as I have none specifically in mind); it is from a previous course, but I would like to revisit it (and perhaps think of ways it would work in an online environment).  I think it uses all three types of presence detailed by the Community of Inquiry Framework.

Students in a grammar-intensive intermediate French class were prompted to write a story. The learning objectives included applying the narrative stages to a creative piece in a foreign language; using different tenses of the past; and of course creating a collaborative piece of writing. Indeed, the students worked in pairs on these stories. The first two objectives required students to engage with their cognitive presence primarily. The third one, group work, got the students to be socially present to one another in their pairs.

Once each pair of students got a draft of their creative story, I assigned another pair of students to peer review their story, paying particular attention to grammar and verb conjugation and tense in the past. This part of the assignment added one layer of social presence by bringing each group of two students to rely on their peers for help, but also the students’ teaching presence as they had to give constructive feedback to their peers.

After that, and after each group edited their narrative accordingly, they received instructor feedback, and got another opportunity to edit their stories. Once this was done, they all read their stories out loud to the class in a class session devoted entirely to the process, and then proceeded to vote on their favorite story with a system of points (5 pts, 3 pts, 1 pt), further engaging all three types of presence.

I would be interested in the ways an assignment like this one could function in an online environment (through Canvas or shared Google docs) and could bring students to develop a sense of a community through shared cognitive presence, several layers of feedback for peers and the instructor stimulating the teaching presence in the class, and playful and collaborative elements of social presence. I think students could even record a reading of their stories through VoiceThread and we could take the vote online, adding a further element of interactivity in this activity.

Sonia’s ScholarBlog: Building an Online Science Community

For the purpose of this ScholarBlog assignment, I am utilizing themes from a course I’m currently developing for upperclass undergraduates at a four-year residential college on “Cancer Immunology”.  These students will have already had cellular and molecular biology courses, as well as an introduction to immunology and microbiology. The overall goal of the course will be to explore mechanisms by which regulatory changes on the molecular and cellular levels lead to DNA damage and the development of cancer.

1.) Approaches to Building Social Presence

To encourage students to build their social presence, I will use  VideoThread introductions, similar to what we did in this course, as well as a series of short video/voice assignments early in the semester. In this way students will begin to feel connected to one another. I also think making use of text-based blog assignments may help student learners to establish themselves as individuals in the course. I see part of my role as an instructor is a responsibility to set the climate by encouraging active participation from Day 1.


2.) Developing Cognitive Presence

To promote cognitive presence of the students in the online classroom, I will assign small groups of students to work together to build a PowerPoint on a particular topic that is covered only in part in my lecture (they will have to dive deep on their own to find resources and create the appropriate material). Each PowerPoint will then have an associated discussion board, where the students who created the PowerPoint will serve as moderators for the rest of the students in a discussion of the importance of the content in the context of the broader class topic. This form of sustained communication will contribute to the community of inquiry. I will give the student organizers direct feedback on their PowerPoint, and will also engage with students in the discussion forum, to help to give structure to and regulate the online learning environment.


3.) Integration of Teaching Presence

To give structure to my online teaching presence, I will work to have a comprehensive syllabus available to students prior to the beginning of the course so they have adequate time to review and set expectations. Additionally, I will host weekly online “office” hours via Zoom, and will also require supplemental TAs to dedicate time to answering student questions either “in person” with Zoom or via email.  One element that I am still playing with is trying to find a balance between my awareness of my responsibility as the teacher (i.e., as a “meaning-maker” and as the primary regulator of student learning), and my desire to effectively emphasize student accountability. Perhaps this will be a long-term pursuit, but for now I hope to spend some time this summer thinking about what this might look like for my courses next spring.

Online Teaching Presence

This image shows a detailed concept map with many small brances emanating from 8 central nodes.
Wikipedia Concept Map by Juhan Sonin. Licensed through Creative Commons


Social/Teaching Presence:

Like others, I will use pre-recorded short introductory videos at the start of each learning module, as well as on the first page of the Canvas course. I would also use the Canvas scheduler feature to allow students to sign up for virtual synchronous office hours through Zoom. My hope is that these will support both teaching and social presence because they will orient students to the course while also allowing them to put a face to a name and to reinforce that I am present and involved in the course. The office hours will also give me the opportunity to speak with students one on one, check in on their progress, and address any concerns they have.

Cognitive/Social Presence:

I plan to have students use concept mapping software to  build concept maps at the end of each unit. Using the software makes it easier for students to add to the concept map throughout the course, and I will take advantage of this by asking students to place each new set of concepts introduced during the unit onto their existing map.  The mapping can also be done collaboratively, so I may assign students to small groups who they will work with on this mapping project throughout the semester. This will build a sense of community among students, but will also require cognitive presence. By giving students opportunity to engage in an ongoing dialogue about the overarching themes of the course, I hope that this exercise will help students produce a (somewhat) cohesive narrative about the field of WGSS, which will be useful as they progress to higher level coursework. I will also ask students to write a reflection on the experience of building the concept maps to help them build some metacognition.


David Cho’s ScholarBlogs Assignment

Throughout EFOT training, I have been thinking about a course called, “Caring and Counseling for Adolescents,” which would be a practicum course at Candler School of Theology for Master of Divinity students. This course is designed to be a combination of online and face-to-face classes centering on reading, discussion and writing assignment. This post will focus mainly on facilitating the three presences primarily online.

Teaching Presence

For teaching presence online, I will be posting a welcoming instructional video explaining for the students to see how to utilize Canvas as an online learning tool. I will also go over the learning outcomes and class expectations about the students’ active in-class and online class participation. Surely, I will do a more formal introduction of myself and go over these introductory elements in class as well, but doing it again online would help the students to be aware of my presence as the instructor online. I would hope the students to get a strong impression that “this instructor is both proactive online as well as in-class.” I will record this video through VoiceThread as a form of self-introduction and invite the students to do the same in the following.

Social Presence

By using the VoiceThread, I will introduce myself and also invite the students to do the same. I can give a structure to this self-introduction by asking students three questions to answer: (1) where are you in the degree program and your vocational/career goals? Do you plan to be a minister, social worker, community developer, or chaplain? (2) tell us about your fieldwork or practicum site and explain your regular and particular tasks working with adolescents, and (3) what are your own expectations and goals from doing practicum and taking this course at the same time? The students will also feel free to share comments on each other’s recording of video or voice self-introduction. This online introduction activity will be a great addition to building a learning community of the class as the students also engage in more in-depth face-to-face conversation and discussion in the classroom

Cognitive Presence

For cognitive presence, the students will be doing a particular type of writing assignment, which is called integrative writing. This is a type of writing that requires the students to learn how to integrate theory and practice (experience). They will be reading psychological and counseling theories rigorously and they will show how they understand these theories by connecting these theories in critical conversation with their fieldwork/practicum experience. The writing assignment, in essence, asks a core question, “How does such theory of ______ help you understand your counseling, caring or helping incident with adolescents in your field site?” This writing assignment will be turned in as an attachment online.  And the instructor will be providing feedback and comment via the rubric on the Canvas site.

Feature Image: CC0 Creative Commons

Abidemi Fasanmi’s Scholar Blogs Assignment

In this class assignment, I am developing an online syllabus for my course titles: African feminism (s), health and Development. I intend for it to be in 4 modules of 3 weeks  on each module, making a total of 12 weeks. The course will therefore explore various concepts within African feminism (s), health within a development context with a focus on putting into conversation western and African feminist scholars in conversation on concepts such as gender, health, sexuality, patriarchy, agency, power to mention a few within a development context. The assignments for this class will therefore include quizzes, discussion posts which will be in the form of weekly critical reflection papers and response posts, online presentations sharing of videos or relevant reading materials. I will post short instructional audios to explain assignments, readings as the class goes on.

For social presence, I will like to use voice/ video thread at the beginning of class where students can introduce themselves- names, country of origin, likes, dislikes, what they know about African feminism(s), their interest/ objective for the course and what they hope to gain by taking the course.

Teaching Presence In terms of teaching presence, I intend to use video threads to introduce modules: the goal and objectives and provide a brief of what will be covered during that module and have a poll on learning styles. I will also use videos and various media sources to facilitate discussions.

Cognitive Presence In my course, a student will post a critical reflection paper each week to which  other students write and submit a 250-300-word response based on the readings for the week, as assigned in canvas. These posts are expected to be reflective of an understanding of the concept addressed that week, should show an engagement with both the critical reflection paper as well as the reading/ articles/ media engaged that week. For these sessions, I will engage students’ posts by synthesizing questions, themes, and ideas to develop questions that can facilitate deeper discussions.

Image: Photo by Oladimeji Odunsi on Unsplash

Rachel Stuart – TAing Old Testament at Candler

opening page of the book of Isaiah in English
(image by Trounce on Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-3.0)

(cw: oblique references to domestic trauma)


While most of my assignments for this class have been aimed toward constructing a Hebrew language course, I thought for this post I would reflect instead on my most recent actual teaching experience: serving as a TA for Candler School of Theology’s year-long introductory Old Testament course. Old Testament is a large class comprised almost entirely of first-year MDiv students at most seminaries and divinity schools. It’s usually the first course students take together, one of the biggest they will take at seminary, and likely their introduction to one another and the program they have just begun. At some seminaries (including my alma mater), OT is a semester-long course that attempts to fit all the necessary information needed to read the least-known and largest section of the Christian Bible (about 3/4ths of it) into some 12-14 weeks of lectures and small-group sessions. At Candler, the course lasts a full year and is still a whirlwind attempt to somehow discuss every book of the Hebrew Bible thoroughly while teaching students from any number of academic and theological backgrounds how to read the Bible from historical-critical and other common scholarly perspectives.

This is a challenging project for a few reasons. First, the diversity of age, prior academic training, and theological priorities makes it very difficult to aim the lectures at anything like a majority of the class. For many students, historical-critical readings of scripture are old-hat, learned from pastor parents or Sunday school classes or Bible degrees in undergrad. For others, more literal readings of scripture are the norm, and a class on the historical background and posited authors of the books can be a shock to the system. The class needs to somehow justify the need and theological validity of historical-critical scholarship and present it gently for students who’ve never encountered it while presenting it quickly enough to get through all the necessary information and ensure students who are familiar with it aren’t too bored.

Second, the Old Testament is about three times longer than the New Testament that usually gets equal class time in seminary curricula (the full second year at Candler). It’s also far less well-known than the New—the Revised Common Lectionary used by numerous denominations such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Episcopal Church, United Methodist Church, and others covers only about 20% of the Old Testament over its three-year span. Finally, it contains stories and books that often need a great deal of very careful explanation and introduction. Take, for example, the book of Hosea, which opens with a rather uncomfortable portrayal of the relationship between God and Israel as a thoroughly broken marriage. It’s supposedly the cause of the Babylonian exile, which is presented as entirely God’s doing and blamed entirely on Israel’s faults. The book is often interpreted at face-value, and without both a very circumspect introduction that dips into pastoral care and psychology to explain exactly why the metaphor is deeply problematic and a careful managing of the classroom discussion, this lecture can quickly become an unsafe and triggering environment for students who’ve experienced not only broken relationships for which they were very much not at fault, but also well-meaning but oblivious (or worse) people using scripture to convince them why they were.

Third, for many students, the Old Testament class features the first academic paper they’ve written in many years; for most, it is the first formal exegetical paper and the first graduate paper they have written. The course thus involves not only the introduction of numerous, widely-varied biblical books at breakneck speed; it also requires the introduction of the standard expectations of the guild regarding exegetical papers and a review of good writing practices. Students must learn to use SBL formatting, to conduct word studies relevant to the passage, and balance contextual analysis with theological appropriation. They must review how to construct clear thesis statements, how to create a cogent and convincing argument, and how to locate appropriate secondary sources to support their argument. All of this must be done around the mental task of learning the content of the lectures and the likely spiritual task of continuing to come to grips with one’s own theological priorities juxtaposed with a possibly new set of lenses for reading scripture.

title page of Richard Simon's 1685 book on historical criticism of the Old Testament
17th century Dutch book on Old Testament historical criticism (Wikimedia Commons)

Social Presence

Each of these facets of the course, though certainly involving all three, requires a particular focus on one of the three types of presence (social, cognitive, and teaching) necessary to facilitate good learning.

Careful consideration of one’s social presence is particularly necessary for guiding students through what may be a difficult spiritual deconstruction and reconstruction process in response to encountering new information or ways of reading scripture. I recall from my own Old Testament class at seminary hearing students who simply shut down in response to the new methods: “Don’t read the textbook; it’ll make you lose your faith.” It was so sad to me to hear their fear because for me, the mainstream academic pursuit added to my faith. But I understood: it can be incredibly difficult to incorporate new data about beliefs central to one’s worldview. Anything contrary to what one has been taught can feel like an attack—even if people haven’t been teaching (as tends to happen in churches sometimes) that deviations from orthodoxy endanger one’s soul and/or that contrary information is likely demonic temptation.

Given this context, there were a few things I was careful to do as a TA to try to help. 1) As often as I was able, I attended the Tuesday and Thursday chapel services that all the OT students got extra credit for attending. 2) I prayed before each of our breakout sessions. 3) I attempted to communicate consistently, both verbally in breakout sessions and in announcement emails to my breakout group, that the goal of all this exegesis and analysis was to enrich the students’ faith.

Some of these choices worked better than others, and most are pretty specific to the seminary context (you can’t really pray before an OT class in a secular religion department, for instance, though I suppose you could encourage students who felt so inclined to form their own prayer groups outside of class). I attended chapel largely for my own enjoyment and spiritual benefit (as a liturgy nerd and a person in the ordination process), but I also hoped that seeing at least one of their teachers in worship with them would demonstrate to the OT students who attended that they, too, could find a way to reconcile the academic pursuit of biblical studies with the practice of a religious life in whatever way made sense for them. I did have numerous students notice appreciatively that I attended chapel, and I hope that it helped, though I have no idea.

The latter two of my efforts were more intermittently well-received. Most students appreciated that I prayed before class for the same reasons they appreciated I attended chapel, but most seemed to be largely unconvinced by my attempts to soothe their anxiety about papers and exams and the general volume of information thrown at them. It was usually in the form of a small paragraph at the beginning or (usually) end of an announcement email, presented as an optional way of viewing things, and I had hoped it would help reframe the pursuit of this degree. I see numerous seminarians complain about the way that graduate school seems to stand as an apparently insurmountable barrier between them and God’s call on their lives, and I wanted to try to help them break out of their obsession with their grades. When spirituality is overlaid onto a degree, it too easily becomes a paradigm where good grades mean God’s approval and bad grades mean God never called you at all. If my efforts to communicate that this equation of grades with divine authority was ridiculous were ever successful, I never heard about it. Most students appeared to be too stressed to fully hear the encouragement, and one student very frustrated with their grade on the exegetical paper complained angrily at me late in the year that all my spiritualizing was disingenuous. Perhaps the third element of my efforts at deliberate social presence only reinforced the students’ preexistent opinions on their grades’ relevance to their call.

Teaching Presence

The teaching presence in OT is of course most clearly manifested in lectures and breakout sessions. In breakout sessions, TAs get to know their groups of 18-25 or so students relatively well and can more easily guide the discussion by calling on students who seem to be hesitant to speak up but interested in asking questions. The TA has the advantage of being able to give something like the insider’s advice to students a few years behind (this was especially the case in the language courses at my alma mater, where advanced MDiv students were the preceptors for their classmates in intro courses), meaning that the atmosphere is usually calmer, more casual, and easier to work with than the full class lecture.

Fielding questions and guiding discussion in the full lecture is by far the most difficult aspect of managing a teaching presence. When I gave my lecture on Daniel, I found that the room was so large that I spent all my time looking at students and forgot to look at the notes I had carefully prepared to keep me on track through the hour and a half lecture. Without being able to see the facial expressions of most of the students in detail, the lecturer was left to simply trust their preparation and hope that the information was clear. Over the course of the semester, it was determined from student feedback surveys that the best paradigm was to leave at least ten minutes at the end of lecture for discussion, or less assertive students felt silenced by their peers and the instructors. This meant facilitating class discussion among over 100 people.

The TA responsible for last year’s Hosea lecture did an admirable job attempting to guide a difficult discussion, though the effort not to silence anyone meant a few students’ comments got a bit out of hand. It’s always a delicate balance to maintain between allowing many voices and intervening to ensure a safe environment, and having over 100 students in the room, most of whom are hard to see and most of whom cannot see one another, exponentially increases how difficult that task is. One of my favorite teaching techniques, which I have seen several TAs, professors, and pastors employ over the years (including the TA who gave the Hosea lecture), is the repeating and reframing of questions and comments, especially on sensitive topics. This technique does a number of things at once: 1) it helps diffuse tension by recognizing what is useful in a comment and deleting what is antagonistic or harmful so that all sides feel heard and valued, 2) it teaches good debate and discussion behavior and content (terminology, etc.) by modeling both good arguments and charitable readings of another’s comments, 3) it allows the instructor to help prevent unnecessary tangents that distract from necessary points, 4) it shows future teachers good discussion leading methods, and 5) it allows the teacher to confirm with a student the intent of their comments, thus helping them refine their arguments in the future.

Cognitive Presence

Cognitive presence was most apparent in lectures and breakout sessions, as well as in grading especially the exam essays and exegetical paper. The small number of breakout sessions at Candler was the most difficult part of managing a clear and helpful cognitive presence to communicate information. In my own OT class at seminary, we had precept once a week for an hour with about eight people and discussed in depth a text relevant to the subject of the week’s lectures. We got to learn to interpret texts firsthand, review information from lecture, and practice navigating theological differences in discussion. At Candler, there were only three breakout sessions per semester, each devoted to the exegetical paper in the spring. Students often wished to review what was being discussed in lecture or hear how to prepare for the upcoming exam, which meant that a balance had to be struck between communicating the necessary information about the paper to come and reviewing the necessary information for the impending exam. The one key thing that helped mitigate this problem was the organization of separate review sessions, but it certainly added to the anxiety of the students in many cases. Nevertheless, having six sessions to explain the process of exegesis was on the whole helpful for communicating, piece by piece, how to write the paper. TAs both lectured and facilitated class discussion in even smaller groups within the breakout sessions so that information was communicated not only on the teacher-student level, but the student-student one as well.

Comments on exam essays and various steps in the process of exegetical paper-writing were another key place for the cognitive presence of the TAs. I found myself commenting not only on content of the exam essays and especially the preliminary exegetical assignments, but also on the grammar and rhetoric of the students’ papers. Knowing that a formal exegetical paper was in their near future, I wanted to offer them formative feedback to help prepare them to communicate their ideas in the paper well. I also offered to comment on anyone’s draft of the paper before they were turned in. On the whole, I think the students appreciated the offer and the feedback, though I heard later that it did cause a bit of anxiety in some of the students when they received their drafts back with extensive commentary. I had tried to warn them ahead of time and let them know that many of the comments were more FYI than “fix immediately,” but I think many were still caught off-guard, and apparently some decided to forego the initial draft comments for fear of time.


Overall, I found in the course of TAing for Old Testament—much more so than in Hebrew the previous year—precisely how much of teaching is a trial-and-error endeavor. It takes time to build a coherent teaching persona that incorporates effective and genuine social, cognitive, and teaching presence. Much of establishing good connections with students is, at least at first, guesswork. Nevertheless, it is incredibly important to go into a class with at least some idea of where one is starting as an instructor after spending time thinking through the content of the course, the style of teaching, and one’s own personality. That initial prepwork and a good amount of self-awareness allows the trial-and-error process to be more deliberate and more successful, and students’ awareness that their teacher has put thought into the course makes them more likely to assume good intent and give some grace for mistakes and meaningful feedback toward improvement.

Donna McDermott: 3 Assessments in an Animal Behavior Course

In this post, I am describing three assignments for a hypothetical online animal behavior course.

Social Presence

To encourage student social presence right from the start, the first formative assessment in my course asks students to share their opinions and experiences.

For this assignment, I would explain to students that discussion and collaboration are key to this course and to science in general. In research and industry, scientists need to be able to work together to share skills and address large-scale problems. Communication between workers about expectations, challenges, and accomplishments is essential to maintaining healthy working relationships.As a “warm-up” for collaboration and discussion, I’d ask each student to contribute a few paragraphs about the role they tend to take on when working with others:

  •  How would they describe their usual contribution to a group (are they natural leaders, or content to fill in when necessary, or more interested in doing their own thing and checking back into the group occasionally for updates?)
  • What is one strength and one weakness of taking on that role?
  • What is one thing they’re annoyed/nervous/scared/insecure/unsure about in discussion and collaboration in this course.

Submissions will be anonymized and then shared with the course on one discussion board. I’ll tell students this ahead of time so they can keep their loose anonymity in mind while writing. Finally, I’ll ask students to comment on at least 3 of their classmates’ posts. Is there a strength of their peers’ self-described role that they haven’t recognized? Do they share their uncertainty/insecurity?

Cognitive Presence

            The “meat” of the formative assessments of this course will be case studies of animal behavior. I’ll present some phenomenon of animal behavior to the students and ask them to analyze why and how this behavior might occur. Students should consider ecological and evolutionary perspectives (i.e. is this behavior related to the environment? Is this behavior adaptive?). There will be one case study per week, with accompanying short video lectures. Some of these case studies will require students to work independently, and some (about half) will require students to meet (virtually or physically) and work in groups.

Teaching Presence

I’ll provide students with short videos of lecture material. This material will cover the key content of the course: important concepts, problem solving demonstrations, and descriptions of the concept in literature or in nature.

To assess and incentivize student engagement, I’ll ask students to post a short comment (one or two sentences) to at least 50% of videos. Comment should be either a clarifying question, an extension of the idea (“we talked about how geese fly in a V, I wonder if that’s related to how fish swim in schools”), or an alternate explanation (“you described bet hedging as trying every slot machine in a casino once. I think it’s actually more like trying every game at a casino once, because the games require different skills and have different odds, but slot machines are basically all the same”)


Taína Figueroa: Facilitating Dialogues on Race

discussing issues

Image Attribution: discussing issues by Chris Sloan

I have used this EFOT Scholarblogs opportunity to create an assignment I have been wanting to incorporate into future Philosophy of Race courses I will be teaching.  Complete details of the assignment are at the end of this post but I will provide a brief summary here.  Over the course of a semester, students working in groups of 4 will design an activity or dialogue model facilitating a discussion on race and racism for a group of fellow college students.  The majority of the assignment – including the planning – are to occur online via discussion boards.

Social Presence

The assignment begins with an exercise designed to get the students more comfortable with each other and give them an opportunity to talk a bit about who they are.  This would be through a VoiceThread Introduction that would be viewed by the other members of their group.  Each group member must also post their own ideas and arguments for those ideas as they are planning the project.  I think this a good way for students to learn to develop their own voice, especially in a collaborative working environment (but not one that is as big or intimidating as the entire class).

Cognitive Presence

I have provided the first two objectives that students must meet with their model.  This is intended to get students thinking and applying concepts/ ideas learned in course readings to their own lives and ways of thinking.  They are also allowed to to bring in other resources they are able to find on their own.  My hope is that by requiring that all elements of the model they design be backed up by some peer-reviewed resource they will have to engage with the literature on facilitating dialogues on race (as opposed to just doing what they think is right based on their own experience) and thereby learn more about how to talk about race – and what that means for people of diverse backgrounds.  I want to get them thinking about what we are learning in class in different contexts – which is part of the process of constructing new knowledge.

Teaching Presence

I would create my own VoiceThread introduction to model what I was looking for.  This would give students a better sense of who I am and establish a tone for talking about what their worries are discussing race.  Throughout the first 5 weeks I would providing weekly comments (with suggestions for further resources, questions they should consider) on their project development.  Once they turning in their General Outline and Objective Outlines I would use a Single-Point Rubric to grade and give them feedback on their model.  Additionally,  I will provide one possible model for students to use by facilitating the creation of Discussion Guidelines everyone agrees on for future class discussion, as well as model different strategies/activities throughout the course of the semester in class discussion.

Model for Activity or Dialogue on Race Assignmnet

This project would begin within the first few weeks of the course and run throughout the semester.  The class would be randomly broken up into groups  of 4 (each group having their own discussion board).  The following would be the project prompt:

You are an RA at the Clairmont Campus building.  Over the first two weeks of the semester a racial slur was written on a students’ message board and students of various races have in confidence talked to you about feeling uncomfortable in the building.  Racial tensions are rising in the dorm and you decide something must be done.  Along with your fellow 3 RA’s, you have made the bold decision to facilitate some kind of activity or discussion on race.  The minimal objectives you have agreed on thus far are the following:

  • Objective #1 – You want participants to feel supported. You want participants to feel they can both speak and be heard.
  • Objective #2 – You want community members to come away having a better understanding of how race functions in 21st Century America.

Over the course of the semester your group will design this activity or discussion model.  The process will begin by getting to know each other a little bit better:

Week 1 – Post VoiceThread Video

Introduce yourself, why you decided to take this course, and what you find most difficult about talking about race (no longer than 4 minutes).

Week 2 – VoiceThread Response

Post a response to each group members VoiceThread video (on VoiceThread) addressing the aspect of discussions on race that the group member finds difficult.

Week 3 – Online Brainstorm

Each member posts at least four ideas, topics, activities, or methods they think they might want to incorporate as part of this project.  You should include a link to at least one resource that has helped guide your brainstorming (you will be given a list of some resources in class).

Week 4 – Making Choices

Through the discussion board decide which aspects, activities, or topics your group will focus on for this activity/project.

Week 5 – Gathering Information

Create a shared Box Folder.  Each group member should upload 3 resources to the Box Folder (resources can be articles, videos, blogs,) related to the focus you have chosen for your activity.  Explain what you found useful about your resources on your discussion board (200 words).

Week 6 – General Activity Outline

Working collaboratively through Google Docs create a 1-2 page outline of your activity or discussion.  This should include what role each group member will play as well as two additional objectives beyond those two already given for the activity.

Week 7 – Meeting Objective #1

Create a 1-2 page set of guidelines with references to specific resources (can come from class readings or other books/articles) on facilitating discussions on race that will ensure participants feel that they can both speak and be heard.

Week 8 – Meeting Objective #2

Create a 2-page outline with references to specific resources (can come from class readings or other books/articles) on the philosophical development of the concept of race and how race and racism function within the contemporary US.

Week 9 – Meeting Objectives #3 & #4

Create a 2-page outline with references to specific resources on the remaining two objectives for your activity/discussion.

Week 10 & 11 – Class Presentation

Each group will give a 10 minute presentation in which you explain the activity or discussion model you have come up with.  Each group member should introduce one of the objectives and how you plan to meet it.  This will be followed by a 10 minute class discussion of your model and what students think would be effective (or what could be tweaked to be more effective).  Students will also be given a rubric (that the class will have created together) to help assess and provide constructive feedback for your model.

Week 13 – Submit Project Portfolio

Throughout the next two weeks your group will work to incorporate any suggestions or feedback from classmates into the General Activity Outline or Objective Outlines.  You will also create a final Bibliography that includes all resources used throughout the entire project.  Each group member will also write a 2 page reflection paper on the process of creating this model (guidelines on writing reflection paper will be given out in class).  You will also complete an assessment of yourself and each of your group members.  All of these documents including your original and final outlines should be compiled into the folder labeled with your name in our course Box account.

Jennifer Aycock Scholar Blogs Assignment

For this class I have been working with a syllabus for a 5-week modular course titled Comparative Perspectives and Expressions in Contemporary World Christianity (1910 to 2018). While this is a course only in theory, I am using it to play around with different ideas and models for online learning. 
To establish and cultivate Teaching Presence, during the first week I will conduct a synchronous session with the class to introduce “World Christianity” as a heuristic, or way of interpreting and understanding Christian theologies, practices, and communities. I will further establish teaching presence by generating a discussion about method, theory, and heuristics/interpretation in the study of Christianity as a historical world religion. I will then provide an opportunity for break out sessions as a means for students to meet members of their pre-designated Canvas Discussion groups (social presence). During this session I will ask students (cognitive presence) to share one or two assumptions they may have in 1) the study of religion and 2) about the study and practice of contemporary Christianity. This session and activity will be important for teaching, cognitive, and social presence, with an emphasis on teaching and social presence. 
To generate both Cognitive and Social Presence, students will write and submit a paragraph critical response to the readings within their assigned Canvas groups of four students. Each week two members will take initiative for the lead post, and the other two students will engage the post with a short response (3-4 sentences is sufficient). We will have a weekly synchronous meeting during which the readings and posts will serve as the basis for our discussion. For these sessions, I will engage posts by synthesizing questions, themes, and ideas to develop questions (to be emailed to students the evening before our session) for us to discuss and integrate learning further, contributing to ongoing development of cognitive, social, and teaching presence.
To encourage Social Presence in what can often feel like an awkward and disparate environment, students will sign up to facilitate one synchronous session with assistance from the instructor (me). The sessions facilitated will include presentations and discussion on an aspect of a larger course requirement, an ethnographic study of a local Christian community that (to be developed and presented via Voicethread, Prezi, and shared via an Instagram account.)