Create Online Presences - Earn Digital Badges! Cultivating Multiple Presences in the Online “Classroom”

Concurrent Session 5

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Create Online Presence : Earn Digital Badges! In this session, participants will earn Credly badges while being guided through activities for building online learning “presences” as outlined in the community of inquiry framework. We’ll cover social, cognitive, and teaching presence, each of which is crucial to successful online teaching and learning.

Session Resource:

The digital badges we are using will require you to have a Credly account. Sign in to access or create a Credly account here


Dr. Jason Snart is Professor of English and Chair of Literature, Creative Writing, and Film at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, IL. He earned his Ph.D from the University of Florida and his research interests include hybrid/blended learning, 1-1/BYOD teaching models, and mobile learning. His books include Making Hybrids Work: An Institutional Framework for Blending Online and Face-to-Face Instruction in Higher Education (NCTE, 2017); Hybrid Learning: The Perils and Promise of Blending Online and Face-to-Face Instruction in Higher Education (Praeger, 2010); and The Torn Book: UnReading William Blake's Marginalia (Susquehanna UP, 2006).
Timothy Henningsen teaches literature, research, & writing at the largest community college in the state of Illinois. His academic training is in transnational literary studies with a focus on Anglophone Caribbean literature, but has taken a keen interest in recent years in the pedagogical effects of 21st century teaching techniques.

Extended Abstract

The community of inquiry framework (Garrison et al. 2010; Garrison 2017) lays out three fundamental types of presences that need to be cultivated for successful and engaging online learning.  Social presence describes opportunities for students to be informally “there,” more than a number or name on a roster in an online class, and further to develop a sense of class cohesion among peers that cultivates opportunities for deeper engagement and learning.  Cognitive presence goes beyond social presence to include opportunities for students to engage with course material and with each other in the social construction of knowledge. And teaching presence is that presence cultivated by an online instructor (or even by students in a class) such that he or she can be present as a real human for students, not just an “assign and grade” machine that students never really get to know.

The COI framework was developed in the early 2000s and has been nuanced many times since then (see Shea & Bidjerano (2009), for example, along with the many resources collected at the COI website maintained at Athabasca University <>). And there are many digital tools available to instructional designers and online instructors for engaging students beyond just text on the screen. Our session will connect these dots by highlighting the importance of balancing each of the different types of presence, respecting how each is important, and remaining aware that, despite some overlap, they are different and need to be treated as such. Recording a welcome video might provide a form of teaching presence, but how might an instructor also be present by embodying course content and knowledge?  Similarly, students might introduce themselves to their online class peers via a discussion board or maybe an “About Me” portfolio page. But this kind of social presence needs to be sustained across an entire course. And just because students are given opportunities to establish social presence, we need to make sure that they are also given opportunities to be cognitively present as well, to engage with course material and become an intellectual member of the class community. As such, students are not just a persona, introducing themselves early in a term but then for all intents and purposes settling back into the role of passive knowledge consumer….basically just that student ID in the gradebook or name on a roster, instead of an active participant in sustained social knowledge construction.

And as students are provided with presence-building opportunities, so too should instructors work to make themselves present when designing and delivering online learning experiences. Instructor presence is not synonymous with (nor the full extent of) teaching presence, but it does constitute a significant part of an active online learning environment.  If building instructor presence, as one part of teaching presence, is not just attaching a picture to a virtual contact card, then how else can instructors be present? Instructor presence can occur across media, via video announcements to the class, for example, or through participation in student learning at key moments in a discussion board or similar digital tool.  (See Lowenthal and Dunlap (2010), “From pixel on a screen to real person in your students’ lives,” for example, which explore the use of digital storytelling to build presence.) Instructor presence can also be fostered in low stakes, and more easily sustained ways. Using text alert tools, for example, can be a manageable way for instructors to remain present for students throughout a semester.

To engage with these various opportunities for presence in online teaching and learning, this session takes a gamified approach. But it will not work like a Jeopardy or Family Feud style game show in which participants earn points by asking or answering particular questions.  Instead, we will use game elements of achievement and leveling up, drawing more from the world of video games than television game show.

Participants will be introduced to the basic COI framework and encouraged to think about social, teaching, and cognitive presences as (despite some overlap) fundamentally different.  Then we will provide a series of tasks for participants to complete, in any order and working either as teams or individually, that will have them practicing the skills of building multiple presences in the online teaching and learning environment.

We will provide possible digital tools to use as part of each activity, though participants will be invited to use--and share--any digital tools that they might be familiar with.  Upon successful completion of a task, participants will earn a digital badge (designed and awarded by the session facilitators). We understand that these badges are not “official” in any capacity - they are a fun way to document what participants learn and do during the session.  We hope the approach will provide our session with a spirit of friendly competition and a tangible sense of accomplishment for attendees.

Our goal is that each session participant will emerge with a better understanding of the multiplies presences that need to be cultivated through online course design and teaching, in addition to a well-stocked toolkit of apps and platforms to help them provide opportunities for students (and for themselves) to establish those presences.

Here are a few representative examples of tasks that attendees might complete and possible relevant digital tools, grouped by the various presences as laid out in the COI framework.  (We will use Google Classroom to facilitate these various activities.):

Social - record a brief “About Me” video as though you were a student; write a brief paragraph introducing yourself and include a picture; post a picture to a shared Padlet

Cognitive - annotate a shared document using the Comment tool; build out one slide in a shared slide deck; add one “research” source to a shared bibliography

Teaching - record an “About Me” video as though you were an Instructor; pose a question on a shared slide deck; respond to a question posed on that shared slide deck