Humanizing Online Learning

Pre-Conference Workshop Session 1
Streamed Session

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

During this workshop we will delve into humanizing online learning, what it is, why it’s important, and how it is critical to student learning and institutional success. In addition to the examination of different aspects of the topic, we will create actionable items based on research and applied effective practice for faculty, staff, and administrators to take back and implement in blended and fully online learning environments as well as creating a culture of humanizing online teaching practices.

Virtual pre-conference workshops (Friday, Nov 6) can be added to your conference registration at a price of $125 for one or $220 for a two workshop combo deal.

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Dr. Angela M. Gibson serves as Lecturer in the Higher Education Administration Leadership doctoral certificate program and the Adult Education graduate program at Texas A and M University - Kingsville. Additionally, she serves as faculty for the Online Learning Consortium Institute for Professional Development teaching in the Online Teaching Certificate Program, designing and facilitating professional training, and serving as a mentor to professional educators. She is also a Contributing Faculty and Doctoral Advisor for the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences in the Doctor of Education program. She has taught first-year, undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, and professional students, designed and developed curriculum, and created initiatives and strategic planning for student engagement, first-year experience, strategic learning, and innovation. Dr. Gibson has over 25 years experience in higher education, academics, and student affairs at a diverse set of colleges and universities. She made the rank of Professor at American Public University. Angela received a M.A. in Human Performance Systems, with a Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design, from Marymount University, and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, with concentrations in Adult Education and Community College Education, from Texas A and M University - Kingsville. She has been published in various peer reviewed journals, is on journal editorial boards, presents at national and international conferences, and served on the Online Learning Conference Steering Committee and was the 2017 Chair of the Technology Test Kitchen. In 2019, Angela was a Campfire Keynote Speaker for the OLC Innovate Conference. Dr. Gibson is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador and volunteers as an informal STEM educator creating learning opportunities at schools and community organizations as well as providing social media outreach for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). She is a recipient of the Online Learning Consortium 2014 Effective Practice Award. In 2021 Dr. Gibson received the USAHS Board Excellence Award for Excellence in Teaching Award.
Karen Costa is a faculty development facilitator specializing in online pedagogy and trauma-aware higher education. Karen loves leading faculty learners through fun, interactive, and supportive professional development experiences. Karen’s first book, 99 Tips for Creating Simple and Sustainable Educational Videos (Stylus, April 2020), focuses on helping faculty and teachers to make creative use of videos in their classrooms. Karen is involved in various faculty development initiatives including as a facilitator for the Online Learning Consortium and Online Learning Toolkit. She spent four years as a regular writer for Women in Higher Education. Her writing has also appeared in Inside Higher Education, The Philadelphia Inquirer, On Being, and Faculty Focus. Karen graduated from Syracuse University with a B.A. in sociology. She holds an M.Ed. in higher education from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a CAGS in educational leadership from Northeastern University. A proud lifelong learner, Karen recently received a Professional Certification in Trauma and Resilience from Florida State University, a Trauma-Informed Organizations Certificate from the University of Buffalo's School of Social Work, and a Certificate in Neuroscience, Learning, and Online Instruction from Drexel University. ​Karen is a certified yoga teacher and Level 1 Yoga for Arthritis teacher. She lives in Massachusetts with her family.
Michelle Pacansky-Brock (@brocansky) has received two Sloan-C/OLC awards for her online teaching effectiveness and served as Chair of the 2015 Sloan-C/OLC Emerging Technologies for Online Learning Symposium (ET4OL). She is the author of Best Practices for Teaching with Emerging Technologies, in its second edition with Routledge, and is currently serving the California Community Colleges as Faculty Mentor for Online Teaching and Learning with CVC-OEI/@ONE. Michelle is also researching the impact of humanized online instruction to improve equity gaps in online STEM courses with grant funding from the California Education Learning Lab.

Extended Abstract

Over the last two decades, a common misperception of online learning has been that it fosters dehumanization. Another misperception is that quality connections between faculty and student and staff and student, as well as student to student, must take place in an environment where individuals are physically present and interaction is instantaneous. And of those who had negative experiences with blended or fully online professional development training, or orientations, or semester course often shared that they did not feel engaged in the learning.

During the early weeks and months of COVID-19 pandemic, those in educational settings, from K12 to higher education to corporate training, quickly mobilized to move fully online to provide continuous instruction. Whether synchronous, asynchronous, or a mix of the two, students and faculty used to the physical presence of others in the learning environment began to move past the initial shock of the drastic move to feelings of being disconnected.

However, faculty who had created a community or fostered a culture or made connections with their learners prior to the changeover found that they could carry some of those valuable components of a learning environment to the online classes. Yet, the same faculty, as well as staff providing student support and other integral services to students, found that the online medium posed challenges to keeping and continuing these positive applications. Strategies and practices which worked in the face to face classroom or office didn’t seem to translate directly over to the new remote settings.

During this workshop we will delve into humanizing online learning, what it is, why it’s important, and how it is critical to student learning and institutional success. In addition to the examination of different aspects of the topic, we will create actionable items based on research and applied effective practice for faculty, staff, and administrators to take back and implement in blended and fully online learning environments as well as creating a culture of humanizing online teaching practices.

Presenters will use the initial part of the workshop to provide background on the topic. In particular, presenters will cover 

Humanizing technology

Pedagogy of kindness (Community of care)

Being real, being authentic while still educating

Creating space for students 

Adjusting expectations

Building humanization into course design/instructional delivery

Technology is needed for remote instruction. However, instruction design and teaching of content should not stop with the technology. Educational experiences of the online learner includes student engagement, student learning, student satisfaction. And, as part of the educational experience, three presences need to be integrated; teaching presence, social presence, and cognitive presence. These three presences stem from the Community of Inquiry (CoI) (Arbaugh, Cleveland-Innes, Diaz, Garrison, Ice, Richardson, & Swan, 2009).

The basis for the theoretical framework and pedagogy of the Community of Inquiry guides practitioners in their creation and application of methods and tools that can support student learning and add to the opportunity’s students have for deeper engagement in the course, increased academic success, and continued persistence in their education (Arbaugh, Cleveland-Innes, Diaz, Garrison, Ice, Richardson, & Swan, 2009).

Student learning and student engagement are critical to our mission. The importance of humanizing technology includes that moving past the technology allows the learner to focus on content. It reduces barriers to learning and engagement. Though we want to get past the technology we also want the technology to work for us. Effective tool use by students needs to be modeled in our design and instruction. And such tools can be used to build effective social presence in learning environments (Wingo, Ivankova, & Moss, 2017; Kebritchi, Lipschuetz, & Santiague, 2017).

The second part of the workshop will include group discussions and ideation. In group discussions with fellow participants, faculty, staff, and administrators will discuss challenges realized at their institution in humanizing online learning, evaluate the research and effective strategies and applied practices, and create actionable plans to take back and implement post-conference.

The third and final part of the workshop will be for sharing out ideas to the larger group. After group discussions, individuals can share out revelations, expectations, and determinations for next steps as part of a strategic approach to foster efficacy and motivation while increasing student learning and success.


Arbaugh, J. B., Cleveland-Innes, M., Diaz, S. R., Garrison, R. D., Ice, P., Richardson, J. C., and Swan, K. P. (2009). Developing a community of inquiry instrument: Testing a measure of the community of inquiry framework using a multi-institutional sample.  Internet and Higher Education, 11(3/4), 133-136.

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education model. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105. Retrieved from

Kebritchi, M., Lipschuetz, A., & Santiague, L. (2017). Issues and challenges for teaching successful online courses in higher education: A literature review. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 46(1), 4-29. Retrieved from

Lu, H. J. (2017). Sustainability of e-learning environment: Can social presence be enhanced by multimedia? International Journal of Information and Education Technology, 7(4), 291. Retrieved from:

Mohr, S. C., & Shelton, K. (2017). Best practices framework for online faculty professional development: A Delphi study. Online Learning, 21(4).

Singh, R. N., & Hurley, D. (2017). The effectiveness of teaching and learning process in online education as perceived by university faculty and instructional technology professionals. Journal of Teaching and Learning with Technology, 6(1), 65-75.

Wingo, N. P., Ivankova, N. V., & Moss, J. A. (2017). Faculty perceptions about teaching online: Exploring the literature using the technology acceptance model as an organizing framework. Online Learning, 21(1), 15-35. Retrieved from