Thursday, August 7, 2008

My opening blog on emotion and learning

Dr. Martha Cleveland-Innes
I’ve had a fascination for human behavior research since my time as a senior undergraduate student …. it hasn’t let up yet! And I won’t tell you how many years that is, but trust me; it’s been a long time. Nothing has quite captured me as much as this topic – the debunking of the myth of the dispassionate thinker and the idea that the best learning takes place in the calmest, most focused mind. Learning is an emotional experience, and emotion and cognition can work symbiotically, not simply in opposition.

The first workshop on emotion and learning held by Cleveland-Innes & Campbell was in 2006. One participant said “Excellent session, very thought provoking, good to see emotion as a part of the cognitive reason element, ran out of time …..” We did run out of time. There was (and still is) much more to discuss regarding the role of emotion as it relates to the social, cognitive and instructional elements of learning. This applies to all learning, but the sometimes disruptive transition to distance and online environments has provided significant incentive to examine this further.

We were overwhelmed by the interest in this topic. Initially hesitant and skeptical, not only about how much interest there would be but also relevance, we soon discovered other disciplines exploring emotion and cognition. We went back to an existing data base of online student questionnaire comments and transcripts (240 students in 30+ online courses) and found copious evidence that online learning was an emotion experience! The adage “you’ll see it when you believe it” applies. Soon other researchers and practitioners were contacting us and the possibility of an online community of interest on emotion and learning emerged.

We now have a web-site for sharing resources and debating the issues through an Athabasca University Moodle site entitled Exploring emotional presence in online teaching and learning. This site will offer ongoing discussion and discovery regarding the presence and possibilities of emotional expression during structured and informal learning of higher education. A particular emphasis will be placed on emotional presence in online environments, and the place of emotion in online communities of inquiry. I look forward to hearing from researchers and practitioners interested in the role of emotion in learning – in all modes of education. To check out this site, see

To join this Moodle community, please send an e-mail to Zehra Akyol
for more information about the research I’m currently doing on emotion and learning.