Blog 4: Topic 4

Design for online and blended learning: Comments on emotions

Photo by Lidya Nada on Unsplash

In this blog, I will simply focus on the few words that I exchanged with Marti Cleveland-Innes during the webinar on 26 November. I told her that I would like to see if my students or colleagues are happy when I teach a course or chair a meeting but that I had realized that I cannot necessarily see it. In other words, I may misinterpret how the situation went. She commented that the students do not always need to feel happy but that it suffices if they feel safe.

Since I have specialized on the various senses of English words for emotions, I will stop a little here to comment on the meaning of the adjective happy. Marti’s reaction suggests to me that she did not think of such bleached senses that can occur when people say, for example, that they are happy to do something, or ask a customer if they are happy. Instead, she probably thought of an emotion such as expressed by the German adjective froh, or French joyeux. Of course, to be really sure, I should ask her. The point here nevertheless is that speakers of languages other than English often feel that they would not use their own word for ‘happy’ on all occasions when speakers of English use happy. They feel that their word is too strong and that no such emotion is actually being discussed.

Be it as it may, the point about the students feeling safe really hit me. While discussing the matter in a smaller group, I realized that rather than feeling especially happy, my students might often feel safe. This is because I try to give them many opportunities to express their ideas and emotions and to tell me what they think and how they feel about the courses I teach or about my teaching. I am also open about my own thinking and emotions and can say, for example, that I am particularly tired on a certain day and might say something silly or make a mistake.

I would nevertheless like to add that experience tells me most students are unlikely to be open about these kinds of things after the first or even the second seminar. For example, today I talked to a student face to face and when they left, they said that they were feeling completely exhausted. My gut feeling is that this student would not have told this in the beginning of the term because they seemed reserved and somewhat intimidated by me. Therefore, if you wish to introduce openness about emotions in a course, I recommend that you be consistent and persistent in creating room for it. You cannot force expression of emotion but you can let students understand that it is allowed.

8 reaktioner till “Blog 4: Topic 4

  1. I fully agree that the word ”happy” has different connotations to different people. I can be perfectly comfortable and safe in a course without describing myself as happy (ie smiley happy people). Online or on site we only become honest about feelings when we feel safe and that is a process that always takes time. Some courses are too short to establish this level of trust.


  2. Thank you Alastair for your comment! I have just been thinking of my today’s face-to-face teaching, too, and it is clear that there is plenty of variation among students. Some know me since before and are really familiar with me, others are as if warming up, venturing to comment more and to express some emotion, and then there is a third group who are more reserved from my point of view. At the same time, I would probably need to ask them if I wanted to know if they feel safe in my seminars, because a person who feels safe is not necessarily always loud and active. They could be pondering on things silently instead.


  3. Thank you for posting this blog post and for the insight about the connotations of the word ”happy”. Indeed, it is central for learning to have a safe environment and to feel safe, and it is great that you remind us of this also in the context of our ONL.


  4. It is an interesting take on being ‘happy’ Heli. Emotions are easier to grasp in face to face interactions. I think that in the online context the facilitator has to be aware of things such as facial expressions, body language, and use of language to promote emotions that are conducive to learning.


  5. Hi Heli,

    my experience is that many students are reservedly towards talking about emotions and feelings in teaching situations. Maybe because the ”distance” between the teacher and the students. I have recognized that it takes time for students to open up and that they should see a teacher as a human being and not only as a person with knowledge to be respected. Then they are more open to feelings and emotions and hopefully ready to share their own emotions and feelings. Probably easier in small students groups or in one-on-one situations.


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  6. Thank you! That is right. This reminds me of the student who followed me last week after class. I was completely sunken in my thoughts, but the student tapped my shoulder and told me that s/he is not so good at what they are supposed to do in the course and might need some help. I am glad the student dared to approach me when nobody else was around.



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