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The global, cross-sector conference and exhibition
on technology-supported learning and training

Berlin, December 1 — 3, 2021



Love Letters and Pen Pals: Creating Online Community through Correspondence

OEB speaker Sean Michael Morris

Sean Michael Morris

Director of Digital Pedagogy Lab, University of Colorado Denver,

Over the past two decades working with instructors at every level of education, the plainest objection to online learning has been that it is impossible to preserve classroom pedagogy—much less intimacy and community—when separated from students by distance, with only a screen to connect teachers with their classes. While "research-based" methods of teaching online, and the instructional design that unwinds from them, offer a lot of guarantees on the matters of student success, quality assurance, standardization, and replicable results, none go so far as to provide not just a sense of community, but community real and palpable.

In this hybrid workshop, we will explore synchronous and asynchronous approaches to creating meaningful communities in online learning environments. We will take as our example the tradition of letter writing, and we will experiment with a few forms during our time together, and also extrapolate solutions appropriate to each of our own unique circumstances.

Participants in this workshop will be asked to complete a few readings prior to the workshop. Those readings are listed below. While not strictly required, these readings will provide a backdrop and important context in order to fully participate in the synchronous workshop on 1 December.


One week before

Recommended readings

Day of workshop

16:30-16:45: Welcome and Introductions

16:45-17:30: Presentation and Discussion: community in online learning

17:30-18:00: Writing exercises

18:00-18:20: Collaboration and invention

18:20-18:30: Wrap-up

Recommended Readings

Expected Outcomes

Participants in this workshop can expect to engage in collaboration and lively conversation about inventive ways to create meaningful communities in online learning environments. In light of our current situation under the pandemic, the workshop will expose participants to a hybrid learning experience blending both asynchronous and synchronous components. Participants must come prepared to write on a laptop, tablet, or with a pen and paper.

Participants will:

  • Learn the basic tenets of critical instructional design, an outgrowth of critical digital pedagogy;
  • Discover narrative approaches to teaching and community-building;
  • Collaborate on and workshop approaches to creating meaningful communities in online environments;
  • Leave the session with 2-3 methods which they can apply to their own teaching or design.

Who Will Benefit Most from Taking Part

Educational technologists, learning and instructional designers, faculty who teach online.

PLEASE NOTE: As seats are limited to encourage interaction, you will need to pre-register for this workshop on the conference registration form.