Scholars of teaching and learning recognize that interacting with ideas and acquiring skills involve both cognition and emotion. Based on the premise that the social aspects of a class affect a learner’s participation, I argue that informal communication enables students to be thinking and feeling beings and thus is part of building a strong learning community. Teaching online requires us to think differently about communication and how it shapes a learning community. The form and structure of online interactions makes it difficult to curate informal communication that is productive and supports rather than obstructs learning. I draw on my experience teaching 100% online courses and build on the literature about emotion and learning, feminist pedagogy, and online pedagogies to offer a framework for rethinking informal communication in an online learning environment and encourage educators to actively make space for it in their teaching. These moments of informality help a student develop their social presence—or the sense that they are a real person—which is especially important in distance education.

You do not currently have access to this content.