Professor Henderson shares insights on virtual learning
March 3, 2021
Sheri Henderson, Professor of Writing, has been busy this winter term sharing best practices of virtual teaching during a pandemic. Henderson co-presented with Professor Virginia Robson, Instructor and Curriculum Coordinator for the University of Pittsburgh’s English Language Institute, to make two virtual presentations, one emanating from Cairo and another from Dubai.
Both presentations were variations on Social Presence Theory and its recent resurgence as a crucial component for successful learning in virtual environments.
“This theory is by no means new: whether the course is traditional, in-person face-to-face, or online - where learning is synchronous, asynchronous, or blended - feeling connected to the learning community is crucial for both students and instructors,” says Henderson.
“One benefit for me during the pandemic has been the chance to interact and learn from colleagues who are physically located around the world. In the span of a couple hours ‘in Egypt’ I attended live sessions hosted by presenters in Myanmar, England, the USA, and all parts of Egypt. This year’s conference was free to attend and its virtual format permitted attendees who could not normally afford to travel to Cairo the chance to participate in an international conference,” says Henderson.
The first presentation “The Importance of Being Present in Remote/Online Teaching,” took place at the “Digitalize Globalize Nile TESOL 2021 Virtual Conference” held virtually from Cairo, Egypt in February 2021. It was one of over 100 sessions and plenary events offered by Nile TESOL, an affiliate of the TESOL International Association. (TESOL International Association, formerly Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, is the largest professional organization for teachers of English as a second or foreign language.)
The presentation focused on Social Presence Theory and tips for classroom practices in different remote learning situations, stressing it is pedagogical presence, not physical presence, which matters and building rapport humanizes online classrooms.
More information on the Nile TESOL Conference, and the program, are available here: https://sites.google.com/view/niletesol2021virtualconference/home.
“Of course, we gave shout-outs to our own institutions, as well as The Write Place at King’s,” says Henderson. At King’s, Professor Henderson is currently teaching Writing 1022 (online), working as a Writing Specialist at The Write Place, and hosting The Virtual Majlis each Monday for The Write Place.
Henderson and Robson also took part in the 1st International Conference on Emotional Intelligence, Happiness, and Wellbeing in Higher Education, held from Dubai in mid-February 2021. Their presentation “Presence Makes Everyone Happy,” discussed Social Presence Theory and its importance to social and emotional well-being. It was part of the conference’s theme by centering on the Social and Emotional benefits of establishing and nurturing connections in classrooms.
“Attending professional conferences like these is an exciting opportunity to present and exchange ideas about best practices. Professor Robson and I love sharing ‘what works‘ for us and our students, and we like to hear what works for others. We hope the participants will take away a few ideas or tips from our presentations to try out in their own classes,” says Henderson.