The question of the differences separating online from face-to-face educational contexts has been raised repeatedly in the research literature of education and design over the last 15 years. It has been posed and framed in a variety of ways: through media comparison studies, in surveys of student experience, and even via in-depth ontological analyses (e.g., Dreyfus, 2001). In this presentation, Dr. Norm Friesen takes a somewhat different approach, using both hermeneutic phenomenology as well as phenomenologically-informed understandings of pedagogy as ways of first defining and then analyzing what separates online from face-to-face.
The presentation focuses first on the role of the body in mediated and unmediated communications: it is not simply a source of gestural and other “signals” that are lost in mediated communications, as much research insists (e.g. Walther, 1996). Instead, the body brings with it what Merleau-Ponty describes as “an ambiguous mode of existing” –an ambiguity that cannot be entirely separated from the context around it, and that is inextricably intertwined with issues of identity, emotion, sensitivity and agency. Building on this understanding, Dr. Friesen articulates an expanded recognition of the body in pedagogy, especially as pedagogy is understood in experientially and relationally. The presentation concludes by exploring the pedagogically-significant phenomenon of silence in offline educational contexts and in online teaching and learning. Only offline is silence capable of communicating what Løgstrup (1997) has identified as the “silent demand.” This demand can be described as event of communication that involves a kind of “yielding” which “opens me to meet the other” (Dauenhauer, 1980), and which is an integral part of pedagogical encounters.