Researching participatory literacy and positioning in online learning communities

Hauck, Mirjam; Galley, Rebecca and Warnecke, Sylvia (2016). Researching participatory literacy and positioning in online learning communities. In: Farr, Fiona and Murray, Liam eds. The Routledge Handbook of Language Learning and Technology. Routledge Handbooks in Applied Linguistics. London: Routledge, pp. 71–87.



As discussed in earlier chapters, the potential of Web 2.0 tools and social networking environments for enhanced peer interaction is being recognised across the education sector. Many institutions are moving their blended and online learning provision from a ‘computer-as-tutor’ approach towards models which foster knowledge co-construction and sharing in socially networked learning communities. Yet, many education professionals find that they do not have the skills required to help their students to fully benefit from this paradigm shift.

The TESOL-Electronic Village Online (EVO) 2012 module Tutoring with Web 2.0 tools – Designing for Social Presence provides the backdrop for this contribution. The module was designed to develop effective learner-centred online moderation skills, with a focus on the role of Social Presence (SP). Although hosted by the EVO, the programme was open to practitioners from all subject areas, and participants represented a multifaceted community in terms of educational, social and cultural backgrounds, online learning and teaching skills, and ICT literacy.

Drawing on examples from the participants' learning journey we hypothesise that a group’s capacity to send and read SP cues is a precondition for successful knowledge creation and sharing in online learning communities. Our findings provide new insights into the notion of online participation and challenge aspects of Garrison et al.’s (2000) Community of Inquiry (CoI) model. In accordance with Morgan (2011) we highlight the need for a different way of conceptualising what happens in networked learning contexts taking into account aspects such as learner identity, creative agency and participatory literacy.

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