Spaces and places in online learning: perspectives from students and staff
Keywords:digital, space, psychogeography, non-place, agency
This paper is based on work carried out by the two authors during the first six months of 2021 – a period by which the practices of online learning and teaching had become familiarized and - to some extent - even standardized in our institution, as in most others.
We are interested first and foremost in the online teaching space as a social space: as an environment designed to facilitate the interactions that adhibit learning and teaching. How suitable are the environments that we have created to achieving such outcomes? Is it reasonable - for example - to describe the environments in which we learn and teach online as ‘spaces’, using the same word (and in virtually the same sense) that we use to describe the familiar physical teaching spaces of bricks-and-mortar locations?
Our primary research involved bringing learners, teachers and digital specialists together into online learning spaces, and then inviting all those present to represent their experiences of the virtual space, using simple analogue tools: coloured pens and paper. The results of these workshops form the basis for this paper.
In our conclusion, we attempt to formulate some explanations for the emotionally-inflected nature of these representations of digital learning spaces. Using concepts and approaches from psycho-geography (Augé), social-actor theory (Emirbeyer and Mische) and pedagogic theory (Gourlay, Wenger-Trayner), we begin to outline what might need to happen to the online learning environment as a social space for its full potential and promise to be realised.
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