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Talk in Virtual Contexts: Reflecting on Participation and Online Learning Models

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Pedagogy, Culture and Society Volume 15, Number 3, ISSN 1468-1366


Computer-mediated conferencing has been adopted, particularly for purposes of online course provision, as a method that can deliver community. Widespread interest in a communities-of-practice approach within both informal and formal learning has strengthened perceptions of the value of creating a community online. A case study of asynchronous computer conferencing for the purposes of leadership development in schools is the focus for a study of the features and the discursive quality of the online interaction that occurred. Two analytical approaches are used: discourse analysis and social network analysis. These highlighted different aspects of the case, in terms of the role of peers versus the expert moderator (or "hotseat guest"), the extent of readership versus contribution and the tone and content of the discussion. Evidence that contributors were learning from the interaction was identified and strong links with place-based communities of practice were also evident. Nevertheless, the online interaction could not be said to constitute a community or to be evidently developing in that direction. Its features as a network, where weak links were key to a sharing and knowledge-construction process, were more salient. Networks offer the potential for weak connections that have a particular value for connecting across dispersed practitioners and potentially bridging between communities of practice and other forms of organisation and groupings. (Contains 2 tables and 2 figures.)


Thorpe, M., McCormick, R., Kubiak, C. & Carmichael, P. (2007). Talk in Virtual Contexts: Reflecting on Participation and Online Learning Models. Pedagogy, Culture and Society, 15(3), 349-366. Retrieved May 25, 2019 from .

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