Hrastinski, S. (2009). A theory of online learning as online participation. Computers & Education, 52(1), 78–82
In this article, Hrastinski (2009) presents the argument that online participation is a critical and often undervalued aspect of online learning and that models which relegate it to solely a social aspect for learning are ignoring its larger contributions to how students connect to materials and each other in the online environment. In support of his ideas, Hrastinski (2009) offers an overview of literature on online participation which highlights that online learning is “best accomplished when learners participate and collaborate” (p. 79) and this translates into better learning outcomes when measured by “perceived learning, grades, tests and quality of performances and assignments” (p. 79). In order to evaluate online participation, Hrastinski (2009) presents a conceptualization of online participation as more than just counting how often a student participates in a conversation but rather reflects on the online participation as “a process of learning by taking part and maintaining relations with others. It is a complex process comprising doing, communicating, thinking, feeling and belonging which occurs both online and offline” (p. 80). Hrastinski (2009) in reflecting on the work of others, offers up a view that participation creates community which in turn supports collaboration and construction of knowledge-building communities which foster learning between each other and the group at large. This learning through participation requires physical tools for structuring this participation and the psychological tools to help the learner engage with the materials. This suggests examining aspects of motivation to learn within the structure of designing materials directed towards participation. He presents this means we should be looking at participation through more than just counting how much someone talks or writes but developing activities which require engagement with others in variety of learning modes.
While the importance of participation being seen as a critical component of online learning and the idea of reflecting on ways in which students may reflect online participation through more than just discussion boards is a good thing to see. Hrastinski (2009) offers little in terms of concrete examples to demonstrate how he sees this theory of online participation playing out through these different learning modes. While he may not have included examples as a way of preventing a formulaic approach to considering online participation, the inclusion of either examples or greater descriptions with how he sees faculty being able to construct both the physical and psychological tools of online participation would have been helpful for those less familiar with these to visualize the increasing ways they can apporach structuring online engagement.
As I have a deep interest in examining ways in which community and culture are structured through online classes and the impacts this has on learning, I found this article both intersting and encouraging for research avenues. In particular the rethinking he proposes on how we see online participation being constructed is encouraging and I would like to see the ways in which faculty and students may seem this idea of “what is participation” similarly or differently and the connection these perceptions have on how they both approach online larning and how they evaluate online learning.