Hrastinski, S. (2008). A theory of online learning as online participation. Computers & Education, 78-82.
Hrastinski provides a theory that online participation can be online learning. The article makes the distinction that online participation is more than just posting on a forum. Online participation according to Hrastinski is “…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” (Hrastinksi, 2008). The author does not rely on the definition presented as the only evidence as to what online participation is.
In following sections the author presents characteristics of what online participation entails. The first characteristic is the idea that ” participation is a complex process of taking part and maintaining relations with others” (Hrastinski, 2008). The author then ties this characteristic to Wenger’s (1998) definition of participation and which overlaps with the idea of community. Hrastinksi then summarizes that “…the concepts of sense of community, learning communities and knowledge-building communities are closely related with learning as participation” (Hrastinski, 2008).
The next characteristic of online participation is the idea that “participation is supported by physical and psychological tools” (Hrastinski, 2008). The purpose of this characteristic is to explain how important not only physical tools such as the media and medium are to online learning and participation but also psychological tools such as communication. The idea of communication goes beyond just posting on a forum. Hrastinski contends that communication has historically been lacking in online learning.
The characteristic of “participation is not synonymous with talking or writing” (Hrastinski, 2008), is presented. Hrastinski puts forth the idea that social settings are means of participation even when there is no communication, “participation occurs on both personal and social levels. Thus, it should be clarified that we may participate socially even at times when we are not engaged in a conversation with someone”(Hrastinski, 2008). The idea of online participation cannot just rely on communication in the form or written or spoken word. To research online participation the researcher must go beyond the surface of looking at things such as forum messages, “….relying solely on simplistic quantitative measures, such as counting the number of messages learners write, when researching online learner participation is not sufficient”( Hrastinski, 2008).
The final characteristic is “participation is supported by all kinds of engaging activities” (Hrastinksi, 2008). Hrastinski makes a point to state that participation should not be confused with collaboration. While collaboration is the idea of learning through socialization with others, participation can be achieved through various means, “participation may involve all kinds of relations, conflictual as well as harmonious, intimate as well as political, competitive as well as cooperative” (Wenger, 1998). Hrastinski summarizes that, “…participation involves everything we do and feel when being part of engaging experiences” (Hrastinski, 2008).
In conclusion Hrastinski theorizes that online learning and online participation cannot be mutually exclusive of one another. To have a robust online learning experience, the online participation must be robust as well. Hrastinski argues that online participation is ” (1) is a complex process of taking part and maintaining relations with others, (2) is supported by physical and psychological tools, (3) is not synonymous with talking or writing, and (4) is supported by all kinds of engaging activities” (Hrastinski, 2008).
This article is only 5 pages long but the author makes good use of the 5 pages. Each section is clearly laid out in within a few sentences the reader understands what will be presented. Each section and/or paragraph concludes with a preview of what will be presented next. This is a presentation of a theory and uses previous researches and articles to advance the theory. Having the author present research data to back up what is theorizes would have made his theories more compelling and the article stronger. As it is presented it’s a theory without data to back it up.
Hrastinski, Stefan. “A theory of online learning as online participation.” Computers & Education (2008): 78-82.
This article was fascinating because the idea of online participation and online learning being inclusive was not something I’d ever considered. Although after reading this article I do agree that with online learning, the construct used in traditional settings do not translate to learning. I teach virtual and face to face courses for the same classes and I do have to modify the courses for virtual to be sure that the students are kept engaged.
My research interests always come back to online learning and more granually, adult online learning, but this article helped to pull out another piece to that interests of how to best incorporate online participation into adult online learning. It is exciting when an article helps to further shape your research interests.