Reflection on Topic 1: Online Participation & Digital Literacies

Joanne Kuai

When I first started teaching as a first-year doctoral student, covid struck. I had envisioned myself as a teacher greeting those young and radiant faces of the Swedish and international youth in the classroom, walking around the lab, answering students’ questions on the spot, and drawing on the whiteboard enthusiastically to illustrate a concept. All these went to the drain. Instead, I had Zoom rooms as my classroom and floating big heads and even “blackholes” as my audiences. Adaption must be made, and quickly. Luckily, the hardware and software infrastructure were mostly in place. Colleagues were also eager to share experiences and tips and tricks for all of us to learn and improve and adapt to the online teaching/learning environment. How I wished I had taken a pedagogical course like Open Network Learning (ONL) beforehand to better prepare myself for that. But it’s never too late. As Rugube et al., (2020) pointed out, online learning has its unique value of flexibility, and with proper methods adopted, the rich learning experience is not necessarily diminished.

There are many learnings from the sessions and literature from the first few weeks of the ONL experience. I’ll highlight the following three:

  1. Digital literacy as a development process: there are many facets of digital literacy that not only include media literacy, ICT literacy but also career & identity management, etc. (Developing Digital Literacies – Jisc infoNet, 2014). Each of the elements deserves attention to comprehensively develop our capabilities for an online teaching/learning environment. Literacy is also about development and needs to be contextualized and even applied to individuals differently. Raised awareness will be the first step for such development to be purposed and evaluated and improved;
  2. Be patient and practice empathy: each participant in the online learning environment, be it a teacher, student, or facilitator, comes with their own values. Some may be more advanced in some aspects, and some may need a bit more help to begin with, but each one can make a contribution. Respect the differences and be agile to facilitate. The generosity should also extend to oneself. Allow oneself time to adapt and learn. As our Karlstad University’s local facilitator, Ann Vestfält mentioned: “Trust the process”. We are on this journey together and we carry each other;
  3. Constant reflexivity and share good energy: as a member of academia, reflexivity almost comes as a default setting for anyone who wants to learn and improve in a meaningful way. Applied in an online learning environment, such a practice is beneficial not only for oneself but also for other participants and helps to equip with the knowledge and skills necessary at a good pace and evolve together as a community. The good energy aspect also lies in the importance of great emotional support’s tremendous value in creating learning experiences that are meaningful and rewarding.

As bell hooks (2010, p. 20) discussed convincingly the importance of engaged pedagogy, and she does not “begin to teach in any setting without first laying the foundation for building community in the classroom”. This educational philosophy aims to create an optimal learning environment that emphasizes mutual participation for the movement of ideas exchanged by everyone may forge a meaningful working relationship between teachers and students, and between students and students in the classroom. Although the online teaching environment may add to the complexity of the matter, with continued critical reflective academic practice, we can still strive for the best learning outcomes for all the students and build a community in the online environment (Gillett-Swan, 2017).



Developing digital literacies—Jisc infoNet. (2014, October 11).

Gillett-Swan, J. (2017). The challenges of online learning: Supporting and engaging the isolated learner. Journal of Learning Design10(1), 20–30.

hooks,  bell. (2010). Teaching critical thinking: Practical wisdom. Routledge.

Rugube, T., Mthethwa-Kunene, K. E., & Maphosa, C. (2020). PROMOTING INTERACTIVITY IN ONLINE LEARNING – TOWARDS THE ACHIEVEMENT OF HIGH-QUALITY ONLINE LEARNING OUTCOMES. European Journal of Open Education and E-Learning Studies5(2), Article 2.

Navigating the online learning world