Creating a Safe Space for Online Participation and Digital Literacies

As the world embraces online learning, many individuals, like the one in the given scenario, find themselves navigating new digital landscapes that can be both exciting and challenging. To ensure a positive experience for everyone, it’s crucial to create a safe space for online participation. In this blog post, we’ll explore the roles of participants and facilitators in achieving this, as well as the relationship between Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) and Community of Inquiry (CoI).

Participants may feel unsafe in online environments due to a lack of familiarity with the group, uncertainty about their abilities or knowledge, the fear of being judged, or concerns about offending others. Creating a safe space is essential to foster psychological safety, which promotes engagement, knowledge sharing, diversity of thought, and team learning.  

CSCL and CoI are interconnected concepts in educational technology. CSCL refers to the use of technology to support collaborative learning, while CoI is a framework that focuses on social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence as essential elements for successful online learning. CSCL environments can facilitate the development of a strong CoI and improve learning outcomes.  

To create a safe space for online participation, facilitators and participants can take the following steps:

  1. Establish ground rules that emphasize respect and inclusivity.
  2. Acknowledge cultural backgrounds and differences.
  3. Provide clear instructions and expectations.
  4. Create a sense of community through activities and collaborative learning tools.
  5. Ensure facilitators and instructors are available and provide support and feedback.

Additionally, facilitators should integrate safe space considerations into the curriculum and maintain this atmosphere throughout the course. They can also design specific activities that support the safe space dimension and provide positive feedback to encourage participation and learning.  

Participants, on the other hand, can contribute to creating a safe space by:

  1. Encouraging and supporting others.
  2. Showing interest in other ideas and acknowledging different perspectives.
  3. Respecting others’ ideas and being open-minded.
  4. Actively listening and avoiding interruptions.
  5. Using positive nonverbal communication to create a welcoming atmosphere.
  6. Focusing on discussing ideas instead of launching personal attacks.
  7. Using inclusive language to promote respect, empathy, and understanding.

The role of humor can also be essential in creating a safe space, as it can help to build rapport and foster a sense of camaraderie among participants.  

In conclusion, creating a safe space for online participation is a collaborative effort between facilitators and participants. By fostering psychological safety, embracing the principles of CSCL and CoI, and actively working to maintain a respectful and inclusive environment, we can ensure that everyone feels comfortable engaging in the learning process, sharing their knowledge, and benefiting from the diverse perspectives that digital literacy offers.


Karel Kreijins, Paul, A. Kirschner & Marjan Vermeulen, Social Aspects of CSCL Environments: A Research Framework, Education Psychologist, 48 (2013), 229-242;

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.

Rourke, L., Anderson, T., Garrison, D. R., & Archer, W. (2001). Assessing social presence in asynchronous, text-based computer conferencing. Journal of Distance Education, 14(2), 51-70.

Creating a Safe and Supportive Learning Environment (


Very well summarized piece about creating safe spaces for online participation. I really like how you have emphasized here the roles of both the facilitator and the learner. I feel like I have earlier focused too much on the facilitator role and have not emphasized the learner’s role in this matter. Our group work on this topic and your summary will help myself moving forward in this matter.

Thanks Marko for your reflections on topic 1, it was a great summary regarding the importance of creating a safe space and study environment for student.

As a facilitator, and in your role as a teacher – how do you embrace this in your class rooms, or online settings? Could you show examples of this and how you apply it to your professional life?

Could you also provide us with the references to your text so that we can also go deeper into the different terminology you are using in your reflection?

Thank you for your comment!

At the beginning of each course, I establish ground rules that encourage respect and inclusivity, outlining expectations for interactions. For example, one rule might be that all participants should listen to others’ ideas without interrupting, promoting active listening and fostering an environment of respect.

To ensure psychological safety, I consistently emphasize that the classroom is a judgment-free zone, where it’s perfectly okay to make mistakes or not know something. I encourage students to share their thoughts freely, stating that every contribution enhances our collective learning.

In addition, sometimes I give a well-timed joke or light-hearted comment can help to reduce stress, making the learning environment feel more comfortable and friendly.

As for the references, I will add them to the post.

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