As part of my on-going education in learning technology, I’m currently at the beginning of a deep dive into research surrounding the development of student and educator identity in an Online Learning Environment (OLE), examined through the lens of a Community of Inquiry (COI). I’m specifically interested in how this might be achieved through the adoption of a community building platform called Discord. Discord was launched in early 2015 as a platform designed to create online communities for video game users and is “just now realizing it may have stumbled into something like the future of the internet” (Pierce, 2020, para. 4).
This platform allows for robust interactions between participants including text chat, voice, and screen sharing moderated through granular permission controls and divided into topics controlled through communities (referred to on Discord as “servers”) and discussions (referred to as “channels”). How might the use of a Social Networking Site (SNS), like Discord, impact the development of student and educator online identities to facilitate social, teaching, and cognitive presence in a COI, and how might that both positively and negatively impact learning?
A few areas of concern related to identity development in an OLE are context collapse, miscategorization, and othering. Dennen and Burner (2017) asserted that context collapse occurs when two or more separate identity fragments converge, either intentionally or otherwise. An example of this might occur when a student has developed a personal identity on an SNS and is then required to use it for educational purposes, forcing the collision of both the personal and student identities. This collision could have both positive and negatives outcomes. One negative outcome could be a possible identity miscategorization. Lowenthal and Dennen (2017) observed that while we can communicate qualities of our identity online, we do not have complete control over its development and interpretation by others. As a result, a student’s identity can be interpreted differently than how they see themselves which can result in a reduced social presence. Finally, othering, is the concept of isolating individuals from discourse as a result of their incongruence with the dominant ideas of the community. This can negatively impact social presence, as Phirangee and Malec (2017) observed, when learners can’t identify with the majority of their classmates and may find themselves with a reduced capacity to interact with the learning community.
It’s been my observation with my exploration of Discord, that it may be well positioned to reduce the likelihood of the aforementioned concerns surrounding online identity. Primarily, as it provides infrastructure which can be used to maintain separation between personal and educational identity fragments, through the use of servers and multiple accounts, it may reduce the possibility of context collapse. This fragment separation may also reduce miscategorization and othering, but I need to explore this further.
I would love to hear your feedback on what I’ve explored so far and any possible questions or recommendations you may have.
Dennen, V. P., & Burner, K. J. (2017). Identity, context collapse, and Facebook use in higher education: Putting presence and privacy at odds. Distance Education, 38(2), 173–192. https://doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2017.1322453
Lowenthal, P. R., & Dennen, V. P. (2017). Social presence, identity, and online learning: research development and needs. Distance Education, 38(2), 137–140. https://doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2017.1335172
Phirangee, K., & Malec, A. (2017). Othering in online learning: An examination of social presence, identity, and sense of community. Distance Education, 38(2), 160–172. https://doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2017.1322457
Pierce, D. (2020). How Discord (somewhat accidentally) invented the future of the internet. Protocol. https://www.protocol.com/discord