Online teaching practices : Sociomaterial matters in higher education settings

Abstract: The aim of this study was to describe and analyse online teaching practices in the Swedish higher education context. The study had an online ethnographic approach and was based on empirical data on the teaching in two university courses. The study rested primarily on observational data but interviews and available documents also formed the basis for analysis. Empirical data were analysed with a perspective of practice theory – a perspective within a sociomaterial account. The results showed that online teaching was characterised by an embodied sociomaterial practice. The teacher’s body could be understood as both multiple and closely interwoven with technology. Furthermore, the teacher’s body was used in the teaching situation to reduce technological complexity but also, along with other forms of materiality, to prefigure what kind of teaching would take place. Teacher interventions in online environments could furthermore be understood as relational to both technology (that is the virtual material arrangement) and teachers’ doings and sayings (that is the teaching practice). Teacher interventions were aimed at making the arrangement intelligible for the students. The study showed that teacher interventions arranged both students and information and communication technology (ICT) in order to make them work as a teaching practice. The teaching practice that emerged was characterised as an interplay between virtual materiality and social practice, where asymmetricrelations between teachers and the ICT prevailed.

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