Cyber nuts and bolts: effective participatory online learning, theory and practice




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Peer reviewed



This article presents emergent findings from an empirical research study conducted during Covid lockdown with 52 undergraduate students at a UK university November 2020-April 2021. The research study, which adopts a teacher-practitioner stance, builds on a 2012-2019 programme of research (represented by publications including Barnard 2019) which explores the potentials and dangers that digital technologies hold for pedagogy and education. It is located in the field of Creative Writing and uses the discipline’s pedagogical practice of ‘workshopping’ as a case study. The Creative Writing workshop centres on the exchange of information and critically informed comment by participating students (generally in small groups), and, as such, has similarities with seminars in other disciplines. Hence it is hoped that this article will be of benefit both in the home discipline and more widely. The contention of this article is that, to maintain quality in the delivery of participatory online teaching, it is necessary to ensure an ongoing feedback loop between individuals’ bodily existence ‘IRL’ (‘In Real Life’) and the section of cyberspace that they carve out and inhabit collaboratively during virtual seminar groups. It considers how the cliché of the ‘digital native’ can inhibit learning and the role of affect in enabling productive online and engagement. In taking initial steps towards development of a pedagogy of affect in which a ‘neutral terrain’ is established that enables students to apply and develop close reading skills in an online environment, it presents a new theoretical position on what constitutes effective pedagogy in the context of participatory virtual classrooms.


open access article


Digital, Pedagogy, Digital Native, Blended learning, Affect, Creative Writing


Barnard, J. (2023) Cyber nuts and bolts: effective participatory online learning, theory and practice. Convergence, 29 (1), pp. 116–135


Research Institute

Institute of English