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Examining Online Forum Discussions as Practices of Digital Literacy in College-Level ESL Writing

, University of California, Santa Barbara, United States

University of California, Santa Barbara . Awarded


This research study examines the role of digital media, more specifically online forums, in the development of academic literacy and language learning in English as a Second Language (ESL) college writing. Studies in Second Language Acquisition suggest that participation in online forum discussions can potentially foster collaboration, self-expression, and active involvement, affording students with a learning environment that encourages critical thinking and problem-solving. Accordingly, online forum discussions used as educational environments can also become a powerful vehicle to support academic literacy development. In this context, this research study aims to provide a careful analysis of student participation in digital practices of literacy engaged through online forums in a college-level ESL class in order to understand what ESL students accomplish discursively when expressing and disputing opinions in an online forum discussion. Analysis will include: 1) detailed descriptive analysis of online forum discussions as forms of engagement in practices of digital literacy, with particular attention to the differences between online forum discussions as "everyday practices," engaged outside of school settings, and online forum discussions as "pedagogical practice," engaged in a college-level ESL writing class; 2) careful examination of the discourse of the contributions ESL students wrote in online forums with particular attention to viewing ESL students as multilingual individuals, creating language through expressing and disputing opinions in online forum discussions; 3) thoughtful consideration of the relationship between writing in online forum discussions and writing academic persuasive essays. As a consequence of this study, pedagogical uses and implications for teaching with digital literacies will also be investigated through critical examination of the design and application of online forum discussions in language learning and literacy educational practices.


Bauler, C.V. Examining Online Forum Discussions as Practices of Digital Literacy in College-Level ESL Writing. Ph.D. thesis, University of California, Santa Barbara. Retrieved March 27, 2019 from .

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