Dramaturgy: A sociological perspective for conceptualising Me. Us. IT in the context of online learning

Experimental session

Dawn Gilmore
Swinburne University of Technology, Faculty of Health, Arts and Design

Catch this session

Monday 4 December, 3.30pm – 4.30pm
Stream 1
Room H102


A dramaturgical analysis seeks to understand people’s everyday lives through the aspects of a theatre. I propose that this is a useful analogy for illustrating how students experience learning in an online subject. Based on this analogy, an online student is an actor who crafts performances within the front stage and backstage of a particular university subject.

At the start of this session attendees are introduced to three theatre stages. These stages are defined as the front stage (the LMS), the backstage online (internet websites and social media), and the backstage offline (conversations with family, friends, and colleagues). Following this, attendees will meet student-avatars who play the theatre roles of performer, cameo, extra, and stagehand. The creation of the student-avatars was informed by a fourteen-month study of online university students. During this time data was collected from 224 student observations, 120 questionnaires, 26 interviews, and the content analysis of 1,857 discussion board posts.

Each student-avatar will communicate their learning journey by briefly sharing how they experience learning in the front stage, backstage online, and backstage offline. Through their stories, their preferences and patterns for individual experiences, group experiences, and the tools they most commonly use for university related tasks come to light. With the student-avatars in mind, attendees will design a short learning experience that acknowledges how students enact multiple identities across the three performance stages. The learning experiences will be collated into an online book that will be shared with conference attendees. This book symbolises how we can harness our collective intelligence to support online students.

About the authors

Dawn Gilmore

Dawn Gilmore has over 15 years of practice and research in teaching and learning in higher education. She has worked in institutions in the United States, Australia, Japan, England, China, and most recently South Africa. She has a M.S.Ed. in Intercultural Communication from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.S.Ed. in Social Sciences from Temple University. Her Ph.D. research explored where and with whom university students experience learning. During her doctoral candidature she was a Visiting Scholar at in the Centre for Teaching, Learning, and Development at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa), where she researched the role of communities of practices in a Post Graduate Diploma of Higher Education. Overall, her research seeks to understand how students’ learning is situated across time and spaces. She also has broader interests in learning, community, and technology. Dawn is currently writing a book that is largely based on the content from this presentation.