Conformity in a 'Canned Course': The Suppression of Authentic Dialogue in Graded Online Discussion Forums

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Emma MacFarlane


The recent shift to online learning environments in higher education has elicited complex issues pertaining to student demographics, course structure and content, and the instructor’s role. In this paper, I explore tensions that I have experienced as an online teaching assistant of an upper-level undergraduate arts course in a mid-size North American university. I am required to adhere to a predetermined course rubric in marking students’ assignments, and all instances of students’ engagement in the course are assessed according to this rubric. I therefore uncomfortably embody a primarily evaluative role. I argue that the assessment of students’ online discussion forum, especially, impacts their ability to engage in authentic dialogue, forcing them to adhere to hegemonic academic standards of structure and content in their responses.


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How to Cite
MacFarlane, E. (2018). Conformity in a ’Canned Course’: The Suppression of Authentic Dialogue in Graded Online Discussion Forums. SFU Educational Review, 10(2).
Author Biography

Emma MacFarlane, Simon Fraser University

M.A. Candidate, Faculty of Education