Participation, collaboration, and networked learning

This article focuses on participation and non-participation as it affects networked learning: learning through connections with others, which implies an opportunity to collaborate and participate. The authors look at a course was designed specifically for mandatory participation and how ‘participative learning can involved unintended domination and control, especially if it is adopted unreflexively by tutors [professors or teachers] and/or participants’ (Ferreday and Hodgson, 2008, p. 640).

Ferreday, D., and Hodgson, V. (2008) ‘The Tyranny of Participation and Collaboration in Networked Learning’, Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Networked Learning. Halkidiki, Greece, 5-6 May. Lancaster University [Online]. Available at

(I have notes for two articles that use the phrase “tyranny of participation” in the title. The other one is Gourlay, L. (2015) ”Student engagement’ and the tyranny of participation’.)


  1. Introduction
  2. The ‘dark side’ of participation
    1. MA in Management Learning and Leadership (MAMLL) as a case study
  3. The tyranny of participation
    1. The potential for the tyranny of participation within MAMLL
    2. Non-tyrannical participation in MAMLL: the ‘5 minute social’ thread
  4. Heterotopia
  5. Conclusions


Critical reflection

Critical reflection is important for learning, but Ferreday and Hodgson (2008) summarize Brookfield’s (1994) work when listing some of the more negative side effects of critical reflection. These definitions come from an abstract of Brookfield’s article  , as I can’t access a full article.

That is, critical reflection is an uncomfortable part of learning as the learner becomes enculturated in new ways of being and thinking and tries to incorporate the newer community within their constellation of communities.

Networked learning

Networked learning without reflexivity on the processes of participation leads to tyranny, oppression, and control.

If participation in networked learning occurs without reflexivity, then it can become what Ferreday and Hodgson (2008) refer to as tyranny. Participation is important to learning but in ‘requiring students to engage in participation we are putting demands on them and ourselves that are complex and which in itself demands a degree of circumspection and reflexivity on the parts of both staff and students’ (Ferreday and Hodgson, 2008, p. 640).

The study

The authors looked at the participation in a Master’s-level program. The program was designed to be highly-dependent on student participation, and all students were notified of this fact before they began the program. What they originally noticed was in each cohort, there were some students who were perceived by the group as not participating and not supporting the group’s efforts toward the social construction of knowledge. The result was a lot of frustration for all parties.

When the dominant view of the group was that participation was needed by all students, this turned into a demand for participation which made the people who were not participating feel marginalized. Support and participation become ‘intertwined with a notion of privileging the community over the individual: one’s individual emotions have to be overcome in the interests of the group’ (Ferreday and Hodgson, 2008, pp. 644-645).


The authors briefly mention that you can have non-tyrannical participation by providing spaces in which people feel free to participate as they wish, including with non-academic jargon, and then they refer to their 2006 article.

See also

Brookfield, S (1994) Tales from the Dark Side: a phenomenography of adult critical reflection, International Journal of Lifelong Education 13 (3), 203-218.

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