From classroom to classZoom: Participation and engagement in an online environment

  • Aurora Murphy UTS
  • Deborah Nixon UTS
  • Joseph Yeo UTS


Student participation and engagement are central to learning, yet behaviours that indicate participation and cognitive engagement can differ in online and face-to-face classes. This difference became apparent in 2020, when universities around the world transitioned from face-to-face classrooms to wholly online classes. With this move, tutors’ perceptions of participation and engagement changed. Based on written reflections by 13 tutors who teach at an Australian university, we found that tutors recognised new/different indicators of engagement in the classZoom. In addition, the tutors observed that issues around student diversity and access greatly influence how students participate in the classZoom. Tutors also learnt not to assume that students were not participating and engaging online if they did not enact the same behaviours expected of them in face-to-face classes. Using active learning theories, this paper argues that participation and engagement can be understood and fostered online with particular attention to student diversity and digital access. These understandings enrich current pedagogical perceptions and inform educators to ‘design in’ more active forms of engagement in the classZoom. What has been learnt through this experience has salience beyond the confines of COVID lockdowns and into hybrid modalities of online and face-to-face teaching practices.

Author Biographies

Aurora Murphy, UTS

Dr Aurora Murphy has been working in the area of academic communication for 20 years. During this time, she has worked with a range of learners across Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam and England. She has a PhD in performance studies and is interested in how communication is performed live and online.

Deborah Nixon, UTS

Dr Deborah Nixon has worked with the Academic Language and Learning team at UTS for 16 years. She has designed and delivered language workshops and tutorial material to support students and staff in the FASS and Law. Her PhD in social enquiry informs her transdisciplinary approach to language and learning.

Joseph Yeo, UTS

Joseph Yeo is the ALL academic liaison for the UTS Business School. He has been involved in the implementation of the UTS Embedding English Language Framework since 2019. Joseph works closely with academics in embedding academic literacies in curriculum, and supporting students in the development of their academic literacy skills.

How to Cite
MurphyA., NixonD., & YeoJ. (2022). From classroom to classZoom: Participation and engagement in an online environment. Journal of Academic Language and Learning, 16(1), C12-C25. Retrieved from
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