A virtual panopticon in the community of practice: Students' experiences of being visible on social media

Jenny Waycott, Celia Thompson, Judithe Sheard, Rosemary Clerehan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


It has become commonplace in higher education for instructors to use social technologies to motivate and challenge their students and to support learning objectives. In some instances, social technologies are used to make students' assessable work visible to other people, such as peers and external audiences. This study investigates university students' responses to the requirement to make their assessable work visible online to others. Using the lens of the community of practice framework and the notion of a virtual panopticon, we analysed data from focus group discussions with 20 university students. Our findings reveal that students experienced benefits, such as being part of a cohesive learning community, but also felt conflicted about how much of their work and themselves they wanted to share. Our study highlights the importance of lecturer-student negotiation in the management of online visibility, especially regarding student privacy and identity performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-20
Number of pages9
JournalInternet and Higher Education
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


  • Community of practice
  • Online learning
  • Social media
  • Student visibility
  • Virtual panopticon
  • Wenger

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