Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Special Issue on CALL Number 7. July 2021                       Pp.53-69

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             The Presence of Learner Identity in Online Classes in UTAS-Rustaq           

Munira Said Al Siyabi
            Department of English Language and Literature
University of Technology and Applied Sciences-Rustaq, Oman
Correspondent Author:                             

  Dalal Abdullah Al Shekaili
Department of English Language and Literature
University of Technology and Applied Sciences-Rustaq, Oman


Received: 5/6/2021     Accepted:  7/3/2021               Published: 7/26/2021

Learner identity has always been a crucial aspect in shaping learners’ learning process. However, the unprecedented and inevitable shift to online learning increases the need to invest in learners’ digital identities. Virtual classes are a new learning context for many Omani students, including the University of Technology and Applied Sciences-Rustaq (UTAS-Rustaq) students, introducing them to new social norms and relatively new assigned roles. Despite students’ current presence in the virtual classes, they are not new to the virtual world; many are already part of social networks. The present study, therefore, aims to investigate learners’ participation in social media and whether such presence would have an impact on their acceptance and involvement in online learning. There is an urge to examine this area which remains unexplored in UTAS-Rustaq due to its past limited practices. A mixed-method approach was implemented to elicit data; the focus group interviews aimed to seek in-depth insights to illuminate the collected data from the survey. The participants were English language learners who have experienced online learning for almost a year. The results indicated a positive presence in the virtual world in contrast to a negative presence in the virtual classroom. Surprisingly, technical difficulties were not the reason for students’ resentment of online learning; on the contrary, students reported that they elevated their technical skills due to the current situation. Rather, negativity arose from a lack of relational connectedness with the new context, which students kept referring to as a temporary situation and lack of teachers’ support.
Keywords: digital identity, learner identity, online learning, social media, teacher support

Cite as:  Al Siyabi, M. S., & Al Shekaili, D. A. (2021). The Presence of Learner Identity in Online Classes in UTAS-Rustaq.
Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Special Issue on CALL (7) 53-69.


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Received: 5/6/2021
Accepted: 7/3/2021 
Published: 7/26/2021    

Munira Said Al-Siyabi is an assistant lecturer at the University of Technology and Applied Sciences, Rustaq with nine years of experience of teaching English as a second language. Munira completed her MA in TESOL at Leeds University, UK in 2011. Her research interests include teaching and learning in higher education and learner autonomy.

Dalal Abdullah Al-Shekaili is a lecturer at the University of Technology and Applied Sciences, Rustaq College of Education. She has nine years of experience in the field of teacher preparation program. Dalal is an MA holder in TESOL from the University of Durham, UK.