Towards a Social Dramaturgy of Digital Education During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Romania: A Qualitative Discourse Analysis

Towards a Social Dramaturgy of Digital Education During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Romania: A Qualitative Discourse Analysis

Dragos M. Obreja
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8247-3.ch004
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The COVID-19 pandemic, with its induced lockdowns, significantly changed the way the educational act was performed. Using both technological references in phenomenology and features on the relationship between performer and audience, encountered in social dramaturgy, this chapter follows the valences brought by the change in education in the online environment. Based on an exploratory approach made through discourse analysis with seven Romanian professors and 20 Romanian students, two major discursive repertoires can be identified: on the one hand, the one regarding the return to face-to-face courses and, on the other hand, the discourse on maintaining online courses. The discourse regarding the return to classical education is supported by all the interviewed teachers but also by the students who had connectivity problems during the pandemic. The favorable discourse for online classes was supported by most students, especially for temporal and financial reasons. This exploratory pattern confirms that even such choices have a socio-economic character, not necessarily an individual one.
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The Covid-19 pandemic, with its induced-lockdowns, changed in a systemic manner the way the educational act took place. Gradually, almost all universities are moving their courses online (Bao, 2020). Although at first glance it sounds quite reassuring, it is noticeable quite quickly that most universities have not prepared any strategy or infrastructure adapted to new media technologies. Since it is becoming increasingly clear that this shift in online courses will not be a short-term issue, students are beginning to face psycho-emotional issues such as depression, anxiety and distress (Essadek & Rabeyron, 2020). At an extreme level, due to an increasing amount of demands from teachers, along with the lack of social ties with their peers, some students even experience suicidal thoughts (Kaparounaki et al., 2020).

Among other results of pandemic researchers, it is observed that most students consider that learning is more effective when it takes place in the classical format. On the other hand, the same research conducted in India shows that two thirds of the students surveyed found that teachers improved their digital skills during a pandemic (Chakraborty et al., 2020). A visible advantage of the phenomenon of distance education is that it allows an intense analysis of the critical way in which young people relate to technology. Such a pattern is not only related to their age but, as we see in multiple studies, young people's interest in the digital environment is also influenced by the awareness that their future will be predominantly digital (Kinnula et al., 2017; Mariën and Prodnik, 2014). The need to adapt to a completely new learning environment has come as a challenge for both students and teachers, all the more visible as the applications used for online teaching-learning have been constantly expanding. Even where there were no technical issues such as internet connection or affordance of digital devices, there are still issues related to understanding the facilities that these applications bring to online learning.

Certainly, being about different contexts, it is observed that online education in the university environment is quite different from pre-university education (Iivari et al., 2020). This is influenced by a number of variables, such as: the profile of the university environment where the activity is divided into courses and seminars, but also the profile of the faculty where the courses take place; variable that influences how that academic community relates to technology.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Performer: Goffmanian concept that designates the social actor responsible for creating impressions of his listeners.

Pedagogised Society: Concept taken from Basil Bernstein and which refers to the fact that most spheres of daily social life have pedagogical components, through which individuals participate in teaching-learning phases.

Artefact: In a phenomenological sense, they represent technologies with multiple social and historical values, meant to explain their role in the relationship with humans.

Backstage: The area hidden from the classic act of performance, where, according to Goffman, the performer does not expect to be disturbed.

Front Region: The area visible to all participants in the interaction, where the performer is expected by his audience to perform.

Agency: The ability of a social actor to make decisions in circumstances that make him aware of this ability.

Encoding: Material endowments governed by rules, accepted as necessary conditions for beings to become what is expected of them.

Phenomenology: Philosophical paradigm also used in the sphere of sociology and which designates exactly the intersubjective experiences between individuals.

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