Proponents of online learning claim that it can transform education by promoting student-centered communication, collaboration, and inquiry. Yet these claims must be weighed against the actual implementation of online learning, which is influenced by a broad range of sociocultural factors. This study investigates sociocultural factors that helped shape a computer-based English as a Second Language (ESL) writing course in a conservative Christian college, factors that included a complex relationship between teacher, researcher, and students. The study suggests that results are unlikely without the teacher and students having some degree of critical awareness of the sociocultural influences on the classroom. Rather, it seems probable that online technologies will frequently be implemented in a restrictive, teacher-centered fashion, and that ethnic and language minority students may be the least likely to use computer networking in ways that enhance critical thinking and collaborative problem solving.
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