This paper focuses on learning practices in higher education in relation to a digital participatory culture. Using key principles of critical education, the research sets out to explore higher education students’ sense of agency online – or lack of it –as part of their formal learning practices.
The research found that although students were proficient web users, they did not exercise their learner agency beyond what they assumed to be expected of them, thus evidencing the stability of their learning habitus in relation to the learning conventions associated with the academic field. Perhaps more surprisingly, however, is students’ perception of the web not only as a space of student participation, but also as a space of student surveillance. Such perceptions constitute real obstacles to meaningful participation as a form of learning.