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CALL in a social context: reflecting on digital equity, identity, and interaction in the post-COVID age

Michael Dean Smith (School of International Studies, Kwansei Gakuin University – Nishinomiya Uegahara Campus, Nishinomiya, Japan)

Quality Assurance in Education

ISSN: 0968-4883

Article publication date: 16 August 2021

Issue publication date: 19 October 2021




Following education’s recent and abrupt reliance on technology-mediated pedagogies, the novel coronavirus pandemic has, in many instances, highlighted the unpreparedness of learning institutions worldwide to implement effective online instruction. While practical quality considerations include content delivery, teacher training, equipment provision, and networked infrastructure, the situated and enculturated means by which online language education occurs represents a learner-focused factor that language educators may inadvertently neglect as they struggle to accommodate an emerging digital frontier. With this issue in mind, this paper aims to contribute to quality assurance in digital foreign language instruction by providing a sociocultural interpretation of CALL as learners and instructors alike continue to struggle within the boundaries of the COVID-19 pandemic.


In focussing on learner equity, identity and interaction, the current conceptual paper draws attention to potential affective factors driving computer-assisted language learning (CALL) participation structures, providing sociological consideration of the potential impacts of digital language education and, in doing so, confront the deterministic notion that online language learning represents a general equaliser of hierarchical participation structures.


Although CALL’s dynamic nature does provide users with openings to revise linguistic, semiotic and social practices, a growing body of research contests the broad depiction of digital language learning as automatically strengthening learner equity and interaction. Euphoric visions of technology inexorably engendering positive outcomes thereby risk obscuring those sociocultural pressures that impact user identity and, thus, how diverse social actors interact within unfamiliar learning communities.


This conceptual study is among a select few that focusses on CALL quality assurance during COVID-induced online education.



Smith, M.D. (2021), "CALL in a social context: reflecting on digital equity, identity, and interaction in the post-COVID age", Quality Assurance in Education, Vol. 29 No. 4, pp. 537-549.



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