Oh, the Places You’ll “Know”: Pedagogy, Environments, and Digital Praxis

This is an open online course about place/space in Higher Education. It was created by participants of the DHSI2017 class “Critical Pedagogy and Digital Praxis in the Humanities” at the University of Victoria. This page provides an introduction to the course.

Space, Place, and Environments in Education

When we enter our classrooms, how do these physical environments influence our pedagogical practices? Our students’ abilities to learn and engage? What are the roles of the various components of these environments? How do online learning environments reinforce or challenge our perceptions of what can and cannot occur during a class?

For our course project, we chose to theme this digital course around the concept of space and place and its impact on educational practices and student learning. Space and place tend to be theorized in vastly different ways, depending on discipline, scholar, and object of study. Yi Fu Tuan, for example, discusses place as the physical and social milieu where culture and space meet. Henri Lefebvre and Edward Soja argue that space is “produced” through the interactions between the physical, the conceptual, and the social. And for Setha Low, place achieves its identity when human endeavor (through the construction of identity, the linking of networks, and the physical built environment) meets space as a location.

Place, then, is broadly defined in this course. For our purposes, we envision place in a few key ways: as the physical surroundings in which students learn; as the online environment students and instructors build together; as the educational institution itself; and, more conceptually, as the “place” or role of students, faculty, and other participants in the educational arena.The diagram below attempts to provide a visual of how online environments compliment/complicate the conception of space and place. 

A Venn Diagram of space, place, critical pedagogy, and online environments.

As educators, we may not often have the opportunity to analyze what these different places/spaces offer our students as learning environments. We also seldom have the time or the language to ask our students to evaluate what digital mapping tools add or subtract from their experience of place/space or to the nature of the inquiry for the class or assignment. The hope of this course is to provide teachers with a reflective moment to consider place/space in these ways .

Why Do This Course?

An image of a woman holding a globe in front of her head.

Slava Bowman; CC 0

We hope that this class will prompt reflection and discussion around the role and significance of place/space in education. For individual educators, this is an opportunity to reflect on how physical and online places/spaces shape pedagogical practice. Taking the course and completing the activities and assignments may help us better understand how students, faculty, and institutional entities function and fulfill their roles through place/space.

A larger goal of this course is to develop an online community of interested educators and create an ongoing conversation about place/space within our contemporary educational landscape. By using social media, digital forms of publication, and hashtags, we imagine an engaged audience will come together, regardless of their physical space, to share their ideas and conceptions of place/space and to form new collaborative partnerships that may help develop more engaged pedagogical practices.


What Next?

The course is divided into three modules. Our recommended path through the course is to start with Environments, continue on to Institutions, and conclude with Assignments. Check out the Guidelines page for time and privacy considerations.


Step back from theoretical conceptions of space/place and consider the experiential aspects of learning through digital mapping assignments.

Explore Assignments…


Explore the role of environment in online learning by considering how the physical places/spaces we inhabit influence our online learning experience, as well as the (dis)advantages of learning in the online space.

Explore Environments…


Question the inherent structures of institutions that guide teaching and learning.

Explore Institutions…