Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Director

Kevin Eric DePew

Committee Member

Alla Zareva

Committee Member

Louise Wetherbee Phelps

Committee Member

Kay Halasek


Two vectors of the internationalization of US higher education—online courses and student diversity—intersect at a point where a broad mix of culturally and linguistically diverse students enroll in online courses, including writing courses. This study applies an English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) lens to examine language in an online writing environment in order to understand how the participants use their linguistic resources to communicate in English across varieties and around the world. This study employs discourse analysis to two discussion forums from a US-based composition MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). More than three quarters of the MOOC participants came from outside of North America; almost half reported being native English speakers, and an equal amount reported speaking English enough for most situations. One discussion board centered on the concept of ethos and another centered on brainstorming ideas for the final writing project.

In examining how global English language users from a variety of linguistic backgrounds discuss writing in these spaces, this study found that participants expressed understanding and valuing of English language variation across time and geographic locations, and they demonstrated accommodation in use of culturally-laden language forms for the global audience through uses of idioms in the discussion posts. Throughout the forums, deviations from English as a native language (ENL) norms occurred, but in these forum spaces, the flow appears to continue with attention on the communicative goal rather than on the non-ENL variations. These findings evidence strong potential for the inclusion of language awareness activities in US composition instruction spaces. Such work aims to create US university writing courses that are more equitable and effective for a global audience, including helping domestic US students develop important intercultural skills to participate in culturally and linguistically diverse arenas.