The probable sources of constraints might be the institution and the students themselves, possibly also tutors if the course was implemented on a bigger scale.
As mentioned before, the university is often driven by accountability in devising their curricula. Language centres which organise pre-sessional courses for overseas students might be particularly interested in quantifiable success as they operate as part of the university services. Even if certain individual departments are introducing digital literacy, creativity and visuality into their programmes, more generally such experimentation might encounter suspicion and resistance. Language centres preparing students for various courses naturally opt for instructing in generic academic skills and so might perceive the Digital English proposal as not sufficiently solid, in a sense that ‘proper’ academic writing training is not central to its design.
Similar scepticism might be felt by the prospective students. Some of them might feel uncomfortable about the proposed level of democracy (Shor, 1993) or experimentation (Ulmer, 2003). This might be particularly true in case of Chinese students who might be accustomed to less democratic teaching styles. This might be dispersed by the fact that the course is online and so the figure of the tutor is hidden behind the screen, allowing the student to feel more in charge of the classroom and learning – the way the Internet might mediate the sense of space is the premise on which Ulmer built his project (Bayne, 2004). In his description of mystory, he deals with the students’ scepticism by asking them to suspend their disbelief and he guarantees they will experience some kind of illumination (2003:8). This certainty is derived from the fact that everybody’s life is bound to include a degree of repetition and recurrence as well as there is inherent interest in creating a self-portrait. Based on that I designed Digital English, hoping that its idea and the ideology behind it will appeal to even those students who approach learning strategically, like the student from the vignette, and so they might feel compelled to follow even though there is no explicit focus on learning how to write academically.
To finish, I will ask after Kochhar-Lindgren: ‘what if our classes included extended moments of working through the symbolic that un- and redoes the rational, in which imagination, ethics and aesthetic become rebound with rationality, as important as the quantifiable paths that open a future?’ (2009:11)
If you want to do a bit more digging about the themes of the project, check out the references section.