In an online context, without facial, verbal or gestural cues, establishing identities through naming social positions appeared essential to effective written communication for graduate pre-service teacher candidates enrolled in a course on literacy education for elementary students. As they engaged in small group asynchronous discussions about course readings, candidates named their identities and deferred to course authors more often than they referenced group identities, or attempted to bond with one another. They engaged least frequently in disagreeing with one another, or challenging the authority of course texts, creating polite, cordial exchanges in most groups. Male candidates challenged their group members more often, suggesting differences in communication styles shaped their responses. Dialogue journaling shows promise in facilitating learner connection and building a sense of community by facilitating dialogue and decreasing psychological distance between participants who are geographically and temporally separated.