Supporting language students' interactions in Web-based conferencing

Lamy, Marie-Noelle and Goodfellow, Robin (1999). Supporting language students' interactions in Web-based conferencing. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 12(5) pp. 457–477.



In this study we look at online tutor strategies for the support of students learning a second language with the help of a Web-based asynchronous textual conference. Our previous research has shown us that in such a conference environment, communicative activities can be mixed with reflective tasks, where students are encouraged to exchange reflections on the language being studied, and on their own learning experience. While we have found that such a mix can be beneficial for language learning, nevertheless there are further efforts to be made in persuading learners to integrate linguistic task completion with reflective work, in an interactive mode. Online tutors have an important role to play in furthering this aim, and in this study we look at the strategies used by three tutors who participated in a project with students of French at the Open University in 1998. First we propose a categorisation - according to message-type - of interactions found in the project's three conferences. Then we compare interactions in the three groups and, based on the pattern and content of tutor intervention, we distinguish between two main tutorial styles, which we associate with two different types of student behaviour, one more oriented towards communication, and the other more reflective. We conclude by suggesting ways in which tutors could support online learners in trying to integrate those learning approaches more closely.

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