Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) for distance language learning: shifting tutor roles in a contested space for interaction

Comas-Quinn, Anna; de los Arcos, Beatriz and Mardomingo, Raquel (2012). Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) for distance language learning: shifting tutor roles in a contested space for interaction. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 25(2) pp. 129–143.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09588221.2011.636055

Abstract

This article describes the rationale for pedagogical, technological and organisational choices in the design of a virtual learning environment (VLE) for an upper-intermediate Spanish course with regard to the roles of participants (tutors, moderators and learners). We report on findings from a preliminary evaluation of the interaction between the different actors and this space, using quantitative and qualitative data obtained from interviews, questionnaires and analysis of usage logs. We look at the tensions that emerge as tutors and learners adopt new roles and engage in new pedagogical relationships around the opportunities afforded by this kind of teaching and learning space. We argue that our attempt to promote interaction through our VLE model has resulted in a contested space where traditional hierarchies and relationships between tutors and learners are in a state of flux and where new hierarchies and relationships are constantly being forged. Finally we explore new ways in which tutors’ roles might be organised to more effectively fulfil their supportive and facilitative functions in this new online environment.

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