Materials design in CALL: social presence in online environments

Hauck, Mirjam and Warnecke, Sylvia (2012). Materials design in CALL: social presence in online environments. In: Thomas, Michael; Reinders, Hayo and Warschauer, Mark eds. Contemporary Computer-Assisted Language Learning. London: Bloomsbury, pp. 95–115.



Over a decade ago Johnson (1999) pointed out that the potential of technology to transform language teaching was the main assumption underlying CALL course and material design and that conceptual frameworks which emphasize the social, cultural, and discursive implications of using computers in teaching could actually provide far more appropriate guidance. One such framework highlighting the importance of social presence (SP) in text-based computer conferencing is Garrison, Anderson and Archer's (2000) Community of Inquiry (CoI) model which forms the backdrop to this chapter. We present and evaluate materials developed for a training programme preparing tutors for teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP) online. As the materials are specific to the environment rather than the subject, they are readily transferable to the learning and teaching of any language as well as other content in technology assisted contexts. Our aim is to illustrate the impact of material design on generating SP. To that effect we explore the dynamics among participants as a result of their task performances during the training. Our analysis is based on postings to the tutor training forum and the tutor group fora (groups of learners and their respective tutors). It suggests that social presence (SP) as defined by Kehrwald (2008), namely the ability of the individual to demonstrate his/her availability for and willingness to participate in interaction, is the central driving force for a successful CoI such as the trainees and the student groups with whom they subsequently embarked on the EAP online journey. However, drawing on Morgan’s (2011) critique of Garrison et al. (2000) we argue for a fundamental re-consideration of the CoI's tripartite approach which separates SP from cognitive and teaching presence. We propose Galley, Conole and Alevizou’s (2011) ‘community indicators’ as an alternative framework for online education in general and CALL in particular with SP as the guiding principle for material and task design for both (language) teaching and learning and teacher education purposes.

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