Ready, steady, speak-online: student training in the use of an online synchronous conferencing tool

Heiser, Sarah; Stickler, Ursula and Furnborough, Concha (2013). Ready, steady, speak-online: student training in the use of an online synchronous conferencing tool. CALICO Journal, 30(2) pp. 226–251.




With the increase of online language teaching teachers’ training needs have long been established and researched. However the training needs of students have not yet been fully acknowledged. This paper focuses on learner training as preparation for language classes where online synchronous conferencing is used. It presents an action research cycle consisting of planning and conducting training sessions, analysing evaluative feedback, reflecting on changing needs, re-designing the provision and re-iterating the sessions. The research focuses on three iterations of the learner training conducted over a 21-month period, drawing on almost 500 completed student feedback responses.

The findings show that students considered the training sessions helpful in establishing how online language classes operate and gaining confidence to participate actively. Specifically they benefited from using their L1 to practise techniques for projecting their social presence in an online communicative situation, where they needed to compensate for the absence of non-verbal communication standard in face-to-face encounters. As for their teachers, the research demonstrated a need for them to reflect on the terminology they use to explain computer mediated communication (CMC) tools. It also indicated the feasibility of modifying the functionality of the tools.

The article concludes with good-practice recommendations for the provision of learner training in online language classrooms.

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