Online language teaching: The learner’s perspective

Murphy, Linda (2015). Online language teaching: The learner’s perspective. In: Hampel, Regine and Stickler, Ursula eds. Developing Online Language Teaching: Research-based Pedagogies and Reflective Practices. New Language Learning and Teaching Environments. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 45–62.


Whilst the focus of this book is on support for language teachers who are keen to engage in online language teaching, covering theory, practice, tools, tasks, and skills development in this context, awareness of the expectations and response of language learners is also crucial in developing effective online language teaching. This chapter examines the skills, knowledge and attributes which online language learners feel their teachers should have. Many institutions are making the transition from primarily face-to-face instruction to online or a blend of face-to-face and online learning, so there is increasing interest in the way this impacts on practice and on the learner’s experience. Does it mean adding to the teacher’s skills repertoire, or a transformation of existing practice? How does it affect the relationship between the teacher and learner?
The chapter examines these questions in the light of research carried out in a UK distance language learning context where teaching is carried out through a blend of print and online material, synchronous online conferencing and face-to-face tuition. Since learners were familiar with some of these elements such as print materials and face-to-face meetings, the study concentrated on their experience and perspectives in relation to the less familiar online elements and participants were asked to make comparisons with the more familiar teaching modes they had experienced previously. Other studies have generally explored the teacher or institutional perspective on good practice. The work reported here explores the learner’s view of the skills and qualities required for effective online teaching.
After a brief examination of theoretical perspectives on the teacher role, skills and attributes, the chapter sets out the context for the research and the methods of investigation. Learner responses are examined within the framework of tutor functions identified by Tait (2000) and the Community of Inquiry (Garrison and Arbaugh, 2007) framework for online learning. The learner experience is also considered in relation to Hampel and Stickler’s Pyramid of Skills (2005). The chapter concludes by considering the online teacher/learner relationship and whether the learner’s perspective points to the need for additions to the teacher repertoire or a transformation of their existing practice in order to assure effective online language teaching.

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