Understanding vicarious participation in online language learning

Pleines, Christine (2020). Understanding vicarious participation in online language learning. Distance Education, 41(4) pp. 453–471.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2020.1821605


Online learning environments afford opportunities for participation and equally offer a new perspective on engaging vicariously. Drawing on the concept of vicarious learning and taking account of the roles of input and interaction for language development, this paper reports on an enquiry into students’ retrospective use of recorded group tutorials. It is the first to investigate in what ways indirect participation in interactive online sessions may mediate second language learning. The study harnessed user data (N = 964) and explored learner perception through semi-structured interviews (n = 13) to increase our understanding of who uses tutorial recordings and to what perceived linguistic and motivational benefit. The article argues that recorded group tutorials may support language learning by encouraging deep engagement with interactional input. This is relevant to educational practice in online and blended contexts, as well as to our understanding of language learning as a cognitive and social activity.

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