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Here is a slidecast of the concept maps illustrating the analytical review of the literature on 

Second Language Education Issues in Online Learning Environments.

Slide Cast Script

Slide 1:

     An analysis of the research literature on second language education issues in online learning environments, presented by Leslie Davis.

     This slidecast was prepared as the culmination of course fulfillments for Education 6610.

Slide 2:

     The purpose of this paper is to present an analysis of the theme exploring the second language education issues becoming more prevalent in online environments.

     Second language education refers to alternative or foreign language education, from the perspective of both instructor and student.

     Due to the era of internationalization and globalization, having an alternative language is a valuable and relevant skill in both commerce and education (Shih, 2010).  Access to language learning opportunities, free of the physical limitations of traditional face-to-face contexts, has allowed more and more language learners to participate in virtual classrooms, and to interact and collaborate online (Loewen & Reissner, 2009).  Such opportunities have further implications for how foreign language teachers themselves interact, facilitate and evaluate in both online and blended classrooms.

     Ultimately, this analysis also explores how learner motivation and independence are influenced by this computer-mediated communication and web-based learning.

Slide 3:

     The analysis begins with a methods section that describes how the analysis was conducted.

Slide 4:

     Focusing on English as a second language as a possible theme, numerous educational technology journals were examined for potential sources.

     Eventually, the theme was expanded in scope as appropriate sources were selected according to course requirements.

     Analysis criteria specified that the sources be peer-reviewed and involve research participants rather than simply be meta-analyses, book reviews, or the like.  As well, sources were required to contain particular terminology in their title; consequently, the analysis only included sources with the words second or foreign language and online, web, or other related words such as blogging, chatroom, and Internet.

Slide 5:

    The studies were relatively recent, ranging from 2002 to 2011, thereby adding relevance to the examination of the studies’ medium, participants, context and methods of research.  An outline of the ten studies revealed a number of structures and designs. 

1.   In examining computer-mediated communication and web-based learning, the studies covered both synchronous and asynchronous online environments. 

2.   While the number of participants may be considered relatively small, students as well as teachers (acting as facilitator and/or researcher) were drawn from a wide range of ages and learning communities.

3.   Although most of the studies concerned ESL, there were two papers examining e-learning issues for Japanese and French as a foreign or second language.  Countries in which the studies were conducted also indicated a wider context.

4.   The studies were equally divided as to whether data were collected through quantitative and/or qualitative methods.

Slide 6:

     A qualitative content analysis was conducted, and by cross-referencing key textual components, this meta-analysis identified two main sub-themes by which to further examine the underlying implications for both learners and educators when dealing with computer-mediated communication in various e-learning spaces.

     Whether addressing speaking and/or writing activities, these second language education issues were a fundamental part of the studies analyzed.

Slide 7:

     In one form or another, almost all of the studies espoused the benefits of blended instruction.

Slide 8:

     Blended Instruction combines online activities with face-to-face communication.

     Lin, et al. (2011) found that participants using only blogs improved in writing equally as well as participants in a traditional classroom.  The study questioned the effectiveness of such an online activity when considering the associated increase in time and effort for teachers to maintain a blog project.

     However, many of the studies indicated how a blended learning approach might best benefit both teachers and second language students.  These studies - examining issues pertaining to video or written blogs, Internet-based research, and online synchronous communication activities – showed that accompanying face-to-face instruction was vital for a number of reasons.  The studies found that in-class preparation, peer and teacher feedback (consultative or remedial), and summative assessment discussion all contributed to both teacher and student satisfaction with the coursework and the learning itself.

Slide 9:

     Another sub-theme to emerge from this analysis was that of student anxiety during second-language acquisition.

     A few of the studies examined how synchronous online educational activities affected student nervousness.

Slide 10:

     In dealing with second-language learner anxiety in online synchronous environments, certain studies found that peer and instructor interaction greatly influenced both student motivation and independence.

     Murphy (2009) proposed that a degree of student anonymity in such online activities lessened the stress of trying to learn a new language, which, in turn, improved students’ self-image.  Chen et al.’s (2011) study on human pulse signals demonstrated how teachers could recognize, and thus manage, student anxiety in an online one-to-one synchronous activity. Both studies concluded that such interactions alleviated student nervousness, thereby promoting student motivation and independence due to enhanced self-confidence.

     Conversely, in examining the behaviour of unmonitored students participating in a chatroom activity, Loewen and Reissner (2009) established that a lack of concern, i.e., anxiousness over teacher feedback, could negatively affect interaction, motivation and independence.  The study showed how an absence of teacher supervision, let alone advisement, adversely influenced how students focused on collaborative communication and self-correction.

Slide 11:

     Other studies investigated the influence of asynchronous online activities on learner anxiety.

Slide 12:

     In dealing with second-language learner anxiety, certain studies found that instructor and peer interaction greatly influenced both student motivation and independence in online asynchronous environments as well.

     In both their studies, Shih (2010) and Sun (2010) examined how second language learners felt the frequency of review and revision in creating their blogs (either video-based or written) helped them to give, and accept, feedback, which alleviated their anxiousness, and, ultimately, built up their self-confidence.  These students believed that such review and cooperative learning enhanced their motivation and eventually helped improve their foreign language skills.

     However, with a blog open to the public, students also felt more strongly about monitoring the quality of their performance.  Thus, as these second language students became more involved in the blog’s self-reflection process, they took authorship of their own entries and assumed greater autonomy in the learning process.

     While Wang and Sutton’s (2002) results neither confirmed nor refuted the possibility of increased motivation from learner control with advisement, the authors did raise questions as to the importance of interest toward a subject, and whether students were learning formally or informally online, as being possible factors in decreasing student anxiety.

Slide 13:

     This analysis presented a closer look at some of the research identifying, and making recommendations for dealing with, second language education issues in online learning environments.

Slide 14:

     The concepts of blended learning and student anxiety were dominant themes important for considering the problems encountered in second language education.

     Most of the studies presented in this analysis found that some kind of face-to-face instruction was necessary in order to fully communicate aspects of second language learning that may not be possible strictly online. The problem with understanding the linguistic and cultural nuances of communicating in a foreign language necessitates the integration of “critical Internet literacy strategies into the [second language] classroom” (Stapleton et al.). In addition, non-visual computer-mediated communication does not allow for such language cues as body language, gestures, and facial expressions, while meaningful communication may suffer in purely written activities with the absence of tone of voice. Lin et al.’s (2011) study that did not utilize a blended approach ignores the reality of today’s unbounded learning space and is shortsighted in looking at the investment of educational efforts.

     Blended Learning was also instrumental in aiding second language students’ interaction, motivation, and independence by helping to manage the use of technology as a mode of instruction. Just as importantly, face-to-face communication helped learners work through software in the targeted foreign language.  Subsequently, the results of studies that used software in the students’ native language may have compromised some of the overall findings and discussions.

     In many of the studies, the issue of student anxiety in learning a foreign language was connected not only to teacher/student interactions but also to peer interaction and collaboration.  These studies demonstrated how such interactions promoted individual students’ motivation and sense of independence.

Slide 15:

     The findings of the ten sources indicated that there were specific education issues that second language students faced when learning online.

Slide 16:

     This analysis outlined how blended learning benefitted second language learners.  Through face-to-face communication, students could understand more clearly how to follow the instructional requirements, as well as how to better negotiate the linguistic and cultural hurdles of studying a foreign language online. 

     In addition, the analysis illustrated how blended learning, versus strictly online instruction, enabled second language students to overcome technological, cultural, and linguistic problems. Overcoming the acknowledged anxiety associated with these learning issues helped foster greater student interaction, collaboration, motivation and independence in studying in a web-based learning environment.

Slide 17:

     Even though the ten studies included in this examination allowed for a wide-ranging analysis, there were some limitations.

Slide 18:

     Namely, it might have been interesting to highlight what issues were completely specific to second language learners by including some statistics or literature review on first language education issues in online learning environments.

     As well, perhaps more studies on learning a foreign language strictly online might have revealed more relevant issues as a greater number of educational institutions turn to distance education, and more companies conduct business over the web.

Slide 19:

     The implications that stood out amongst the ten studies were those that focused on pedagogy.

Slide 20:

     Pedagogical implications revolved around strengthening teacher training, as well as improving structure and guidelines, to allow for greater learner control and success in studying a foreign language online.

     With regard to online instruction, the research indicated that teachers needed to involve second language students in the analysis of blog comments so that they could understand, and respond to, cultural and linguistic subtleties in communication. Teachers also needed to be better prepared to integrate computers and technology into their teaching, re-evaluate their own beliefs regarding the roles of accuracy and fluency when establishing feedback standards, develop strategies in multi-tasking for a blended classroom, and promote an effective student-centred learning space.

    Other researchers argued that successful learning experiences required a thorough instructional plan and clearly designed guidelines. In order to learn critical web skills, student-centred workshops and one-on-one conferencing were needed in addition to a series of lecture-format guidelines (Stapleton et  al., 2006). Context-driven and culture-specific studies would also be instrumental in helping students to become more media literate and aware of the bias existing when researching online (Radia & Stapleton, 2008).

     Carefully designed instructional plans were vital in balancing the benefits of online review/revision and those of face-to-face practice. Such plans would encourage students to make a greater, more strategic effort to improve the quality of their work and, therefore, become more autonomous.

     Furthermore, reliable guidelines on the content and frequency of hyperlinks in web-based learning activities would also strengthen learner independence.


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