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Current Trends in Online Language Learning

R.Blake, 2011
Online language learning: web-facilitated courses, blended or
hybrid courses, fully virtual or online courses
1. Comparability of online and traditional learning
2. Tutorial CALL
3. iCALL
4. Social Computing CALL
5. Games for Language Learning

Comparability: online and traditional

Huge variability within online courses and traditional
courses -> comparing them is difficult
Meta-analysis of reports concerning online learning (US
Dept. of Ed, 2009)
Students who some or all of their course online did better than
those who did not
Results were highly sensitive to the amount of time on task
OLL is conducive to the expansion of learning time ->
more time spent on L2 materials (particularly suited to

Tutorial CALL: overview

Often associated with drill-and-kill which have minimal
interactivity or opportunity for construction of meaning
(there is more to it than that though)
language teachers can create their own exercises (e.g. hot
commercial publishers increasingly providing grammar
exercises as part of textbook package

Tutorial CALL
different aspects of language-learning
1. Vocabulary Learning: native texts can be adapted, or used in tandem
with external resources (e.g. glosses)
2. Reading Comprehension
3. Dictionary access/pronunciation while reading on web e.g.
Wordchamp, Ultralingua
4. Pronunciation
1. Effectiveness of ASR system to give feedback on Dutch pronunciation
(Cucchiarini, Neri, & Strik, 2008)
2. Tell Me More from Auralog: speech waveforms and pitch contours to allow
comparison with native speakers + 3D animation

5. Pragmatics: Sykes and Cohen created CALL materials for Spanish

pragmatics + Croquelandia

Uses NLP and AI to improve feedback to users,
individualising instruction based on their record of
Learner corpora can be used to direct curriculumplanning by focussing on difficulties (Heift has large
learner corpus 5yrs, 5000 learners)
Only 3 iCALL systems (at time of pub.)
E-tutor for German (Heift, 2010)
Tagarela for Portuguese (Amaral & Meurers, 2009)
Robo-Sensei for Japanese (Nagata, 2010)

Social Computing CALL

textual-based chat, asynchronous and synchronous CMC

CMC: asynchronous and synchronous CMC

Asynchronous CMC: e-mails, blogs, forums, wikis
Synchronous CMC: IM programmes, Skype

Learner agency
Meaningful negotiation of meaning

Has been analysed in Interactionist and Sociocultural


Interactionist and Sociocultural perspectives

(both have roots in Vygotskys (1962) notion of scaffolding)

How learners negotiate
meaning while carrying out
meaningful exchanges
Coding system: scaffolding

Sociocultural Theory

Trigger -> indication -> reaction ->

response to reaction

Emphasis on construction of
L2 identity

Result: negotiation of meaning

happens in similar way to faceto-face negation of meaning
and with similar success

How L2 learners participate in

new communities of practice:
language use & culture

Telecollaborations and tandem

learning e.g. Cultura in MIT

Games for Language Learning

Thorne, Black and Sykes (2009) classification of
1. Social virtualities e.g. Second Life
2. Commercial Massive Multiplayer Online roleplaying games
(MMOs) e.g. World of Warcraft
3. Made-for-education immersive environments e.g.

Games are always task-oriented or focused on play

Games for LL: principles

Games are not free from structure; they are designed experiences
(Squire, 2006) with defined goals and rules
Learners submit to these goals and rules providing they can still be
playful (Klopfer, Osterweil and Salen, 2009)
Verisimiltude is integral to play; the game must seem real or allow us
to pretend its real in order to suspend disbelief.
Role-playing in these games has parallels in traditional learning where
learners are required to take on new identities.
Purushotma,Thorne, and Wheatley (2008) insisted that game design
must dedicate at least as much thought about failure states as to
success states i.e. practice and feedback on errors are paramount.

Games for LL: advantages and

Games also foster agency. Learners feel that they are
independently problem-solving through constructing meaning.
Games allow users to attempt and fail with low risk, to take on
new identities and negotiate meaning

Lack of meaningful learning e.g. Second Life being used as a
doll house just to dress up
Intolerance of unsophisticated graphics
Programming games is time-consuming and expensive

Blake concludes that the importance of all of these CALL
activities may lie in maintaining learners motivation:
These learning environments and tools help students
maintain their interest in learning a language over a
long period of time. And like it or not, learning another
language to a minimal professional level (i.e., level 3 on
the Interagency Linguistic
Roundtable scale) is a very
time-consumingactivity (Blake, 2008).