Computer-Mediated Communication in the L2 Writing Process: A Review of Studies Between 2000 and 2017

Computer-Mediated Communication in the L2 Writing Process: A Review of Studies Between 2000 and 2017

Hatime Çiftçi (Bahçeşehir University, Istanbul, Turkey) and Erhan Aslan (University of Reading, Reading, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/IJCALLT.2019040102
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As current computer-mediated communication (CMC) research is omnipresent in the foreign/second language (L2) writing process, a synthesis of the research in this realm is needed to better understand and inform the current pedagogical practices with technology in language classrooms. This article presents a review of 38 studies identifying the major characteristics of CMC use in L2 writing process and aspects of L2 writing where CMC is embedded. The findings indicate that a variety of CMC-embedded L2 writing tasks were mainly integrated in the drafting and revising/editing stages of writing. Also, there has been a clear shift in recent years from blogs and wikis to other CMC tools, such as Google Docs, Facebook, Skype, and instant messaging. Also, existing CMC research on the L2 writing process mainly focuses on improvement in L2 writing ability/production, complexity/accuracy/fluency (CAF) measures, interactivity in L2 writing, and learners' editing/revision strategies. Finally, this review discusses pedagogical implications and offers suggestions for future research on CMC and L2 writing.
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A notable outcome of the increasing use of network-based technologies in the digital era of Web 2.0 has been the integration of instructional technologies into foreign/second language (L2) writing. Over the last two decades, as a result of the theoretical overlap between computer-mediated communication (CMC) (Chapelle, 2001; Kern & Warschauer, 2000) and second language theories (Ortega, 1997), CMC has become an important component of the L2 writing process. Research indicates that CMC has turned into a highly effective learning environment, fostering collaboration, increasing participation, and enhancing motivation, as well as providing a less threatening context for communication (Beauvois, 1997; Chapelle, 2001; Kern & Warschauer, 2000; Murray, 2000; Warschauer, 2005; Zheng & Warschauer, 2017). More specifically, in the realm of the process-based L2 writing, numerous scholars have indicated that CMC offers significant affordances for practicing writing, encouraging collaborative writing, and facilitating online peer feedback in comparison to face-to-face peer feedback (DiGiovanni & Nagasawami, 2001; Hewett, 2000; Liang, 2010; Tuzi, 2004).

Several features of CMC, such as text-based and computer-mediated interaction, many-to-many communication, time-and place-independence, long distance exchanges, and multimodality, seem to facilitate the L2 writing process by providing learners with opportunities to co-construct knowledge and meaning (Beauvois, 1997; Warschauer, 2010). Additionally, with its Internet and multimedia capabilities, CMC can also be a pivotal source of input for L2 writers. Through multimodal input (e.g. collection of text, sound, pictures, video, animation, and multimedia), CMC can provide scaffolding and meaningful contexts of learning for L2 writers. All in all, the use of CMC has been shown to lead to enhanced learning in relation to the acquisition of content, development of skills, efficiency of learning, and satisfaction with instruction (Butler-Pascoe & Wiburg, 2003), and “could potentially enhance L2 writing processes and outcomes in different ways” (Zheng & Warschauer, 2017, p.64).

To date, several review and meta-analysis studies on the role of CMC in language learning have provided insights into the overall effectiveness of CMC in L2 acquisition (Lin et al., 2013), L2 learners’ oral proficiency (Lin, 2014), L2 learning outcomes (Ziegler, 2016), and the quality and quantity of language production in CMC-enhanced tasks (Lai & Li, 2011). These studies indicate a tendency to review and synthesize CMC research in general domains of L2 learning from a broad perspective, rather than providing a more focused analysis of particular language skills. Although there is extensive research on the use of CMC in process-based L2 writing, very few review studies have focused on L2 writing (Chen, 2016). Also, many of these review and meta-analysis studies embrace a production-oriented perspective, mainly focusing on the outcomes of CMC use in general in L2 acquisition and/or learning. Yet, research on the use of CMC in L2 learning requires a much closer scrutiny with an emphasis on particular language skills, such as writing, as the examination of the use and integration of CMC in particular skill domains will provide succinct insights into how CMC is integrated into the teaching of those particular skills.

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