Asynchronous Online Foreign Language Courses

Asynchronous Online Foreign Language Courses

Leticia L. McGrath (Georgia Southern University, USA) and Mark Johnson (University System of Georgia, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-503-2.ch410
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In 1999, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia (USG), in collaboration with a number of its member institutions, began developing a fully online set of courses that allows a student to complete a core curriculum that is transferable across the USG. The result of this effort is the USG’s eCore® Program, developed by the Advanced Learning Technologies (ALT) unit of the USG. The eCore® Courses were created using a collaborative course development process that engaged teams of USG faculty, technical support and an instructional designer from ALT. The collaborative course development process was utilized in order to take full advantage of the expertise of the team members and to incorporate multiple perspectives of the content into the courses. In addition, a set of guidelines for the development of eCore® courses was established to ensure the courses were of the highest quality possible. The eCore® course array was developed over a period of seven years. While many of the courses were well suited to the asynchronous online approach, there were content areas that were more controversial, such as physics, chemistry and foreign languages, due to the highly specific requirements in each of these disciplines.
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Background: Computer-Assisted Language Learning (Call)

The study of Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL), an emerging topic for educators and researchers, has provided language instructors and learners a great realm of possibilities in Second Language Acquisition (SLA). Warschauer (1997), in his study “Computer-Mediated Collaborative Learning: Theory and Practice,” provides a succinct review of relevant research in the second half of the twentieth century, confirming the relationship between the significant increase in investigation in the 1990s with the advent of the internet and the rise of the accessibility of computers. Warschauer firmly asserts that online communication “encourages collaborative learning in the classroom” (p. 472). Some of the more salient studies (Kern, 1995; Warschauer, 1997;Kinginger, 1998, Abrams, 2003; Poza, 2005) emphasize the advantages of incorporating CMC into face-to-face language courses. Kern contends that:

new medium-specific conventions . . . compensate for the absence of prosodic and paralinguistic features found in face-to-face oral communication. For example, facial expressions such as smiles [:-) 1, frowns [):-(1, or winks [ ;-) ] become icons, and tone of voice is represented by capitalization, underlining, exclamation marks, and other symbols. (p. 459)

Many researchers agree that text-based computer conference technologies create a setting in which students experience a decrease in anxiety when compared to face-to-face conversation (Beauvois, 1994, 1996, 1999; Kivela, 1996; Lee, 2004; Meunier, 1998; Skinner & Austin, 1999; Warschauer, 1996). In addition, research shows that students indicate they feel a significantly lower fear of negative evaluation via the computer (Beauvois, 1996; Chun, 1994; Kelm, 1992; Kivela, 1996).

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