ESAP Students’ Perceptions of Skills Learning in Computer-Mediated Intercultural Collaboration

ESAP Students’ Perceptions of Skills Learning in Computer-Mediated Intercultural Collaboration

Rachel Lindner (Munich University, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1855-8.ch013
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Abstract

Reports on computer-mediated intercultural exchanges generally focus on their relevance for acquiring linguistic or intercultural competence, but little research exists on other educational outcomes, such as the development of electronic literacies, academic literacies, or study skills. This article uses a multiliteracies approach to telecollaboration, viewing it as an opportunity to develop different skills sets considered important for studying in the 21st century. The discussion is positioned within the field of English for Specific Academic Purposes and describes an online exchange between Sociology students at the universities of Munich (Germany) and Ljubljana (Slovenia). Qualitative research is used to surface participants’ perceptions of skills learning through the exchange and provide insights into the competences that these learning environments facilitate.
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Introduction

Computer-mediated interaction between culturally and linguistically diverse groups, commonly referred to in TESOL literature as telecollaboration, has in the past fifteen years largely focused on online exchanges between non-native and native speakers of English aimed at enhancing the linguistic and intercultural competence (IC) of the participating foreign language learners (Belz, 2003). More recently there has been a move towards a “Telecollaboration 2.0” (Guth & Helm, 2010), a multiliteracies approach that, building on the linguistic and intercultural goals that have previously underpinned telecollaboration, places more emphasis on the computer-mediated aspect of communication and associated literacies considered important for studying in the 21st century, as described, for example, by Jenkins (2008), Johnson et al. (2010), Lankshear and Knobel (2007) and Schetzer and Warschauer (2000).

The small-scale research project described in this article resonates with the conceptual shift in telecollaboration described above. The discussion is positioned within the field of English for Specific Academic Purposes (ESAP) and reports on a four-week online exchange between Sociology students at the universities of Munich (Germany) and Ljubljana (Slovenia) in which English was used as a lingua franca. As the ESAP practitioner and teacher of the German participants, the main aim of the qualitative research I conducted was to gain a better understanding of the potential of computer-mediated intercultural activity for developing different skills sets for the ESAP classroom.

Section two of the article reviews key literature from the field of E(S)AP and telecollaboration, showing a convergence of interests between these areas of language learning. In the third section I describe the exchange and the qualitative research conducted to find out about students’ perceptions of skills learning through it. Section four presents key research findings and is followed in section five by a brief concluding discussion of possible implications for future online exchanges between ESAP students.

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