Language Learner Engagement in Telecollaboration Environments

Language Learner Engagement in Telecollaboration Environments

Alberto Andujar (University of Almeria, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0119-1.ch014
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This chapter explores student engagement during telecollaboration processes as well as fundamental aspects to foster its development. In order to tackle this aim, a theoretical discussion about student engagement in technology-mediated learning processes, and particularly, telecollaboration environments is presented together with a practical case study exploring this construct. Three different types of student´s engagement (emotional, cognitive, and behavioral) are considered in a telecollaboration project between a Spanish and a North American university in which 32 students participated over four months. In addition, with regard to the analysis of students' engagement in telecollaboration projects aiming for language development, different approaches and theories are presented in order to shed light on the analysis of this construct during online virtual exchanges. Aspects such as student use of technology, engagement scales, and surveys and an analysis of the interaction are considered. Finally, further research lines regarding telecollaboration and engagement are suggested.
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In the 21st century, the use of technological devices as well as instructional technology have become one of the main opportunities to increase and foster college student engagement. The need for teachers to keep pace with the latest technological changes in society has led to the incorporation of tools and technological processes within the classroom environment. In this sense, different ways of fostering students’ engagement inside and outside the classroom environment have been put into practice in order to analyse to what extent technological processes can contribute to this development. One of these processes is telecollaboration which refers to virtual intercultural interaction and exchange projects between classes which are geographically distant from each other (O’Dowd, 2013; Dooly, 2008). In this sense, telecollaboration becomes a virtual learning environment (VLE) where students interact and participate in group work from different places making use of the available communication tools (Dooly, 2017). Specifically, this type of virtual exchange has been widely investigated by researchers in the second language learning field due to the possibilities that online platforms offer for interaction from stationary and in some cases ubiquitous devices. Research exploring the use of telecollaboration for language development has often made use of eTandem to maximize students’ time during the virtual exchange. This type of telecollaboration involves students exchanging the role of the native speakers so that they can benefit from the interaction in the target language (Belz & Thorne, 2006; O’Dowd, 2013). The growing number of articles in this field has been pointed out by experts who stated that one of the main reasons for this growth was the increase of accessible technology in classroom environments (Dooly and O’Dowd, 2012). Similarly, together with the growing amount of research exploring telecollaboration environments, different platforms and software have arisen as a consequence of technological development, simplifying the accessibility to telecollaboration processes. For instance, the creation of the Web Real-Time Communication protocol (WebRTC protocol), which uses P2P communication, allows students to connect through the web browser without having to download any specific software to carry out the virtual exchange. Simply by sharing a link, students can access a private virtual room where the interaction takes place, accelerating the connection between peers and avoiding the use of a server to monitor the process and thus delaying the information exchange (Author, 2019). Platforms such as Skype or Adobe connect, which were used in previous telecollaboration research (e.g. Tian & Wang, 2010; Barron & Black, 2015; Jauregi, 2011), are no longer necessary due to the aforementioned technological improvements which highly increase students’ access to online interaction.

Taking into consideration these new possibilities for telecollaborative processes, it becomes necessary to understand and foster students’ engagement during this type of virtual exchange. Telecollaboration studies have normally focused on aspects such as intercultural competence, language development, students’ perceptions or the analysis of interaction among others (Cunningham & Akiyama, 2018). However, the number of studies addressing students’ engagement in the telecollaboration field is still very scarce. Thus, this chapter attempts to explore the engagement construct during telecollaboration processes and to shed light on how to appropriately measure it, as there is no clear research methodology in the existing literature. In order to tackle this aim, a case study analysing students’ engagement in a telecollaboration project is presented. Moreover, different approaches to measure students’ engagement are taken into consideration and discuss from a theoretical perspective.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Virtual Exchange: Online process that uses technology to foster exchanges of all kinds and interaction among participants.

Telecollaboration: Refers to virtual intercultural interaction between classes geographically distant from each other.

CALL: Discipline that investigates the use and application of technological tools and automatic processes to develop language learning.

Engagement: Students’ emotions, attitudes or behaviors while they are involved in a certain task.

E-Learning: Learning process that normally takes places through the internet or through the use of electronic resources.

Autonomy: Freedom to learn any kind of content without the need for a teacher or traditional tuition methods.

E-Tandem: Online exchange in which students swap the role of the native speaker to benefit from each other’s mother tongue.

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