Language Teaching in Live Online Environments

Language Teaching in Live Online Environments

Christian Swertz (University of Vienna, Austria), Rosa Schultz (University of Vienna, Austria) and Katharina Toifl (University of Vienna, Austria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-994-6.ch031
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This chapter reports the concept development and evaluation results from the project LANCELOT (LANguage learning with CErtified Live Online Teachers). LANCELOT is funded by the Leonardo da Vinci program of the European Commission. LANCELOT, a training program for live online language teachers, covers the technological, methodological, and intercultural aspects of live online language training. Concepts for the use of current online communication technologies and suitable language teaching methods in a virtual language classroom have also been developed within the project. These concepts are integrated by means of an innovative pedagogical concept for online teaching and learning called Web-Didactics. In order to verify that it is ready for the market, the training program recently underwent thorough testing and evaluation.
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In recent years, numerous new technologies have been developed that have opened up opportunities for innovative language teaching and learning. One of the most interesting developments for computer assisted language learning (CALL) is synchronous communication technologies such as audio or videoconferencing. Since synchronous communication plays an important part in language learning, the new opportunities are obvious. However, there is a lack of training programs for teachers entering the market of live online language teaching, which takes into account the range of possibilities that these new synchronous communication tools have to offer. At the same time, there is still a lack of teaching methods that describe how languages can be taught with the help of synchronous online communication tools and that also take into account intercultural aspects.

In LANCELOT, we have developed a teacher training program to meet the growing demand for adapting language teaching methods to synchronous online environments, taking into consideration technological possibilities and intercultural aspects by focusing on the following four research questions:

  • 1.

    Which online tools are available and suitable for synchronous language training?

  • 2.

    Which language training methods are appropriate for online language teaching with synchronous tools?

  • 3.

    Which aspects of intercultural communication have to be taken into account?

  • 4.

    How can tools, language training methods, and intercultural aspects be integrated in an online teacher training program for synchronous online communication?

Tools, methods, and intercultural aspects, explored in research questions 1 through 3, each belong to different knowledge domains. Thus, the fourth question addresses the need for a concept that is capable of integrating the three other concepts. Our thesis is that this can be accomplished by the innovative Web-Didactics ontology that was used in LANCELOT.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Synchronous Communication Tools: Synchronous communication tools are Internet applications where messages among participants are transmitted with a delay below 0.5 seconds (chat, videoconferencing). These tools make it possible for participants to communicate synchronously (at the same time) regardless of their time zone or location.

Heterogeneity: In the context of live online learning, heterogeneity is the range of methods, tools, cultures, and individual attributes of teachers and learners that interact in the teaching and learning process.

Coaching: In live online training, the aim of coaching is to resolve specific problems that may occur in the online learning process. This covers technical and social issues as well as questions regarding content. Coaching deals with unforeseen specific problems introduced by the learner.

Virtual Classrooms: Integrated Internet applications that offer a set of conferencing and collaboration features for synchronous online teaching and learning. The minimum set includes the ability to speak (voice-over IP), watch (webcam), present, and work collaboratively (whiteboard), and enables the participation of larger groups.

Hot Media Culture: In a hot media culture, mainly cold media are used. Cold media have a lower resolution and address more senses than hot media. People in a hot media culture expect an involving communication style with a high degree of participation.

Methodology: A set of rules and procedures that describe how content and learning objectives can be mapped to teaching and learning processes. While being mapped, the rules and procedures are interpreted and applied by teachers as responsible subjects. Supervision: In live online training, supervision supports the learners in reflecting their own experiences regarding the teaching and learning experience, including intercultural aspects and tools usage. Supervision deals with planned reflections on a specific problem introduced by the teacher.

Tools: The tool in online communication is the software used. The software has to be regarded as a medium. A medium is material substance used as signs by humans. The qualities or features of the medium have an influence on online communication.

Web-Didactics: An ontology of teaching and learning models expressed in a metadata vocabulary. The vocabulary is used as a guideline for teachers and as a navigation aid for learners.

Intercultural Communication: Intercultural communication occurs when cultural differences create dissimilar interpretations and expectations about how to communicate competently.

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