Teacher and Learner Autonomy in the
Electronic Foreign Language
Julia Coll, Ph.D.
Shawnee State University
L’Autonomie de l’Enseignant et de l’Apprenant face
aux Technologies de l’Information et de la
Usages des Nouvelles Technologies dans
l’Enseignement des Langues Étrangères
l’Université de Technologie de Compiègne
17-20 mars 2004
Why Study Foreign
Research Studies.
Early Age (before 10-12).
Physiological and Affective Reasons
make the process easier.
Problem Solving
Performance in
Standardized tests in
English and other
Increase in Trade and
Exchanges among
Countries around the
New Ways of Learning
Foreign Language with
Computer Mediated
Communication (CMC)
Course management system (CMS)
such as Blackboard:
-Online Content
-Discussion Board
The Sky is the Limit
Foreign Language absent from
(elementary-college academic
Many adults study Foreign Languages
for the first time in college.
Continuing emerging technology is
making this process easier.
Self directing freedom
or the state of selfgoverning
Opposing side of CMC in
language teaching
ESL instructors wary of the impact of
computer technology on ESL students’
language and critical skills.
Concerns about the effects of CMC and
internet use on long-held conventions of
learning and teaching.
Body of literature of CMC and FL but
not CMC and autonomy.
Examine the effects of using CMS to
beginning Spanish Classes in higher
Research Question
How can CMS provide the autonomy that
may better serve the needs and
expectations of teachers and/or learners
of Spanish in higher education?
Moreover, the objective of this study is
twofold: first, shed some light that may
help understand how the dialogue that
is used in certain features of CMS in the
communication center, can contribute to
increase student involvement; second,
how this involvement is reflected in their
learning (test performance, student
Two beginning Spanish classes. Two hours,
twice a week during first quarter.
Both classes used same package of materials
(text + audio compact discs).
One class that was only required to listen to
audio cds was compared to another required
to do the activities in Blackboard and a cd
rom plus the audio cds.
2nd., 3rd., quarters students required to do all
the activities.
Learning environment encouraged
student centered.
“The personal activity of the student must
be placed at the base of the educative
process, and all the teacher’s art must
come down to directing and regulating
this activity” (Vygotsky, 1926-91, pg.82).
Approach cont…
Communicative in class and virtual
-Students Homepages.
-Video, sound files, power points, chats,
different discussion boards, group pages,
CD-Roms and links to the world wide web.
-Formative evaluations online.
-In-class exams including two oral interviews.
Synchronous means of
Chatting- communication directly with each
other in the same system in real time for
formal and informal conversations about
current events, research assignments on the
internet, readings as they acquire and learn
the language.
Promotes work in progress and community
among the groups.
Asynchronous Means of
Discussion boards. They can be very
similar as in the conventional
classroom. More time to develop their
responses in-depth. Allows every
individual in a class to be equally
involved in a discussion. Other
individuals (Spanish tutors) can also
Importance of the
Dialogue in Chats and
Discussion Boards.
These activities should be more than talk.
Emerson’s quote on Bakhtin:
“By dialogue, Bakhtin means more than mere talk.
What interested him was not so much the social fact
of several people exchanging words with one another
in a room as it was the idea that each word contains
within itself diverse, discriminating, often
contradictory “talking” components. The more often
a word is used in speech acts, the more contests it
accumulates and the more its meanings proliferate.
Utterances do not forget. And by their very nature
they resist unity and homogenization-two states that
Bakhtin… considered akin to death. Understood in
this way, dialogue becomes a model of the creative
process. It assumes that the healthy growth of any
consciousness depends on its continual interaction
with other voices or worldviews” (Emerson, 19997, p.
Dialogue needs to be
looked in a broader
“…meaning not only direct, face-to-face, vocalized verbal
communication between persons, but verbal communication
of any type whatsoever. A book, I.e., a verbal performance
in print, is also an element of verbal communication. Is
something discussable in actual, real life dialogue, but
aside from that, it is calculated for active perception,
involving attentive reading and inner responsiveness, and
for organized, printed reaction in the various forms devised
by the particular sphere of verbal communication in
question (book reviews, critical surveys, defining influence
on subsequent work, and so on)…the printed verbal
performance engages, as it were, in ideological colloquy of
large scale: it responds to something, objects to something,
affirms something, anticipates possible responses and
objections, seeks support, and so on…Language acquires
life and historically evolves precisely here, language forms,
nor in the individual psyche of speakers” (Voloshinov, 1973,
Online dialogue contributes to degree
of interaction of the course
Roblyer and Ekhaml (2000). Students
perceptions of the degree of interaction
of the course determines course quality.
Supported by an extensive body of
Interaction seems to have an impact on
student achievement as well as satisfaction.
“The weight of evidence from the research reviewed was that
increase student involvement by immediate interaction
resulted in increased learning as reflected by test
performance, grades, and student satisfaction” (Zirkin &
Sumler, 1995. Pg. 101).
Comparison 1st. Quarter students who were
required to work electronically outperformed
students who were not. Not a surprise! More
exposure - more time to digest material.
2nd and 3rd students spent more time than
usual outside of class working in the target
language. Autonomy allowed them to work
anywhere, any time of the day or night.
Results cont…CMS
General Use
concentrated most
of their effort in the
main content areas
followed by the
student and
Results cont…Users by
Hour of the Day
Students worked at
any hour of the day
and night.
Results cont…User
Access per Day of the
Students worked
every day of the
week. Saturday
being the day they
worked the least.
Results Cont…
Students became self directed learners of the
language towards the end of 2nd and 3rd
More matured students discovered how they
could learn best.
Towards the end of 3rd quarter, number of
students whose results differed significantly
from online to present testing was minimized.
To facilitate autonomy, one also needs
to promote responsibility and by the
same token, stimulate students to take
an active part in directing their own
Understanding that success of their
learning will have equal weight on the
student and the teacher.
Conclusion Cont…
Autonomy is essential for learning .
Teachers are also preparing students to
be life learners, they will have to go
back to study on their own and the best
way to prepare them for this is to help
them become more autonomous.
Conclusion Cont…
No doubt technology enhances the
study of foreign languages. Students’
interests and learning styles are met.
Features of CMS allow for collaborative
learning through greater interaction.
This creates a student centered
environment that motivates learners to
work harder in and outside of class.
Conclusion Cont…
In turn, this allows for more autonomy for both
teacher and learner.
Autonomy allows one to make decisions
about language and learning that could not
be made before.
Although the benefits of technology are
acknowledged, it should still be used with
care. Objectives of the course ought to be in
the instructor’s mind.
Conclusion Cont…
The questions that should always be
considered are: 1. How is a particular activity
going to help in meeting a specific objective?
2. Is this going to be more effective and
efficient in meeting the objective?
Therefore, technology needs to be
incorporated in a very well planned manner
as another resource to enrich the class. It
should be another mean to get to the

Teacher and Learner Autonomy in the Electronic Foreign