Language and Communication: Can Voice-Conferencing Software Assist Students to Face the Challenge of Learning to Speak a Second Language in a Distance Education Setting
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The focus of this presentation is a pilot project completed in 2005 to assess the suitability of the voice-based conferencing system Horizon Wimba for use by Athabasca students registered in second language courses. In a distance education setting a major challenge for both students and instructors is to find a satisfactory way of dealing with the oral component of language courses. We shall discuss research relating to the problem of fostering learner autonomy and also of creating an on-line community of language learners. There will be a demonstration of the Horizon Wimba program followed by a discussion of our findings and some speculation on the wider implications of these: is the existence of a "silent learning community" a phenomenon specific to our language courses or can it be linked to other cultural phenomena?