Exploring Taiwanese EFL students' responses to synchronous CMC: effects on language use, learning and transfer, and perceptions

Yang, Ming-Lung
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The present study aimed to contribute to an understanding of how synchronous Computer-Medicated Communication (SCMC) participated in the learning of EFL students at different academic achievement levels in terms of language use, what these students learned and transferred from the SCMC discussions to their subsequent essay and oral tasks they encountered, and how they responded to the SCMC-assisted instruction. Data came from 50 seniors in an English language class in a university in the south of Taiwan. Seven online synchronous discussions were conducted using MSN Messenger during the 16-week semester. Following a brief in-class lecture from the teacher, students were randomly assigned to one of six groups and asked to discuss in English the theme of the week online for 35 minutes. They then were divided into two groups to fulfill individual tasks in 70 minutes, either to give and listen to 2-to-2.5-minute speeches or to write 200-to-250-word essays. Data sources were 42 discussion transcripts, 170 speeches, 168 essays, 43 45-item questionnaires, 13 interviews, and other documents such as the textbook, handouts, and my observation journal. The discussion transcripts were analyzed to answer the first research question using four dependent variables: the number of words, lexical richness, lexical density, and syntactic complexity. The discussion transcripts, speeches, and essays were examined and coded for evidence of transfer of ideas from online discussion to speech or essay. The questionnaires and interviews were analyzed to see how students responded to the instruction using SCMC. Although no group or interaction effects were found, there was a discussion effect across the four dependent variables. Students transferred ideas in three dimensions: ideas from different origins (textbook, handouts, and online discussion itself); ideas at different levels (vocabulary, phrase, and opinion); and ideas used by different people (initiators, discussants, and borrowers). The questionnaires and interviews were coded and categorized in three features: emotional responses, motivations, and usefulness. Implication for future research and pedagogical practice are discussed.