Is it possible for technological 'spaces' to be created that can provide a community atmosphere - one in which learners are not restrained by pre-determined syllabi and have the ability to direct their learning according to their own interests, pace and goals? If so, it would be notable to discover which kinds of interactions might be possible, or might eventuate, and how the participants in such a learning 'space' would organize themselves. Also of interest would be the kinds of power structures that emerged through participant interaction, the direction/interactions undertaken by the participants and the improvements that could be made in order to respect and accommodate the differences between learners in a social online learning space. In order to further study this hypothesised need to investigate these questions, this researcher developed an online, English as a Second/Foreign Language learning environment for advanced adult learners of English. She reviewed the appropriate literature in order to theorise how to commence this research direction and investigated various learning platforms and software tools. The result was the development of a multiplatform environment which consisted of a content management system and a 3D microworld. Tools, exercises and content were developed and/or gathered as starting points for learners and the various software had to be learnt in order to orient others on their use. Finally, the environment was trialed over a four week duration with a group of advanced to native speakers of English (volunteers) and the results have been presented in this thesis for discussion. The trial, entitled the ILE Project, attempted to study the problems involved in the technical development of such spaces, to observe the interactions between the learners in a 3D microworld and uncover issues relating to its implementation. Some issues raised by the project concerned techno-literacy, personality-driven interaction differences and organizational power shifts within the 3D community. This thesis closes with an argument that redefines the notion of the learner autonomy, proposes certain modifications to both the pedagogic and technical structure of the online environment and discusses the issues raised in this research. The latter discussion would require further re-conceptualization of the spaces, stakes and support structures that educators can create/provide in an attempt to improve online language learning.
|Date of Award||2005|
|Supervisor||Andrew Lian (Supervisor) & Jeremy Jones (Supervisor)|