The Good, the Bad and the Anxious: Fostering Effective On-Line Language Learning for Catalan Students
On-line language learning is one of the fastest growth areas in higher education today (Barcelona Central University, 2007). This paper argues that on-line language teachers may be guilty of attitudes redolent of "technological utopianism" (Kling 1994) which gloss over students problems in the on-line environment. Accordingly, many advocates of on-line language learning exaggerate its positive features (the “good”) and underemphasize the problems (the “bad“) of Internet-enabled and web-impacted learning. These problems may engender anxiety in students (the “anxious”). We endeavour to demythologize some of administrators and teachers technological utopian (Kling 1994) attitudes towards on-line learning by identifying seven key problems with such learning for Catalan and Spanish learners. The areas addressed are: (1) the intrinsic isolation of distance education (Andersen, 1979; Mehrabian, 1981) (2) semiotic “ overcrowding ” on screen (Stokes, 2000) (3) difficulties concerning “ structured freedom” in a virtual context (Hricko, 1999; Hara and Kling, 1999 ) (4) feedback issues (5) pedagogical approaches specifically concerned with foreign language learning for Catalan and Spanish learners (Hampshire, 2007) (6) creating a social presence online (Gunawardena and Zittle,1997) (7) facilitating virtual discourse (Andersen, 1997). However, not only do we identify these communication ´knots of difficulty` but also provide problem-solving solutions. Our goal is to explain how we enhanced on-line practice for our students in Barcelona. In this way, we hope to make a minor contribution to improving on-line language learning pedagogy in a case-study context.
Keywords: Technological Utopianism, Structured Freedom, Virtual Discourse, Language Learning
Dr. Stephen Hampshire
Lecturer, English Department, University of Rovira i Virgili
Lecturer, Translation Department, Autonomous University of Barcelona