Asynchronous Computer-Assisted Classroom Discussion

Natasha Anthony, Union College

Computer-assisted classroom discussion (CACD) is presently used broadly as a supplement to class work in the foreign and second language classroom. While creating and fostering the environment for meaningful authentic interactions, CACD, according to the number of studies, proved to decrease learners' anxiety, increase language output, develop student-driven interactions, provide equal participation among students, and improve learners' oral skills. While numerous studies have investigated the output of online discourse in French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, and ESL, only a very few studies include less commonly taught languages.

In the endeavor to enhance classroom teaching and facilitate the process of learning Russian, faculty at Union College looked to CACD as a means for students to advance their Russian skills in a non-threatening, relaxing environment. As a result, the discussion component of Blackboard was incorporated into the Russian courses as a supplement to the class work. This presentation will discuss the findings and issues arising from the experience with CACD. Such aspects as an equalizing effect, a holistic learning process, and the impact of electronic discussion on the development of the beginning learner's writing, reading, listening, and speaking skills will be analyzed. The instructor's role in online communication and students' perspective on CACD will be briefly discussed.