Online Russian Courses: Communicative Approach in Cyberspace

Natasha Anthony, State University System of Georgia and Iryna Kozlova, Georgia State University

While a wealth of studies suggest that an online component can be a powerful tool in teaching foreign languages, the pedagogy and practice of online language teaching/learning has yet to be developed and explored. Contemporary approaches to foreign language instruction tend to adhere to the principles established over the past four decades in the field of second language acquisition and to be influenced by sociocultural theory. These principle,s forming a general approach to instruction, are widely labeled “Communicative Language Teaching” (CLT). Extending learner opportunities for engaging in communicative practice in the target language by using an online component has been widely lauded, and numerous pilot CMC projects were initiated and documented (Cummins & Sayers, 1997; Warschauer, 1996; Warschauer and Meskill, 2000). However, little attention has yet been given to implementing a communicative approach in distance foreign language learning.

This study investigates how elements of a communicative approach built into the structure of the course facilitate students’ involvement in communicative practice and compensate for the lack of oral communication in an online course as opposed to one in a contact classroom. Students enrolled in an online Russian Course, Elementary Russian I, at the Georgia Institute of Technology participated in this study. Such issues as implementing online voice journals and a virtual classroom into the communicative stream of the course will be broadly discussed. The focus of the study also includes students’ perception of different online activities and their impact on their learning and the development of their sense of an online community. The findings are beneficial for EFL teachers and learners since they provide some additional support for online teaching of a foreign language. The session will include a discussion of the applications of the findings.