Towards an Interactive Learning Environment in an Online Chinese Course

Preliminary Findings and Ongoing Challenges

Bailu Li, Purdue University


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As technology advances and distance learning grows, online language courses provide more flexibility than traditional ones, making them more convenient for learners. (Schoech, 2000). Students may potentially benefit from more efficient uses of multimedia resources with increased critical thinking, communication and problem solving skills (Tricker et al., 2001; Felix, 2002; Spangle, Hodne & Schierling, 2002; Levy & Stockwell, 2006). Meanwhile, critics also highlight potential drawbacks for distance learning students, including isolation from peers, lack of engagement, and lack of sufficient technical support (Shield & Kötter, 2000; Hurd, 2005; Bower, 2001; Wang & Chen 2013).

Empirical research revealed that increased interaction in distance courses is associated with higher achievement and student satisfaction (Zirkin and Sumler, 1995). In the framework of distance education, there are three types of interactive learning modes that need to be considered: student-content interaction, student-instructor interaction, and student-student interaction (Moore, 1989, Moore and Kearsley, 1996). Drawing from the hands-on experience in developing an entry-level distance Chinese course over the past three years in a Midwestern University in the U.S., the presentation introduces our initial attempts in creating an interactive environment for learners, and highlight the components for student-teacher, student-student interaction, including online one-to-one and group meetings, asynchronous oral and written feedback via Speak Everywhere—an in-house software system for oral practice and assessment, discussion in Facebook Group, and teamwork assignments, etc.

The presentation will investigate and reveal how the interactive involvement develops learners’ language skills, deepens cultural understanding and at the same time promotes their collaborative and interpersonal communication skills. Meanwhile, the adventures in developing and delivering distance Chinese courses have generated new challenges and hence have become new directions in experimentation and research. It is worth considering how to incorporate more interactive contents/tasks and enhance interpersonal communication in the distance courses, such as mobile APPs, online gaming, etc.

Bailu Li

PhD Candidate, Applied Linguistics
Purdue University