Online Synchronous Language Learning: SLMS over the Internet
Noting that distance learning environments often pose serious obstacles to second language instruction, Yuping Wang and Nian-Shing Chen propose that synchronous learning management systems (SLMS) can address the urgent need for real-time communication to support the student acquisition of language skills. To illustrate the pedagogical value of such technology, Wang and Chen investigate a state-of-the-art SLMS developed by the National Sun Yat-sen University in Taiwan and discuss the results of a pilot study that utilized this system in a series of online tutorials. In doing so, the authors illustrate how a range of SLMS functions-including online chat, a whiteboard, and a videoconferencing feature-provided students the chance to gain practical guidance in their language skills and overcome the sense of isolation that can characterize distance learning environments. While noting some technical difficulties experienced by the students, the authors observe that student evaluations of the experience were generally positive, and they recommend that prior training in the use of such technology can ensure its more effective use in the future. Finally, the authors also conclude that more research will need to be done to assess the value of SMLS in promoting learning outcomes.