Asynchronous text-based communication in online communities of foreign language learners: Design principles for practice

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Australasian Journal of Educational Technology


Effective employment of information and communication technology (ICT) in foreign language teaching and learning has become imperative as a means to support second language development when traditional face-to-face instruction and interaction is not possible. Using a design-based research approach and a theoretical framework that integrates authentic learning and online communities of practice principles, this paper examines the nature and extent of students’ contributions to computer mediated communication (CMC) tools provided in an online Italian as a foreign language learning environment. This paper describes the context of the intervention strategy, the methodology used, and presents an analysis of themes emerging from the data relating to the use of multiple discussion forums to support interaction and collaboration within the online community of foreign language learners. The findings suggest that there was a substantial development in the way students used different discussion forums over the course of two consecutive iterative implementations of the online learning environment developed. The findings also show that, as time progressed, students felt increasingly more confident about communicating their ideas in writing in the target language to different groups of participants. Implications for practice or policy: • The design principles and learning environment described in this study will assist foreign language educators to create their own pedagogical frameworks for language education in technology-based, authentic learning environments. • The design principles that emerged from this research will assist foreign language educators to support student interaction and collaboration in online communities of learners. • Foreign language students’ engagement with peers and native speakers will be enhanced by integrating the recommendations for encouraging purposeful and authentic student online interactions.





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