An Online Language Classroom: A Language Tutoring System Online to Support the Speaking and Listening Components of Language Courses

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Billie Ng, Language Training Institute

Project team: Sally Huang, research assistant

Timeframe: July 2012 to December 2013

Funding: $2,905

Final report: View Billie's final project report (PDF).

From the final report: "Students who had the online tutorials did indicate strongly that the tutorials boosted their confidence in communicating in Chinese." Read More >>

Description: A challenge for students learning Chinese (or any foreign language) is the lack of exposure to the listening and speaking components of the target language. There is not enough time in the classroom to practice listening and speaking with each student. Language instructors have also found it a challenge to provide an authentic language learning environment for students learning a language in places where the target language is not spoken locally. At the same time, students of TCSL (Teaching Chinese as a Second Language) are requesting opportunities to practice teaching Chinese to second-language learners. To meet these challenges, field schools and study abroad opportunities have been developed. However, these opportunities are often expensive and require students to take time off from a regular semester. 

This project is designed to meet the needs of both groups of students by creating an online environment for authentic second-language teaching and learning. In this project, an online tutoring system will be created to provide opportunities for SFU students learning Chinese to speak and listen with TCSL practicum students in China or Taiwan. 

An online tutoring system would be an inexpensive and convenient way to facilitate learning for both practicum students in the field of language education and students learning a second language. Our online tutors who are practicum students in the field of TCSL will be native speakers of Mandarin Chinese. The practicum students will be current with modern Mandarin Chinese usage and will have all learned at least one other foreign language, which helps tutors understand the challenge of foreign language acquisition. Connecting SFU students with volunteer tutors from China or Taiwan will promote cultural exchange as well as language learning. The goal of this online tutoring project is to make language learning flexible, effective, and fun. Students will have live conversations and receive individual support, feedback, and motivation from a tutor.

Questions addressed:

  • What is the best setup for such an online tutoring system?
  • Do students like using this online tutoring system?
  • How much time do students voluntarily spend on this system?
  • Do students who use this online system do better than students who do not use this online system?
  • What is the experience of the practicum students using this system?
  • What is the experience of students using the online tutoring system?

Knowledge sharing: Results will be presented at appropriate workshops/conferences, including presentations at the SFU Language Training Institute and dissemination at TCSL workshops, conferences, and meetings.