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Instructional interaction development and its effects in online foreign language learning

Instructional interaction plays a significant role in online language learning, and it is undeniable that it should be taken into consideration where and how the language can be taken in in developing instructional interaction. Socio-culturally speaking, in the context of second language learning, where the language to be learned is employed to affect the learner’s physical and even biologically endowed psychological worlds, the language is not only taken in, but also developed with psychological growth. However, the case is not true of foreign language learning, where the language to be learned is derived of the access to the physical involvement and subsequent psychological development. In this sense, foreign language learning is more controlled by general human cognitive learning capacities; therefore, to construct instructional interaction, this paper turned to the ideology of scaffolding in Socio-Cultural Theory.
Scaffolding is a process that enables a novice to carry out a task or achieve a goal beyond his unassisted efforts, and has been widely studied in the academic learning of second language learners, but few studies applied scaffolding to online foreign language learning.
Drawing on previous research, this paper set up instructional interaction on the basis of scaffolding features which consist of continuity, contextual support, collaboration, modeling, channeling & focusing, and multiplicity; and testified its effects on the sustaining dimensions of online learning community, that is, learners’ learning performance, technical operation, social satisfaction, and moreover, on learners’ continuance intention. A model was set up by the integration of the Organizational Framework of Online Learning Community, the Technology-Acceptance Model (TAM), and the constructs of sense of community and continuance intention. Questionnaires were sent to 356 university students, and data available were collected from 299 university students. The university students were picked randomly according to the categories set by Australian Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST), and consisted of (1)university students who attended face-to-face classes and learned language lessons online as supplementary but elective learning tasks, (2) university students who were required to attend online English learning as an indispensable part of the obligatory English course, and (3) university students who learned English online through public online language learning communities. An instrument was developed, and SmartPLS version 2.0 was chosen for data analysis. The relationships among the variables of instructional interaction, sense of community, perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, satisfaction, continuance, etc. were examined by path analysis. The results showed that although instructional interaction developed in accordance with the scaffolding features cannot affect learners’ continuance intention directly, it plays a partially mediating role by significantly affecting learners’ perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, and sense of community.


Rong Zhao    
Continuing Education College
Shanghai International Studies University

Zhao, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Adult Education and Second Language Acquisition, in the College of Continuing Education, Shanghai International Studies University.


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