Online activities for learning Japanese as a foreign language

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open access
Embargoed until 2015-03-17
Copyright: Christensen, Motoko Iseki
The study investigated ‘out-of-classroom’ collaboration and factors influencing scaffolding amongst Japanese language learners and native speakers (NS) participating in social network site (SNS) discussion forums. The driving curiosity underlying this study is vested in a need to understand how the efficacy of online language education can be improved. Whilst a large and growing body of literature dwells in issues related to online education, it is notable that the literature has not yet traversed what makes effective applications of online education without face-to-face classroom contexts (out-of-class). The under-researched areas on online discussion forums relate to those conducted in: out-of-class environments; without an assessment regime; and, with diversity in participants’ language proficiency levels. Furthermore, the use of a SNS as a platform for investigating these areas is underexplored. The study engaged Japanese language learners and NS at an Australian university participating in discussion forums using a commercial SNS. Qualitative data was gathered from multiple sources: interviews; questionnaire; survey; reflective logbooks; language proficiency tests; and, online data. The interactions between the participants, comparing seven different groups were analysed with a new more finely grained Activity System: the Online Joint Activity System (OJAS), which was devised as a tool to reflect on interactions on SNS-based forums as a contribution to theory. The study found that proactive users of CMC enjoyed participating in the SNS-based forums to gain confidence in using Japanese and to improve their reading and writing skills. Both NS and Learners at all levels could provide scaffolding in three categories (linguistic; content; and navigation) identified in the study. Interactions between participants, especially NS including scaffolding from NS, are vital in the creation of a supportive online learning environment. In such an environment, discussion leaders’ and NSs’ inputs influence scaffolding provision and development of forums more than consistency or diversity of language competency. The OJAS helped to explain the interactions and contradictions observed in this study, taking into consideration the SNS environment. The study notes that SNS based language programs can make valuable complements to existing face-to-face programs. Additionally, it presents practical implications for future studies and teaching practices in SNS-based collaborative activities.
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Christensen, Motoko Iseki
Prof. Thomson, Chihiro
Dr. Iida, Sumiko
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PhD Doctorate
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