A reusable peer-to-peer conversation tool for online second language learning : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Information Science in Computer Science at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

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Massey University
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To support extramural learning, Johnson (2005) has proposed the Learning Computer concept, which aims to provide a learning appliance that can be used for studying university courses at any time, from anywhere, and by anybody who might have only basic software and hardware, dial-up Internet connection, and little computer literacy. Lonely extramural students need extra support for interactions and collaboration in learning, especially in second language learning that requires intensive oral language practice between the students and the tutor. This research project was a trial to extend IMMEDIATE (the prototype of the Learning Computer) to a second language extramural course. To meet the requirements of long distance conversation in such a course, a synchronous/asynchronous bimodal approach was conceptualised based on a review of e-learning, communication, and VoIP technologies. It was proposed that the prototype should automatically adapt to either synchronous mode or asynchronous mode according to different levels of Internet connection speed. An asynchronous conversation mode similar to Push-to-Talk (PTT) was also proposed. A VoIP SDK was investigated and used in the prototype for fast development. IMMEDIATE messaging protocols have been extended in the prototype to control call procedures and the asynchronous conversation mode. An evaluation of the prototype which was conducted to assess its usability, functionality and integrity of the prototype demonstrated that users can conduct telephone-like synchronous conversation efficiently at high connection speed. Although the PTT-like asynchronous mode has a time lag problem, especially when two users are both at low connection speed, it is a still a good way for novices to practise second language oral skills. The evaluation has given strongly support to the feasibility and effectiveness of the bimodal approach for applying IMMEDIATE in second language extramural learning.
Distance education, Second language learning, Peer-to-peer architecture, e-Learning