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Book: Landmarks in CALL Research

Chapter: Comparing Face-To-Face and Electronic Discussion in the Second Language Classroom

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.28164


One of the supposed benefits of computer-mediated communication is that it can result in more equal participation among students. This study tested that claim by comparing equality of student participation in two modes: face-to-face discussion and electronic discussion. In a counter-balanced, repeated measures study, small groups of ESL students conducted discussion face-to-face and electronically. Amount of participation was calculated per person for each mode and was correlated to factors such as nationality, language ability, time in the U.S., and student attitude. In addition, a global measure of equality of participation was calculated and compared across the two modes. The findings showed a tendency toward more equal participation in computer mode and revealed some factors which correlated with increased student participation in that mode.
The study also found that students used language which is lexically and syntactically more formal and complex in electronic discussion than they did in face-to-face discussion, thus demonstrating another possible advantage of computer-mediated communication.

Chapter Contributors

  • Mark Warschauer ( 'University of Hawai'i at Manoa'