Monash University
4684297_monash_130455.pdf (12.8 MB)

Student-student versus instructor-student in online interactions: a study of second language performance and social presence of Saudi University english as foreign language learners

Download (12.8 MB)
posted on 2017-02-23, 04:02 authored by Alamir, Ali Hussein
In computer-mediated communication (CMC) environments, there is an extensive body of research which has looked at the nature of language learning of English as a foreign language (EFL) students within and beyond the classroom setting. However, most of this research has focused on the pattern of student-student interactions and extensively on the modality of synchronous CMC. The nature of instructor-student CMC interactions on online discussion forums remains unexplored in both L2 and Saudi EFL learning contexts. This study investigates how Saudi EFL students perform their language and project their social presence when they interact with (as opposed to without) their instructor in online discussion forums. Throughout an entire academic semester in a prestigious university in Saudi Arabia, 49 Saudi EFL students interacted in student-student and instructor-student online exchanges to discuss argumentative topics in their educational discussion forums. The present study employed a mixed-methods research approach and data were collected from transcript of participants’ online interactions, questionnaires, and interviews. Students’ L2 performance was examined using a textual analysis method to determine linguistic fluency, lexical density, linguistic accuracy, and grammatical complexity (Wolfe-Quintero, Inagaki, & Kim, 1998). To examine their social presence, the study applied a content analysis method by using the model of social presence in the framework of a community of inquiry (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000, 2001). The role of the instructor in instructor-student online interactions was examined qualitatively using a content analysis method by means of a template which was developed during the study. The study findings show that in student-student online exchanges, Saudi EFL students produced significantly higher rates of lexical density and social presence but lower rates of linguistic accuracy. Conversely, in instructor-student online exchanges, students produced significantly higher rates of linguistic accuracy but lower rates of lexical density and social presence. No significant differences were found in students’ fluency and grammatical complexity between the two phases of online exchanges. The instructors’ presence and scaffolding were found to influence Saudi students in instructor-student online exchanges. Students noticed their language errors, paid attention to linguistic accuracy, learnt new lexical and grammatical features, and engaged in reflective interactions. Furthermore, Saudi students were found to have positive perceptions towards instructor-student online exchanges and they valued their instructors’ online interactions as helpful for their L2 development. The present study concluded that instructor-student online exchanges provided Saudi EFL students more opportunities to develop their language than student-student online exchanges. Finally, some implications for L2 performance, social presence, and the role of the instructor in online discussion forums are discussed and recommendations for future research are presented.


Principal supervisor

Farzad Sharifian

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics (LLCL)


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts