Synchronous, video-mediated online classrooms offer a range of challenges that do not exist in traditional, face-to-face classrooms in terms of enacting L2 willingness to communicate (WTC). Social proximity, which facilitates group cohesion and relatedness, is often reduced in online spaces resulting in significant implications for L2 learners' desire to communicate. As the second iteration of a longitudinal action research project, this presentation presents findings on factors which encouraged and limited WTC and relatedness in an online classroom. Originally an awareness-raising intervention designed to make learners more aware of their language learning needs, modifications were made to give salience to students' perceived needs in the social online space following the move to synchronous online lessons in early 2020. Data were collected from 19 first-year students in ongoing- and end-of-semester cycles using qualitative methods. Thematic analysis revealed familiarity and trust were important relatedness factors which supported learners in enacting their WTC. Individual responsibility regarding camera use, language study and interaction in the online classroom benefitted WTC with factors limiting WTC and relatedness being ameliorated through individual efforts. Group cohesion through a collective awareness of communicative needs appeared to bolster the overall social climate of the online classroom. Implications for language educators include, structuring discussions for learners to share their communicative and relatedness needs in small peer groups, encouraging collaborative problem-solving within these discussions and providing unstructured casual opportunities for learners to engage in small talk.
Amelia Yarwood, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan
Phillip Bennett, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan