The present study was conducted to compare the effect of synchronous and asynchronous Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) on EFL learners’ Speaking and Autonomy. For fulfilling the aim of this study, 60 students whose score fell within the range of one standard deviation above and below the mean of a PET test were selected out of 100. The participants were randomly assigned to two experimental groups and sat a speaking pretest and an autonomy test to ensure their homogeneity. The participants all had a basic knowledge of using computers’ software required for this study. One experimental group consisted of 30 students who underwent synchronous CMC (chat rooms, video Conferences and…) and the other group underwent asynchronous CMC (emails, forum and…). The experimental groups were post tested thorough an interview to yield their level of speaking ability and an autonomy questionnaire to evaluate their autonomy after the treatment. The scores were compared through a MANOVA in order to investigate the null hypotheses of the study. The results indicated that synchronous CMC significantly influenced the speaking ability of the participants while autonomy did not significantly changed in the two experimental groups. The study has implications for learners, teachers, and material developers.

Background and Purpose

1.1 Introduction
The emergence of internet offers an effective means of opening new horizons for Foreign Language (FL) learning and teaching. Two different dimensions of computer-mediated communication (CMC) which has an important role in educational settings are asynchronous exchange (e.g., emails and discussion boards) and synchronous interaction in real time (e.g., chat rooms and video conferences) give unique learning conditions for FL learners to expand the use of the target language and thus develop their communicative language skills (Abrams, 2003; Blake, 2000). A number of studies have documented the advantages of online technologies (Smith, 2003; Warschauer, 2000), online learning creates a friendly and low-anxiety learning environment that allows “all” rather than “some” students to participate (Kern, 1995; Lee, 2002, Magnan, Farrell, Jan, Lee, Tsai, & Worth, 2003) and make students improve their communicative skills faster than ever before.
Although web-based language learners might choose to limit their online connection times, or they may not have access at all due to the connection problems, computers have a variety of offline software such as e-books and audio books which mostly lack the interactional factors but conquer this problem. They can be used by learners on their computers without any necessity for connection to the internet. In so many developing countries where the internet connections have a very low speed, these offline materials look so invaluable since they can prevent students from wasting their time.
The impact of Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) on FL learning has been approved by so many researches (Kelm, 1992; Ker1995; Ortega, 1997).
Given the characteristics of computer assisted language learning (CALL) as a medium of education, there seems to be a need to consider learners’ characteristics as an indivisible part of learning. In Ozlem Bayat (2011, p.107) words “EFL learners are responsible for finding settings outside school where the target language is used, for example: the internet, participation in certain activities and using self-access canters”.
Autonomous learners are those who seek the opportunities to learn outside classroom setting and create their own instructional settings freed from the teacher (Breen & Mann, 1997). It is critical for learners to take advantage of as many opportunities as they can to learn and use the target language. Computers as a prominent part of these opportunities can help learners to foster their autonomy but the way in which they can be used is controvertible.
In area of language learning, speaking skills have a privileged status in the language-learning world (Egan, 1999). Both educators and language learners consider speaking a fundamental communicative skill in which development is often expected. However, evidence reveals that foreign language educators regularly experience difficulties in fostering speaking activities due to multiple reasons – some of which are beyond their control. Understanding these difficulties and finding solution for improving students’ speaking thorough using different type of CMC is one of the aims of this study.
Another influential factor in language learning situation is learner autonomy. Autonomy is generally defined as the capacity to take charge of, or responsibility for one’s own learning (Holec, 1981, p. 3). It is both a social and an individual construct, which involves the personal development of each student and, at the same time, interaction with others (La Ganza, 2001). Research findings have provided evidence that autonomy is of general concern in second or foreign language learning (Dafei, 2007; Wenden, 1998; Zhang & Li, 2004). As a result, the trends in language teaching has recently moved toward making learners more autonomous and shifting the responsibility toward the learner (Wenden, 1998).
Considering the above facts, it seems that in spite of the numerous studies which have tried to understand different aspects of CALL, still there are so many aspects which are intact. It seems it is becoming crystal clear for learners and teachers that using computer in educational settings is so advantageous but the novelty of this phenomenon and its complexity has a huge potential for further studies.
1.2 Statement of the Problem and Purpose of the Study
Previous studies have documented a number of benefits that learners have gained by using online technologies (e.g., Chun & Wade, 2003; Darhower, 2002; Lee, 2002, 2004; Sengupta, 2001; Smith, 2003; Warschauer, 2000). Online leaning creates a friendly and low-anxiety learning environment that allows “all” rather than “some” students to participate (e.g., Kern, 1995; Lee, 2002; Magnan, Farrell, Jan, Lee, Tsai, & Worth, 2003) and encourages affective support among peers to increase students’ motivation toward L2 leanrning (Lee, 2003; Weasenforth, Biesenbach-Lucas& Meloni, 2002).
Given the above mentioned factors it should be considered that most studies compared the advantageous or disadvantageous of using or not using CALL. Few studies, if not any, compared different aspects of CALL. As the technology advanced, people began to see more interactive uses of CALL as well as an increase in the integration of various media into the computer system (Otto, 1990) but Synchronous Computer Mediated Communication (SCMC) and Asynchronous Computer Mediated Communication (ACMC) which are two types of CALL can be studied for enriching the nature of this phenomena and deciding which of them should be chosen in different educational settings.
The aim of this study, therefore, was to investigate the comparative view of the effect of asynchronous and synchronous CMC on the development of speaking skill and on learners’ autonomy. Currently, there is a wide range of services and tools that can accommodate CMC speaking practices which have the potential to significantly contribute to learners’ levels of oral sophistication. It seems reasonable to suggest that whereas previous studies mostly considered language learning with the presence of a CALL medium with a situation in which the traditional language learning happens, it seems so important to scrutinize learning situations which contextualize different aspects of CALL with each other to find out functionality of these aspects. As Schütte (2000) emphasizes, within CMC communicative norms have not yet been established and are still in the process of being negotiated, more studies are trying to find the capacity of two types of CMC.
In view of the preceding, use of CMC in classrooms as other studies mentioned can be so effective (James 2013). Technological advances in recent years demonstrate that the digital medium has become more and more popular in developing oral skills (e.g., Abuseileek, 2007; Vinther, 2011; Jauregi et al., 2012). Many of these studies show that CMC in its synchronous manifestation facilitates the acquisition of oral competence (James, 2013). The most important factor that these studies emphasize on is the interaction which exists in Synchronous CMC. On the other hand some recent studies show that the practicality of synchronous CMC does not exceed those of asynchronous CMC. Actually, emergent research in the field of CMC shows that a significant number of technology-based speaking activities take place asynchronically (e.g., Huang & Hung, 2009; Sun, 2009;Hung, 2011).
In view of what was mentioned, the present study seeks to shed light on, firstly, the type of CMC which is more suitable for improving learners speaking skill and secondly the type of CMC better affecting learners’ autonomy.
1.3 Statement of the Research Questions
The following research questions were posed in accordance with the purpose of the study.
1. Is there any significant difference between the effect of synchronous CMC and asynchronous CMC on EFL learners’ speaking?
2. Is there any significant difference between the effect of synchronous CMC and asynchronous CMC on EFL learners’ autonomy?
1.4 Statement of Research Hypothesis
In order to answer the research questions, the following null hypothesis are generated:
H01. There is no significant difference between the effect of synchronous CMC and asynchronous CMC on EFL learners’ speaking.
H02. There is no significant difference between the effect of synchronous CMC and asynchronous CMC on EFL learners’ autonomy.
1.5 Definition of Key Terms
The basis of learner autonomy, according to Holec (1981), is that learner takes charge of his/her learning. By this definition ” autonomous learner assumes responsibility for determining the purpose, content, rhythm and method of their learning, monitoring its progress and evaluating its outcomes”(p.3).
In this study, learner autonomy was operationally defined as the scores obtained by the participants on the Persian version of Spratt, Humphreys, and Chan (2002) questionnaire of learner autonomy.
Speaking Skill
Speaking is “the process of building and sharing meaning through the use of verbal and nonverbal symbols, in a variety of contexts (Chaney, 1998). Speaking is an interactive process of constructing meaning that concerns producing, receiving and processing (Brown, 1994; Burns & Joyece, 1997).
In this study speaking was operationally defined as the participants’ obtained score on a sample PET.
Synchronous CMC
Direct communication, where all parties involved in the communication are present at the same time (an event) is a form of synchronous communication. In Synchronous computer mediated communication people communicate in real time via chat o discussion software, with all participants at their computers at the same time. (Warschauer, 2001)
Asynchronous CMC
Asynchronous tools enable communication and collaboration over a period of time through a “different time-different place” mode. In asynchronous computer mediated communication, people communicate in a delayed fashion by computer, e.g. by e-mail (Warschauer, 2001).
1.6 Significance of the study
Computers have opened their ways to the classrooms and are becoming indivisible parts of educational system. They are offering bulk of new ways and opportunities to both students and teachers and are provoking them to invest their time and energy on. This research attempted to investigate the differences between two different methods which can be used in the area of CALL. The findings can help teachers and students and in wider range the materials and syllabus designers to choose the most appropriate way considering so many factors like degree of interaction, the technical difficulties, required time and such. CMC is a tool for social inter-action and is “a way to negotiate meaning and to establish social relations with others” (Guti´ errezGuti´ errez, 2005, p. 84). Although individual practice is possible in honing receptive skills, speaking requires an audience; practicing speaking on one’s own differs from actual interactive talk, so the data collected by this research can distinguish whether these aspects of CMC are suitable enough to foster learners’ autonomy as the traditional ways.
Furthermore, findings of the present research study can show which one of these methods can have a better impact on improving the students speaking and autonomy.
Considering all benefits that computers have afforded foreign language learning, more and more instructional models and guidelines for online language learning have been created (Lee, 2003, 2004). Yet, relatively little attention has been placed on the effectiveness of computer-based instruction from learners’ perspectives (Stepp-Greany, 2002).
1.7 Limitations and Delimitations
Due to the nature of the research, especially in the field of education, the present study encountered a number of limitations which can pose inevitable restrictions on the interpretation and generalization of its finding. Also a number of delimitations were imposed by the researcher in order to narrow down the scope of the study.
1.7.1 Limitations
1. To the restriction of internet and limitation in video conference hardware, chat chosen as the method of synchronous CMC.
2. The number of male and female subjects in the study was not equal, so gender may act as an intervening variable.
1.7.2 Delimitations
1. All the learners should have intermediate level of English proficiency. Because the students at this level were capable enough in using English in different situation and lower levels have so many problems which can deviate researcher by their error and advanced levels have completed their pronunciation, accent, fluency, and accuracy so the result cannot be distinguished clearly.
2. All the learners should have ability to use computer and CMC mediums as a part of their learning. They should have enough knowledge to operate with their attributed types of CMC.

Review of the Related Literature

2.1 Introduction
In this chapter, the related literature on CALL and its history will be discussed. Literature on the categorization of CALL will be presented. Furthermore the CMC as a part of CALL will be extended. Different parts of CMC and advantages of any of them will be explained in the rest of the chapter. The rest of the chapter is dedicated to speaking skill and fluency and accuracy as a part of it. The methods on how measuring the accuracy and fluency will be discussed and their relevance to CMC will be presented. Autonomy is the last part of this chapter and the related literature will be discussed.
2.2 History of CALL
During the last three decades, CALL has gained a boost from developments in technology, education and its literature abounds with studies that scrutinized the role of computer in language class significant tool for language teaching and learning” (Carter & Nunan, p. 107). CALL studies cover a broad spectrum of related to the learning opportunities technology affords for language learning. The findings, known as CALL effectiveness, indicate that technology has profound implications in teaching-learning language. (Warschaner, 1996).
Historical development of CALL (Warschauer, 1996) reveals that in the first phase of CALL (50s-70s), Behaviorist CALL main research focused on system and software design, discussion on the role of computers in language learning comparison of traditional and computer-enhanced classes (Hanson-Smith, 1999). The second phase or communicative CALL (70s-80s) developed under the influence of cognitive psychology and its research focused both on software de and task development. However, the roles of teachers and students in the environment of CALL attracted researchers’ attention (Hanson-Smith, 1999). The third phase, namely the integrative CALL, started at the closing decade of the century and is based on multimedia and the internet. This new approach incorporates many aspect constructivism that contributed to the extension of research started in the previous phases such as skill acquisition and added some new directions to CALL studies including works on computer as a research tool.
In line with the widespread use of computers in teaching and learning languages, a string of research has started to grow in CALL research that focuses on students’ attitudes towards learning language with computers. In an early study on this issue, (Chapelle & Melissen, 1986) investigated the use of computer in English as a second language classes and found that students who worked harder at learning English spent a lot of time using computers for their learning and had a more positive attitude toward it.
A number of articles discussed the need to create computer software that is based upon sound pedagogy and language learning theories, while others stressed the importance of applying design principles in developing CALL applications (cited in Min Liu, Zena Moore, Leah Graham, & Shinwoong Lee, 2000; Allen, & Periyasamy, 1997; Armstrong & Yetter-Vassot, 1994; Collentine, 1998; Masters-Wicks, Postlewate, & Lewental, 1996; Oller, 1996; Schwartz, 1995; Van Bussel, 1994). In a series of discussions, Chapelle proposed to ground CALL research and development in interactionist second language learning theory (Gass, 1997), and suggested that computers should be viewed as a participant to facilitate communication and CALL activities (Chapelle, 1990; 1994; 1997). An example of applying the interactionist second language learning theory via the web technology was shown to guide the process of CALL development, data collection, analysis, and interpretation (Hegelheimer & Chapelle, 2000). Chapelle also argued that discourse analysis could describe the interaction between the learner and the computer effectively (Chapelle, 1990; 1997).
Designing pedagogically effective CALL activities became a concern. Hoven (1999) proposed a sociocultural theory based instructional design model for listening and viewing comprehension with multimedia. Watts (1997) suggested a learner-based design model focusing on learners’ goals and needs, rather than on the technology itself. In those discussions, the importance of technology enhanced student-centered activities was emphasized. Realizing the Page 13 lacks of design guidelines for language educators, Hemard (1997) presented some design principles for creating hypermedia authoring applications. The principles included “knowing and appreciating the intended users’ needs,” “user-task match,” and “providing easy error- solving devices.” He suggested considering such factors as technical, authoring, task, interface requirements, when authoring hypermedia language applications.
In a series of discussions, Chapelle proposed to ground CALL research and development in interactionist second language learning theory (Gass,1997), and suggested that computers should be viewed as a participant to facilitate communication and CALL activities (Chapelle, 1990; 1994; 1997). An example of applying the interactionist second language learning theory via the web technology was shown to guide the process of CALL development, data collection, analysis, and interpretation (Hegelheimer & Chapelle, 2000). Chapelle also argued that discourse analysis could describe the interaction between the learner and the computer effectively (Chapelle, 1990; 1997). Kramsch and Andersen (1999) argued that multimedia technology could provide authentic cultural contexts that are important for language learning. Others advocated CALL programs, especially voice-interactive CALL for improving learners’ speaking skills (Ehsani, & Knodt,1998; James, 1996).
2.3 Computer Mediated Communication
The pedagogical benefits of computer mediated communication (CMC) as facilitated through email and programs like Daedalus Integrated Writing Environment (DIWE), became one of the most commonly discussed topics in foreign language literature (Salaberry, 1996). Unlike many individual CALL applications, CMC seems to promote meaningful human interaction that can foster the language learning process. That is, advocates claim that CMC can be an excellent medium for cultivating new social relations within or across classrooms, resulting in collaborative, meaningful, and cross-cultural human interactions among members of a discourse community created in cyberspace (Cited in Min Liu, Zena Moore, Leah Graham, & Shinwoong Lee2000, Salaberry, 1996; Warschauer, 1997; Warschauer, Turbee, & Roberts, 1996; Zhao, 1996).
2.3.1 Aspects of CMC
Internet, Email, synchronous chat, bulletin boards, HTML, DHTML, XML, and digital video are all examples of internet-based tools currently being used in second/foreign language teaching and learning. For example, email was reported as being facilitative for “…very realistic form[s] of communication because it is a real conversation about real, relevant topics with real people” (Kroonenberg, 1994/1995, p. 24). Email and synchronous chat can enhance communicative language skills (Kost, 1999) and be used as an opportunity to share and collaborate (Hellebrandt, 1999). They are also helpful in developing critical thinking skills (Kroonenberg, 1994/1995). Chat, for example, “cultivates the ability to think and compose spontaneously” (Kroonenberg, p.26).
The most widely acclaimed benefits of CMC are that it allows more equal and increased participation than in regular face-to-face classroom based activities (Cited in Min Liu, Zena Moore, Leah Graham, & Shinwoong Lee 2000, Blake 2000; Bump, 1990; Cahill & Catanzaro, 1997; Chun, 1994; Kelm, 1992; Kern, 1995; Sullivan & Pratt; 1996; Warschauer, 1995/1996) positive attitudes (Beauvois, 1994), greater student empowerment and decreased teacher control and dominance (Kern, 1995; Sullivan & Pratt, 1996), and a wider variety of discourse functions and interactional modifications (Chun, 1994; Sotillo, 2000). Other advantages of CMC include increased opportunities for individualized instruction leading to more attention to diverse students’ needs.
Though there was an increase in the quantity of language output in an online discussion classroom using a synchronous conferencing tool, Chun (1994) and Kern (1995) found that students produced a higher proportion of simple sentences than complex ones in synchronous tools. Warschauer (1995/1996) found that the language output produced in the online discussion received higher values on syntactic complex measure and lexical range measure, than the face-to-face oral discussion. Asynchronous communication using e-mail also received positive reactions (Liaw, 1998; Gonzalez-Bueno, 1998; Gonzalez-Bueno & Perez, 2000; Handle & Corl, 1999; Donaldson & Kotter, 1999).
Synchronous communication in online learning is by all means an important element of language teaching nowadays. More and more, language teachers around the world are incorporating online components to their face-to-face classes to offer students the opportunity to communicate with speakers of the language, whether native or non-native. This exposure to the languages of the world through synchronous modes of communication has also other positive sides. On the one hand, it provides the opportunity to interact and learn with and from people from different cultures and different native languages. On the other hand, while using these means of communication, students get prepared for the use of web tools, which is an added value for their future as professionals in any area.
Synchronous communication refers to real time communication, interaction with live audiences. Almeida d’Eça (2002) has defined chat as “a two-way synchronous form of computer mediated communication (CMC), a dialogue in real time as we keyboard or speak our words, an online conversation between two or more people by means of a computer” (Almeida d’Eca, 2002). This definition contains all the elements that describe the nature and characteristics of chat which, in turn, make them a great tool for language learning, especially in the context of English as a Foreign Language (EFL).
The Internet has the potential to provide a new learning environment that has rich digital textual, graphic, audio, video and other interactive features for the language learning approach as well as for culture (Muehleisen, 1997). The Internet is considered a key-factor in enhancing the learner’s motivation for both language learning and linguistic proficiency (Lee, 2000).
Research shows that by using network computers, students can be empowered by the capacities of the technology and become better problem solvers and communicators (Belisle, 1996; Al-Kahtani, 1999). Computer-mediated communication is different from face-to-face conversation in several ways. In an asynchronous communication mode, for example, there is often a time lag between the initial posting of a message and the responses it generates. Interactivity can be delayed at the convenience and readiness of the respondents. In addition, communication messages are scripts that are archived and saved. The automatically recorded digital messages allow participants to randomly refer back to previous postings within a discussion thread in ways that face-to-face experiences never afford.
Different modes include synchronous and asynchronous interactive email, webchat, MOOs, IRC-multimedia activities, web-based reading, and task-oriented activities. Each mode fosters a different kind of linguistic competence and calls for various skills (Negretti, 1999; Liou, 2000).
Computer-mediated communication provides an interactive learning environment to promote communicative language learning and the opportunity for authentic use of the learned language; encourages collaborative writing for enhancing English as the second language writing development through increasing engagement, confidence and responsibility; fosters student empowerment to increase students’ control of the content and process of their own learning; and ultimately promotes student motivation and interest in the functional use of the learned language and provides students with a less threatening means to communicate (Chun, 1994; Beauvois, 1995; Skinner & Austin, 1999).
However, in a study using synchronous and asynchronous communication modes in a web-based English learning environment, it was found that learners had more difficulties with synchronous communication than with asynchronous communication due to both their limited English level and their typing speed (Chien & Liou, 2002).
Finally as Lina Lee mentioned in her article “Most important, this study also reveals that online-based learning empowered the learners to be actively involved in the process and to be responsible for their own learning. Furthermore, the study demonstrates that CMC facilitated the interaction between the students and the instructor as the latter systematically guided, assisted, and provided constructive feedback to the student”. CMC can have an impressing effect on students and can help them develop faster when it is used besides other methods.
2.4 Speaking
Speaking is a very important skill in learning languages. Two aspects of speaking which are fluency and accuracy are firstly defined and then the relation and the way they can be measured are presented. The way speaking and CMC are related and what they have in common will be illustrated.
In the traditional approaches of language learning and teaching, the speaking skill was neglected in many classrooms where the emphasis was mainly on reading and writing. The Grammar-Translation method is one example, Richards and Rodgers (2001) mention that reading and writing are the essential skills to be focused on however, little or no attention is paid to the skill of speaking and listening.(Khadidja, 2010, p.29).
In the communicative approach, speaking was given more importance since oral communication involves speech where learners are expected to interact verbally with other people. Moreover, the teachers‟ talk will be reduced; that is to say learners are supported to talk more in the classroom.
The importance of speaking is more revealed with the integration of the other language skills. For instance, speaking can help students to develop their vocabulary and grammar and then improving their writing skill. With speaking, learners can express their personal feeling, opinions or ideas; tell stories; inform or explain; request; converse and discuss i.e. Through speaking, we can display the different functions of language. Speaking is very important outside the classroom as well. Many companies and organizations look for people who speak English very well for the purpose of communicating with other people. So, speakers of foreign languages have more opportunities to get jobs in such companies.
Among EFL learners therefore speaking is believed to be a demanding process (Levelt, 1989; Murphy, 1991; Bailey, 1999; Ferris & Tagg, 1996, 1998; Mauranen, 2006) where learners should ideally be engaged in producing both long and structured chunks of an FL without undue pauses or long hesitation. To this end, all four components of communicative competence as have been identified by major thinkers like Halliday and Hasan (1976), Hymes (1972), Savignon (1972, 1983, 1991, 2008), and Swain and Canale (1980) are at play. Simultaneously, learners have to exhibit: (1) a socio-pragmatic awareness (the ability to use English in social contexts in culturally appropriate ways); (2) a strategic competence (the ability to cope with break downs in speaking); as well as (3) a grammatical competence (grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary); and finally (4) a discourse one (the ability to interconnect utterances to form a meaningful text). This makes speaking a highly complex skill both cognitively, lexically, an d socially.
2.4.1 How to Measure Accuracy
Buck, Byrnes, and Thompson (1989) as cited in Hadley (2003) hold that for measuring accuracy, especially in oral performance, features, such as fluency, grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary, pragmatic competence, as well as sociolinguistic competence should be taken into consideration. It is clearly mentioned that fluency by itself is a part of accuracy.
Another measure of accuracy is the one used by Yuan and Ellis (2003) in which the percentage of error-free clauses and correct verb forms are taken into account. By error-free clauses, the clauses without syntax, morphology, and lexical choice including form and collocation are meant. In addition, correct verb forms include tense, aspect, modality, and subject verb agreement.
In addition, Wood (2001) names some of the aspects of speech relating to fluency. These aspects are rate of speech, pauses, unfilled pause frequency, location of pauses, as well as length of fluent runs between pauses. As for location of pauses, he mentions that less-fluent learners mostly pause within sentences, and even within verbal phrases. In contrast, highly fluent learners tend to pause at sentence and clause junctures, or between non-integral components of clauses, and clauses themselves.
2.4.2 How to measure fluency
Yuan and Ellis (2003) have also introduced a measure of fluency in which they counted the number of syllables per minute. In a study done by Kormos and Dened (2004), the variables to predict native and nonnative teachers’ perception of fluency to distinguish fluent and nonfluent L2 learners have been explored. The findings show that speech rate, the mean length of utterances, phonation time ratio, and the number of stressed words per minute are the best predictors of fluency.(Syari, 2005)
Regarding the speaking, the means which teacher can improve this important skill will be highlighted. in synchronous communication, especially, where there are very real time constraints surrounding all interactions, the likelihood that learners will rely on communication strategies, and complexity and accuracy will be diminished or otherwise influenced, is high (Skehan, 1998). Asynchronous Communication on the other hand will give enough availability to data and gives them enough time to think and construct well form sentences in line with acceptable use of fluency but will lack the ability of thinking in moment. By a short glance it can be concluded that it is significant for teacher to know the relation between these aspects and use them in their class rooms.
2.5 CMC and Speaking
According to Wang (2005), CMC is a powerful tool in constructivist learning “because of its capability to support interaction and collaboration among diverse and dispersed students in the form of online discussion” (p. 303). Foreign language anxiety is defined as “a distinct complex of self-perceptions, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors related to classroom language learning arising from the uniqueness of the language learning process” (Horwitz, Horwitz, &Cope, 1991, p. 31). It could inhibit language progress because it “makes the individual unreceptive to language input” (p. 30). Although whole-class speaking practice has several benefits, some learners, highly anxious learners in particular, might perceive it to be quite distressing.
Previous research in CMC, especially the synchronous written mode, points out that participation is more equal compared to face-to-face environments (Warschauer, 1996). It is believed to provide a freeing experience, whereby students are less concerned about making mistakes and feel less anxious (Kern, 1995).
CMC could prove to be an efficient tool in providing more time for speaking practice, especially in crowded or teacher-oriented classrooms. Cheon (2003) reported the results of her study in such a Korean English as a foreign language (EFL) context and points to the importance of synchronous CMC (SCMC) activities, during which “individual language learners receive limited number of speaking turns” (p. 10).
As pair/group work is also argued to lower students’ anxiety levels (Young, 1991), text chat, especially when carried out in pairs or groups, is likely to help learners break the “vicious circle” of reluctance to speak and low speaking competence as described by Compton (2002, p. 25).
2.5.1 Asynchronous CMC and Speaking
Spoken ACMC practices seem to be flourishing as a fair alternative to oral SCMC. This situation is reflected by the numerous empirical studies emerging within the field (Volle, 2005; Huang & Hung, 2009; Sun, 2009; and Hung, 2011). ACMC practices in either of its modalities are proving to be especially
suitable for working on oral aspects, such as pronunciation, fluency, or intonation, outside the physical classroom. As a matter of fact, the use of ACMC for speaking development purposes is producing generally satisfactory results, as key studies in the field disclose.
ACMC practices in either of its modalities are proving to be especially suitable for working on oral aspects, such as pronunciation, fluency, or intonation, outside the physical classroom. As a matter of fact, the use of ACMC for speaking-development purposes is producing generally satisfactory results, as key studies in the field disclose (James, 2013). By way of illustration, Sun (2009), in a study concerning voice blogs, found that ACMC enhanced oral proficiency, as well as aspects of self-presentation, social networking and information exchange. By the same token, Huang and Hung (2009), in their study on voice electronic portfolios, exposed that voice recording attracted learners’ attention towards weaker areas of speaking, and also reduced anxiety and provided new opportunities for oral practice (James, 2013).
Certain asynchronous CMC tools offer advantages for language learners, such as providing additional practice for students enrolled in large classes with limited in-class speaking opportunities. Since many traditional classrooms provide students limited feedback opportunities, asynchronous oral CMC can allow for additional instructor and peer review (Meskill & Anthony, 2005). Asynchronous oral CMC tools can also enable L2 learners to express their thoughts at their own pace and feel more confident than in face-to-face situations (Sun, 2009; Zhao, 2003).
Certain asynchronous CMC tools offer advantages for language learners, such as providing additional practice for students enrolled in large classes with limited in-class speaking opportunities. Since many traditional classrooms provide students limited feedback opportunities, asynchronous oral CMC can allow for additional instructor and peer review (Meskill & Anthony, 2005). Asynchronous oral CMC tools can also enable L2 learners to express their thoughts at their own pace and feel more confident than in face-to-face situations (Sun, 2009; Zhao, 2003).
2.5.2 Synchronous CMC and Speaking
Synchronous computer-mediated communication, i.e. chatting, is a new type of communication which, if implemented in the classroom, can have two-fold advantages for both learners and teachers. First, it may eliminate or at least decrease the barriers of classroom interaction. Second, because of its striking resemblance to face to face interaction practice through CMC, it will have the same benefits for second language development as practice through oral interaction (Rezai & Zafari, 2010).
Beauvois (1997) examined the effect of SCMC on the oral achievement of the participants. The finding showed that the participants who had SCMC sessions did significantly better and had a greater improvement in oral skills than those who had face to face sessions.
Findings from the Abrams (2003) study indicated that SCMC is a more effective preparatory activity for the whole class discussion than either ACMC or small group or pair work activities.
Perhaps the strongest advantage of written SCMC over asynchronous CMC (ACMC) is its capacity for rapid interaction and, at the same time, the opportunity it provides for reflection. In this sense, it works as a “cognitive amplifier,” where it is possible to pause and “reflect” in the midst of “rapid interaction” (Warschauer, 1997, p. 472).This has led to two strong metaphors for text chat:“conversation in slow motion” by Beauvois (1998, p. 198) and “a conversation simulator” by Payne and Whitney (2002, p. 25). Smith (2003) shared the same line of argument, mentioning that text chat includes features of both writing and speaking, allowing the opportunity to focus on form and, at the same time, retaining “the conversational feel and flow” (p. 39).
Focusing specifically on speaking, CMC is reasonably promising because of its interactive and social nature. “Speaking is a social skill” (Valette, 1977, p. 119), and CMC is a tool for social interaction and is “a way to negotiate meaning and to establish social relations with others” (Guti´errez, 2005, p. 84).
Ally (2008) defines online learning as the use of the Internet to access learning materials, to interact with the content, instructor, and other learners, to obtain support during the learning process in order to acquire knowledge, to construct personal meaning, and to grow from the learning experience. One potentially useful Internet activity for language students is chatting, that is, communicating in real time by typing or voicing a message into a computer so that it can immediately be read on other computer screens or heard by users, even in another part of the world. Some sites on the Internet are specifically intended for nonnative English speakers and provide opportunities for them to communicate in English (Basabe, Correa, & Castillo, 2004; Kitao & Kitao, 2000).
As stated by Khalili (2009) through chatting, learners of a language can communicate inexpensively and quickly with other learners or speakers of the target language all over the world. This communication can be both synchronous with all users logged on and chatting at the same time or asynchronous with a delayed message system such as electronic mail (Warschauer & Healey, 1998).
A number of computer mediated communication studies have uncovered similarities between text-based interactions via computer and face-to-face interactions (Pellettieri, 2000, cited in Tudini, 2003; Smith, 2003). Also, Tudini (2003) found that learners’ chat discourse displays features that according to selected indicators of spoken discourse bring it closer to the oral than written medium. These indicators include repairs and incorporation of target forms, variety of speech acts, discourse markers, and feedback tokens Khalili (2009).
The effectiveness of an online course definitely requires from a teacher more than only technical knowledge, but a reflective and innovative attitude that prioritizes the learning process focused on the student (Queiroz & Mustaro, 2003). Accordingly, in network-based language learning, teacher training at universities is essential so that those learning environments can actually be integrated in the classroom and used by as many EFL teachers as possible (Heidelberg, 2007).
2.6 Autonomy
Holec (1981) defines autonomy as the ability to take charge of one’s own learning. An autonomous learner is expected

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