What is CMC? It stands for Computer Mediated Communication and is an excellent way for learners to communicate outside the classroom. Communication can be synchronous where students chat using text or voice in real-time and asynchronous where there is delay between posting a message and getting a reply.

E-mail was one of the earliest forms of asynchronous CMC and it’s still an excellent tool for keeping in touch with learners and for learners working collaboratively to keep in touch with each other.

Irene has been using synchronous CMC with international students for ten years. She has shared lessons with students from different countries and these work well offering the learners the opportunity to get to know speakers of other nationalities and therefore understand something of different cultures while extending their language skills because they have to accommodate learners who have different expectations when they speak and hear English spoken. Irene has been using Skype for this purpose now for four years very successfully. It is possible to record sections of the conversations for review using Pamela

Here’s an extract from the conclusion to a meeting which was purely conducted by the learners. The teacher listened with muted microphone and used text chat for feedback.

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An excellent way for learners to engage in synchronous CMC is to join Second Life where they can create an avatar and go and visit many different places where they will have the opportunity to meet many different people many of whom will be communicating in English.

Smith, Alvarez-Torres & Zhao: Features of CMC Technologies and their Impact on Language Learners’ Online Interaction (2003)
Lee: Synchronous online exchanges: a study of modification devices in non-native discourse (2002)
Satar & Ozdener: The Effects of Synchronous CMC on Speaking Proficiency and Anxiety: Text versus Voice Chat (2008)