The Relationship Between Willingness to Communicate and Social Presence in an Online English Language Course


Vietnamese high school students have few opportunities to use English outside class and in class they are often reluctant to speak in class. This paper describes and explains the students’ willingness to communicate (WTC) and relates this to varied perceptions of social presence. Eighteen high school students in Vietnam took a six-week online course using Facebook and Skype. They were interviewed individually before and after the course about their experiences, focusing on their perceptions of their own WTC. The results show that the students were more willing to use English spontaneously in the online environment in contexts where they perceived that they had less social presence. Text and audio chat were felt to be less face threatening than video chat, and consequently, students were more willing to speak in conditions of lower social presence. It can be concluded that the more social presence students felt they had in the online environment, the less their WTC. This was true for both synchronous and asynchronous online environments. Allowing students to control their social presence in online communication can embolden shy students and increase their WTC.

Author Biographies

Thinh Van Le, The University of Canterbury

Thinh Le Van is a PhD student at the University of Canterbury. He holds a M.A. degree in TESOL and a B.A. in teaching English. He has taught English for more than 8 years. His research interest is computer-assisted language learning (CALL) and second language acquisition. 

Una Cunningham, The University of Canterbury

Una Cunningham studied at the University of Nottingham and lived and worked for more than 30 years in Sweden before relocating to New Zealand in 2013 as Associate Professor of Learning and Teaching Languages at the University of Canterbury. Her research is around migration, language, learning and technology, focusing on the application of technology for using, learning and teaching languages.

Kevin Watson, The University of Canterbury

Kevin Watson works in the area of sociophonetics. He uses large scale spoken corpora and experimental methodologies to examine language production & perception and phonological change over time. He has published on the accents of north-west England and New Zealand, and also on phonological variation in English as a second language.

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