3. What is interaction
The world wide web as well as other relevant internet technologies can be used in three major ways to assist language learning and instruction:
Thus far, the first two uses of the web have been the most popular among language learners and instructors (as in other disciplines). Interaction between a learner and the rest of the world is also popular. In comparison, the use of the web in the form of user-computer interaction is more difficult to implement and hence is used less frequently.
In simplified terms, interaction is just a two-way communication between two parties. As far as language learning is concerned, interaction on the web (or more broadly the Internet) takes place in two different and yet related forms: 1) An optional medium of communication for group interaction on the Internet; 2) Interaction between a computer and a learner via the web.
3.2.1 Group interaction on the Internet
The web and the relevant internet technologies can be used as a means of communication to facilitate interaction among learners, instructors and their role models (i.e., native speakers of the target language). Technically, such user interaction can be realized through different internet services:
3.2.2 Learner-computer interaction
By learner-computer interaction we refer to the use of web-based materials in such a way that a learner is engaged in some language learning activities in which the computer plays the role (very often in a limited manner) of both an instructor and the role models of the target language. Such an interaction can be either in real time or non-real time depending on how it is programmed.
The emergence of the web makes such learner-computer interaction possible on a larger scale and more distant locations. In contrast, on a standalone computer, a learner can only interact with a computer system that is physically accessible to him.
Note that this kind of web-based interaction does not differ fundamentally from that based on standalone computers. What has been improved in this new era is accessibility of resources and easiness of use. As a result, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Before we move on to discuss details of web technology, we should bear in mind that: