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Investigation of factors influencing english as a foreign language learners’ cognitive presence levels in a 3D virtual learning environment

Çetinkaya, Hüseyin Hakan
The Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework has been widely used, debated, and analyzed to define the core elements of a collaborative constructivist learning environment needed to build and maintain a purposeful learning community, in online and blended learning contexts. Although there is an increasing number of studies on the implementation of Community of Inquiry framework into the field of language education, in online and blended learning environments where various technologies has been used, the implementation of this model into the 3D virtual language learning environments has remained limited. The main aim of this study is to explore factors that may influence cognitive presence of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners when they engage in reasoning-gap activities in a synchronous online English-speaking module conducted in a three dimensional virtual learning environment (OpenSimulator with SLOODLE). In addition, the second aim of the study is to investigate the EFL learners’ cognitive presence levels based on self-report and direct observation method. An exploratory case study approach was employed in the study. This study was conducted in one of the foundation universities of Ankara, Turkey. Twenty-one EFL learners who were Independent Users of English and studying at the Faculty of Education participated in the study. The main data sources for data collection were surveys, semi structured interviews, and audiovisual materials (screen capture recordings of task sessions in 3D VLE). The quantitative data which were collected from 21 EFL learners were analyzed via descriptive statistics. The qualitative data from multiple data sources were analyzed by thematic analysis following the constant comparative method. Activity system analysis was performed to understand the dynamics of 3D VLE and to analyze what factors influenced CP in 3D VLE. The factors influencing CP in a synchronous online English-speaking module in 3D VLE included tools such as Communication-interaction, information, navigation, presentation, and motivation tools. Other factors included technical infrastructure of the environment, participants’ technical skills, and the design of 3D VLE and speaking tasks. The support of the technician and instructor given to the participants regarding technical difficulties and content was also important for CP in 3D VLE.