Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

Busuu.com vs. Lang-8: Evaluating the Acquisition of the Writing Skills

Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

Busuu.com vs. Lang-8: Evaluating the Acquisition of the Writing Skills

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This report seeks to critically evaluate and compare the websites Busuu.com (www.busuu.com) and Lang-8 (www.lang-8.com) with the aim of unveiling how they operate as Internet-based distance learning providers in the acquisition of writing skills. This task will be performed under diverse sections whereby the major features, potential advantages and setbacks will be briefly exposed with special focus of attention on Lang-8. Additionally, examples of their application will be given as means of further understanding of the websites. Finally, an overall conclusion will set out the hypothesis for this report.

Keywords: Busuu; Lang-8; writing skills; CALL; evaluation

DESCRIPTION OF WEBSITES

Lang-8

This free website created and developed by Lang-8 Ine in Japan constitutes a 2.0 asynchronous communication channel addressed to language learners of a wide variety of levels and ages. Founded in 2007, it attracts more than 200,000 users from 180 different countries. Lang-8 represents an integrative CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) approach to using technology in the acquisition of writing skills. As Warschauer states, the integrative call is a perspective "based on a socio-cognitive view of language learning" (Warschauer 2000, p.65).

Generally speaking, Lang-8 works essentially as an enormous computer-mediated discussion list whereby thousands of comments are posted for their subsequent correction by the users of the site. This participatory scenario (James 2011) is clearly organized and enclosed by two side menus (composed by various modules) and a top main menu (Figure 1). Thus, the righthand side menu displays the contact information as well as the latest news of the site whereas the left-hand side menu contains the current status of comments and corrections, a list of friends and the joined groups -amongst other options. On the other hand, the top [main] drop-down menu bar is divided into diverse sections that break down into categories. The former menu gives instant access to the major sections of the website such as the writing editor, friends search and latest posts.

Overall, the chief service offered by this website consists of a bidirectional correction of multitopic writing excerpts provided by the very own users -whose native language has to match with the language of the text.

Busuu.com

Busuu.com was launched in 2007 by Bernhard Niesner and his co-founder Adrian Hilti in Spain. Since then onwards, this learning environment has been supplying its [major] services for free to more than 1 million language learners from different countries, ages and levels. Surprisingly enough, this website fuses the perspectives of communicative and integrative CALL (Warschauer & Healey 1998, p. 68) under the same roof. In other words, in addition to the integrative approach -seen in Lang-8- that entails the use of the Internet (and multimedia computers), the communicative method involves risk-taking and stimulates learners to achieve communicative competence (Richards & Renandya 2003). On this note, this website symbolizes an enormous e-learning community that embraces communicatively diverse skills of the language learning progress.

Busuu.com is framed by an eye-catching and user-friendly interface that gives access dynamically to all its contents (Figure 2). Thus the homepage comprises on the one hand, a top menu disclosing the main options of the site (e.g., preferences, help, feedback, etc.) and a top submenu in charge of orienting users in the search of essential information (e.g., friends, messages, courses, etc.). By contrast, the core of the site is split in a left-hand side menu - presenting a set of modules containing basic [but relevant] information such as the berry ranking- and a central area -consisting of the Busuu garden, a list of friends, an overview of the users online and a list of posts to be checked.

As depicted by this brief description, the layout of the website is tailor-made to users so that they might consult and monitor information about their linguistic achievements rather easily. …

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