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This is part of an essay written by a student I taught on an online course for a Chinese university.  It is interesting that she says she and her partner dare not speak, which is a major constraint in a speaking course.  This perhaps reinforces my view that it should have focused on writing skills and teachers who could teach face to face should have taught speaking.

It is interesting that she overstated my age by at least ten years.  I suppose 60 year olds look ancient for 18 year olds.

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Hi Patrick,

Thanks for sharing this. As a language teacher of 35+ years, I quite understand your conclusion that this only goes to confirm your belief that your online course should have concentrated on writing. However, I do wonder if there haven't been benefits which perhaps were not immediately visible or evident in any way. And which you obviously can't measure. The students' clear appreciation of working with you makes me wonder whether any anxiety linked to the silences could also have opened up cognitive and emotional gateways in their learning process. And who knows whether they would have found responding verbally during face-to-face learning any easier. That could be even more of a challenge. 

Regards,

Nicky

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Thanks for the comment, Nicky

I see what you mean but I have worked in China with students at lower levels than this and in face to face classes, they may have been shy but they would not completely avoid speaking in this way.  The technology seemed to provide more scope for this silence.  Until the essay, I did not even know that they could hear me but just did not "dare" to speak.  Actually in my OU work, I find some students are not willing to speak but will often use the text box (and often there is no problem with that on my courses although it clearly is a problem if speaking skills are being taught and it can sometimes be a slow way of working).