Visual and Multimodal Research Forum – 9th Feb

The Visual and Multimodal Research Forum is a student run platform for academic discussion on multimodality and open to all postgraduate research students and other researchers at UCL Institute of Education and elsewhere. Participation is free. Please contact Sophia Diamantopoulou, Forum Coordinator, at for any queries.

Date: Monday 9th of February, 5:00-6:30 pm

Venue: London Knowledge Lab, 23-29 Emerald Street, WC1N 3QS

Language learning in online platforms: A multimodal study of English speakers learning Chinese

Jenifer Ho, PhD student at UCL Institute of Education

There has been a growing trend over the past decade for language learners to sign up for online language learning platforms (OLLPs). The multimodal design and interactive features of these platforms has opened up new possibilities for the future of foreign language learning (Blommaert and Backus, 2011). Unlike language learning in a ‘traditional’ setting where learners are expected to follow a prescriptive pathway set by learning materials, learners using OLLPs can exercise their agency by determining what and how they want to learn.

This presentation explores how the design of the platforms and learners’ interest are materialised in the way learners navigate on these platforms. The focus of the analysis is informed by social semiotic theories of learning (Kress, 2009; Bezemer et al., 2012). It suggests that learners’ interest frames their attention to what there is to be learnt. This creates variation in pathways for learning. Using two case studies of English speakers learning Chinese, this presentation aims at showing how the different design of the platforms and the different interest of the learners create different pathways of learning Chinese. This is revealed by the preliminary analysis of data obtained from screen captures of the learning environment, learners’ screen-recording video and excerpts from their interview.