Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Shrock, Sharon

Second Advisor

Fadde, Peter


The traditional language laboratory consists of computer-based exercises in which students practice the language individually, working on language form drills and listening comprehension activities. In addition to the traditional approach to the laboratory requirement, students in the study participated in a weekly conversation hour focusing on improving oral proficiency. The purpose of this quasi-experimental study was to determine the effect of two different types of conversation hours, face-to-face and virtual, on the oral proficiency levels of students enrolled in intermediate Spanish classes at the college level. Oral proficiency was measured using the Simulated Oral Proficiency Interview (SOPI), before and after treatment. The face-to-face conversation hours took place at the language laboratory in a classroom and the virtual conversation hours took place in the online multi-user virtual environment known as Second Life. The research question was: What is the effect of attending virtual conversation hours or face-to-face conversation hours on students' oral proficiency? The statistical data analysis was conducted using the conversation hours as the independent variable (face-to-face or virtual), the SOPI posttest scores as the dependent variable, and the SOPI pretest scores as the covariate. A total sample of 52 students was involved. Posttest data were collected following 14 weeks of treatment during which students in each group attended the weekly conversation hours. Data analysis showed there was significant difference in oral proficiency gain between the face-to-face group and the virtual group. The results of the ANCOVA test allowed the rejection of the null hypothesis, as there was a significant difference in effect on the adjusted SOPI posttest scores of the participants in the virtual conversation group versus those in the face-to-face conversation group. The virtual group improved their oral proficiency significantly better than the face-to-face group. In addition, the SOPI scores of both groups increased significantly. The SOPI posttest scores were significantly higher than the SOPI pretest scores for both groups. Therefore, both face-to-face and virtual conversation hours could yield a supplemental method to the traditional approach of the language laboratory to improve communicative competence.




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