Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Supervisor

Professor Ian Malcom

Second Supervisor

Dr Rhonda Oliver


This study explores the application of computer-mediated communication (CMC) in an English for Civil Engineering (ECE) learning setting. The aim is to examine the interactional opportunities present in the computer-mediated environment for evidence of conditions deemed facilitative of second language acquisition, based on the tenets prescribed by the Interaction Hypothesis. This theory emphasizes the importance of interaction in language learning and the necessity for learners to have access to meaningful and comprehensible input. It is based on the premise that acquisition will occur through interaction where learners arc provided opportunities to negotiate meaning in order to develop mutual understanding. In tum, this allows for hypothesis testing related to learners' developing interlanguage systems. It also provides opportunities for learners to produce comprehensible output and have access to feedback related to their attempts. All these are regarded as crucial for language acquisition. Most of the studies on interaction work reported in the literature are related to oral interaction. Nevertheless, studies on the use of CMC have reported that this medium can promote meaningful interaction that can foster interlanguage development through meaning negotiation and focus on form. The participants in this study consist of one English language teacher and a group of seventy-three students. The task employed for this study is based on one of the requirements of the ECE program, specifically for the students to engage in a discussion forum on current and relevant social, economic and environmental issues related to the civil engineering field and profession. For a more in-depth and thorough understanding of the entire perspective in the application of CMC in this ECE setting, both qualitative and quantitative procedures are adopted for the purpose of data analysis. The analysis of interactional exchanges reveals that this on-line platform serves as a suitable context and a conducive environment for interlanguage development. Both student-to-teacher and student-to-student interactional exchanges provide evidence of opportunities for modified input, feedback and modified output. The interview responses also provide important insights into the subjective dimension of learning in terms of students' overall opinion and perception of the on-line interactional exchange.