a1 Department of Humanities, Mid Sweden University, 871 88 Härnösand, Sweden (email: [email protected])
a2 Centro Linguistico Interdipartimentale, Università di Pisa, Via Santa Maria 36, 56126 Pisa, Italy (email: [email protected])
a3 Molde University College, Postboks 2110, 6402 Molde, Norway (email: [email protected])
The following paper presents two stages of an action research project involving two oral proficiency courses held in the virtual world Second Life. Course 1 was conducted during the Autumn of 2007. Based on the experiences of this course, we redesigned many aspects of it in order to improve student activity in terms of oral participation and gave the course again in Spring 2008. By analysing the recordings of four 90-minute sessions, two from each course, we were able to measure student participation based on floor space, turn lengths and turn-taking patterns, and in the study we discuss how different changes in design may have contributed to more favourable outcomes. Results seem to indicate that meaning focussed task design, which involves authenticity and collaborative elements, has a direct impact on learner participation and engagement. Furthermore, our results seem to suggest that technical and social initiations into a complex environment such as SL are important factors that have to be worked into the course design.