Research Article

Effects of required and optional exchange tasks in online language learning environments

Klaus Brandla1

a1 University of Washington, Department of Germanics, Box 353130, Seattle, WA 98195, (email:


This study investigates the effects of an optional and required (jigsaw) task on learners’ quantity and quality of use of language under synchronous and asynchronous conditions. The question raised is: Does performing either of these task types under synchronous conditions cause a compounding effect that either positively or negatively impacts language production? Eighty-six beginning learners of German participated in this study. The results show that the optional task yielded significantly more learner output, both in terms of target language and c-unit counts. The impact of the condition appears to be mixed, favoring the synchronous mode. Regarding quality, students produced fewer errors when performing the required than the optional task. The results of this study have implications for task design and implementation in online learning environments.


  • online language learning;
  • computer mediated communication (CMC);
  • task-based learning;
  • synchronous/asynchronous interactions