Mariolina Pais Marden

Investigating an online community of second language learners


The aim and focus of this Doctor of Philosophy Research is to investigate the development of an online community of learners within the context of an Italian as a second language university classroom using a Design-Based Research approach.

One of the main limitations of learning Italian, and generally any foreign language, in Australia is the physical distance from the target language country and the lack of opportunities to engage in meaningful and authentic communication with native speakers of the target language and to participate in activities that are authentic and have real-world relevance. My desire to address the problem of limited direct contact with Italian native speakers and to provide learners of Italian with the opportunity to engage in motivating and relevant activities, provided a reason for developing an online community of learners and enable students’ interaction through participation in authentic activities in a collaborative and learner-centred environment.

The first activity required students to plan and organise a trip to Australia for a group of visiting Italian students and to develop an itinerary and a comprehensive travel guide. The second activity required them to organise a trip to Italy for the whole class. Both activities had to be carried out entirely in the target language and required students to present the final product of their work to the rest of the class. The seven native speaker facilitators recruited by the teacher, provided students with the appropriate support and scaffolding as they completed their work on the two tasks.

The development of the learning environment draws upon a combination of theories and principles which included Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory applied to second language learning, theories of situated and authentic learning, and principles that guide the development of a community of practice approach.


Pais Marden, M. & Herrington, J. (2011). Supporting interaction and collaboration in the language classroom through computer mediated communication.In T. Bastiaens & M. Ebner (Eds.), Proceedings of EdMedia 2011 (pp. 1161-1168). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Pais Marden, M., Herrington, J. & Herrington, A. (2009). Developing an Online Community of Learners for Second Language Students Using Design-Based Research. In T. Bastiaens, J. Dron, & C. Xin (Eds.), Proceedings of World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education 2009 (pp. 1862-1867). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Pais Marden, M., Herrington, J. & Herrington, A. (2007). Design-based research: Learning Italian at university in a community of learners. In C. Montgomerie & J. Seale (Eds.), Proceedings of EdMedia 2007 (pp. 2966-2972). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.