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Article

Emergency Transition: Have Tertiary Language Students’ Needs Been Met?

Professional Discourse & Communication (Russian Federation). 2021. Vol. 3. No. 1. P. 49-61.

The emergency transition of university education online posits a number of questions which are still to be answered. This paper aims to investigate whether language students’ needs were met when instruction was delivered completely online. To understand this, parallel questionnaires based on the current research on the needs, engagement and motivation in online and distance learning environments were administered to language instructors (N=69) and their students (N=148) at a large university in Russia. The instructors self-evaluated related competences, and the students assessed the experience of distant online language learning. The data collected via the questionnaires was subject to statistical analysis. The results showed a discrepancy in the instructors’ beliefs and students’ perceptions. The instructors were confident about their ability to meet the language learners’ needs, to provide individualisation, motivate and engage students, however, the students did not feel that happening. Open answers, which were analysed qualitatively, shed light on the reasons behind the mismatch in opinions. The students’ need for communication and interaction was inhibited by the limitations of the medium and the transactional distance. These factors contributed to the reduction of engagement, motivation and concentration. The interviews with 20 university language instructors revealed the practices the instructors implemented to meet the students’ needs, and identified the challenges they faced. Some implications for online language instructor training and development are discussed.