Cynthia Kilpatrick

Faces or Fingers: Building Communities in Online TESOL Classes


Cynthia Kilpatrick, PhD
Assistant Professor in Practice Graduate Advisor for TESOL Dept of Linguistics and TESOL, UT Arlington

Cynthia Kilpatrick is an Assistant Professor in Practice in the Department of Linguistics and TESOL at The University of Texas at Arlington. In addition to teaching theoretical courses in Linguistics, she also takes an active role in the TESOL program. She teaches both graduate and undergraduate courses in TESOL, as well as serving as the graduate TESOL advisor.  Her PLC project this year focused on comparing different formats for synchronous sessions in an online undergraduate TESOL course.

This project examined the effectiveness of different synchronous formats in an online TESOL course. Specifically, we examined student response, attendance, and participation in 3 different synchronous formats:

  • Face (= video) chat using BB Collaborate or Google Hangouts
  • Finger (= typing only) chat using Facebook groups
  • Finger (= typing only) chat using personal messaging function

Overall, while students were somewhat resistant at first, most declared a preference for synchronous finger chats after just a few sessions. Attendance and participation were higher than in synchronous Face chats in current and previous versions of TESOL courses, and students were more involved in the discussion during finger chat sessions.