In light of last week's readings on presence and how students can now have more realism, social richness, immersion and transportation (Lombard and Ditton), are Horwitzs' comments still as valid if we change it to 'virtual classroom'?
Thanks for an interesting question Henry. I would say that those effects are really still very much linked to the fact that those students have to go back to their classrooms and therefore there is still the idea of returning to a hostile environment which triggers such effects. The three main performance anxieties identified in Horwitz et al. (1986:127): communication apprehension, test anxiety and fear of negative evaluation are, I believe, enhanced by the proximity factor while I would argue that they are reduced by distance. It is true that nowadays digital features of most LMSs allow for virtual reduction of this distance, the concept of physical presence I think allows for anxiety levels to go down both in synchronous and non exchanges for several reasons. First of all, the fact that online presence in DL is more often than not asynchronous would lead me to believe that anxiety as described in Horwitz et al. (1986), Roed (2003), von Worde (2003) and Hurd (2007) this week cannot be compared with a DL environment, at least as we have defined it and are experiencing it here. For instance, we meet once a week and on the CertICT course which I moderate, we meet 5 times over a period of 20 weeks while asynchronous interaction is the norm throughout the course via the Moodle. Secondly, although Hurd says that when it comes to output (speaking and writing) DL is no different from other contexts (p495), she also says that 'there is evidence that the anonymity and collaborative nature of CMC can help to reduce anxiety' (p501) and it is these 2 factors which ensure a 'safe' environment. In short, I would argue that Horwitz' et al. comments are then still valid but largely debilitated by their stronger counterparts: anonymity, collaborative nature, asynchronousness, cyber proximity, lack of immediate response pressure, and the like.
Horwitz, E.K., Horwitz, M.B. & Cope, J., 2010. Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety. 70(2), pp.125–132. Online. Available at: http://moodle.nottingham.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=24802. [Accessed November 17, 2014].
Hurd, S., 2007. Anxiety and non-anxiety in a distance language learning environment: The distance factor as a modifying influence. System, 35(4), pp.487–508. Online. Available at: http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0346251X07000693 [Accessed November 16, 2014].