In search of the optimal path: How learners at task use an online dictionary

Marie-Josée Hamel


We have analyzed circa 180 navigation paths followed by six learners while they performed three language encoding tasks at the computer using an online dictionary prototype. Our hypothesis was that learners who follow an ‘optimal path’ while navigating within the dictionary, using its search and look-up functions, would have a high chance of successfully completing the tasks. We have found that learners who indeed followed such an optimal path were systematically successful in completing the tasks. While alternative paths mostly led to failures, some did, nevertheless, lead to success. One didactic implication that emerged from this experimental study suggests that ‘optimal’ navigation paths can be taught to learners so as to enhance their navigation strategies while they use dictionary search and look-up functions for specific language learning tasks, and in turn, increase their chances of task success.


online dictionary; CALL task; navigation paths; process-oriented analysis; video-screen capture

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