A Fruitful Symbiosis: Self-access
learning and research in an online
Introduction to Cypris Chat
• An EFL learning and research community in
Second Life (focusing on oral skills).
• Founded in 2008 by Mike McKay.
• Active membership floats at around 300.
• Members and staff are EFL learners from
around the world, as well as language
teachers, researchers and interested native
An online community center
• Free access and membership
• Classes and learner-driven events daily
• Welcome area serves as a chat lobby
• Seasonal events and special classes offered
• Majority of members from Asia, Europe, the
Middle East and South America
• 24/7 access
The Cypris Model - Learners
• Learners are able to practice their English on
demand and for free. They can socialize with
other members or staff, attend weekly classes
and events, play English games, and get
connected to other EFL communities in SL.
They also organize their own classes and
events, and may eventually become on-staff
Cypris Model – Tutors (instructors)
• Tutors are generally native or proficient non-
native English speakers. There are currently
six tutors at Cypris offering regular classes; 4
out of 6 of them teach university-level EFL
classes in “real life” (RL). Tutors are able to
demo RL lessons and gain experience teaching
in SL. Cypris tutors routinely bring their RL
students into Cypris and Second Life.
Cypris Model - Researchers
• Half of tutors are also actively doing
educational research in Cypris. Cypris has also
hosted several short-term research projects
(in press). Research volunteers have access to
a wide variety of willing research participants
from around the world. This makes it ideal for
graduate student researchers unable to find
RL participants, as well as researchers hoping
to generalize results outside of the Japanese
The current research:
• Why do learners choose to practice their
English in this unusual context?
• What keeps them motivated to participate?
• How strong a motivator is the social aspect of
• Is the affective filter (Kraschen, 1981) lowered
by using avatars?
The current research:
• Participant observation (since its inception in
• Two-stage interviews (pilot underway)
• Focus groups
• Documents - teacher lesson plans, staff meeting
agendas, participant-driven projects (i.e. Cypris
• Constructivist bent with member checking
• Precedence – Boellstorff, 2008; Pearce, 2009
If I were a betting man…
• The relaxation of formal teacher-student roles
• The DIY emergent nature of the group
• The entertainment value of avatar use
• Embodied language use (Pearce, 2009) in an
• The desire for friendship and socializing
• A background familiarity with computers
• Boellstorff, T. (2008). Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist
Explores the Virtually Human. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
• Krashen, S. (1981). Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition.
English Language Teaching series. London: Prentice-Hall International
(UK) Ltd. 202 pages.
• Pearce, C. (2009). Collaboration, Creativity and Learning in a Play
Community: A Study of the University of There. Breaking New Ground:
Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory. Proceedings of DiGRA
2009. Retrieved November 13, 2010, from Georgia Institute of Technology
• --------------(2009). Communities of Play: Emergent Cultures in Multiplayer
Games and Virtual Worlds. Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
• For more info: http://cyprischat.org/center/ or http://www.cyprissociety.org/