ESL students' perceptions of web-based prewriting activities /
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Although much research has explored computer mediated communication for its application in second language instruction, there still exists a need for empirical results from research to guide practitioners who wish to introduce web-based activities into their instruction. This study was undertaken to explore collaborative online task-based activities for the instruction of ESL academic writing. Nine ESL students in their midtwenties, enrolled at a community college in Ontario, engaged in two separate online prewriting activities in both a synchronous and an asynchronous environment. The students were interviewed in order to explore their perceptions of how the activities affected the generation and organization of ideas for academic essays. These interviews were triangulated with examples of the students' online writing, nonparticipatory observations of the students' interactions, and a discussion with the course instructor. The results of the study reveal that a small majority of students felt that brainstorming in writing with their peers in an asynchronous online discussion created a grammatical and lexical framework that supported idea generation and organization. The students did not feel that the synchronous chat activity was as successful. Although they felt that this activity also contributed to the generation of ideas, synchronous chat introduced a level of difficulty in communication that hindered the students' engagement in the task and failed to assist them with the organization of their ideas. The students also noted positive aspects of the web-based activities that were not related to prewriting tasks, for example, improved typing and word processing skills. Directions for future research could explore whether online prewriting activities can assist students in the creation of essays that are syntactically or lexically complex.