Text chat is a very engaging way of communicating because of its synchronous nature: when pupils use text chat, they realise that what they are typing is read straight away by their peers from abroad. In addition, text chats brings along two other particularities. First, the fact that it is written communication entails that the "difficult" oral competences do not play any role in this way of communicating - which may help certain pupils overcome their shyness. Second, in comparison with spoken chat, text chat has the advantage that every conversation can be read and analysed afterwards, and, thus, be used for educational purposes. For example, teachers can see if communication breakdowns occurred, or they can have their pupils reflect on their own linguistic performances.
In TILA, there are three ways to work with chat:
1) the Moodle offers a separate chat function that can simply be plugged in into a Moodle course.
2) text chat is one of the affordances of the videocommunication software BigBlueButton. This software is available within the Moodle.
3) text chat is also available within the 3D virtual world, OpenSim. In that world, pupils communicate not only by voice but also by typing and reading text.
The first way to work with chat is different from the two others in the sense that it is deliberately chosen as the main form of communication - when pupils are active within the chat function, chatting is all they can do. In the two other cases, text chat is an accessory that comes along with another way of communicating, but that will not be the center of interest. So in those cases it will mostly be used as a complement to the 'main' communication format (videocommunication or 3D world), which will probably alter the role that it can play in the course.