VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) permits internet telephony on computers or mobile devices. Nowadays there is a grey area between traditional VoIP services like Skype (see the image at the bottom of this page) and chat & messaging services, with many companies providing both audio/video call and messaging options. VoIP, much like chat and messaging, is linked with web 2.0 in that it involves user interactions and exchanges, and with mobile learning in that it often occurs on mobile devices, with traditional VoIP services like Skype being regularly used in an app format on smartphones or tablets.
VoIP is an ideal tool for conducting live interviews or pair and small group discussions. These can be recorded and reviewed or transcribed later, and well-designed oral tasks can also form the basis for assessments. There are obvious applications of VoIP for language learning in particular, which has led to a number of services building language learning functionality around Skype or similar VoIP technology.
Well-known alternatives to Skype which are often used on computers include Google Hangouts. There is also videoconferencing software available, generally intended for larger group meetings, with some well-known platforms including Microsoft’s Teams, TeamViewer (also used for desktop sharing and remote control), Zoom, and the educationally oriented Blackboard Collaborate. For more on videoconferencing, see the videos page of this website. For commonly used mobile services, see the chat & messaging page of this website. For a fuller list, see Wikipedia’s Comparison of VoIP Software.
Recordings of VoIP calls can be made using free software, such as Pamela (which allows free recordings of up to 15 minutes), but Skype itself also permits recordings to be made.
Language exchange services can help to organise voice chat, often through Skype, and often with accompanying text channels; examples include The Mixxer and My Language Exchange. The HelloTalk and Tandem apps are designed specifically for language practice. As an alternative, it is worth remembering that audio messages can also be exchanged on many chat & messaging apps. In the future, it is likely that some language apps will invite students to talk to chatbots; one app that already includes natural speech recognition for English learning is SpeakingPal.
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