Effects of an E-Learning Platform for EFL Chinese Learners

Effects of an E-Learning Platform for EFL Chinese Learners

Lin Shen (Guizhou University, China), Jitpanat Suwanthep (Suranaree University of Technology, Thailand) and Felicia Zhang (University of Canberra, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-065-1.ch005
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As English has been increasingly recognized as one of the influential factors for China in taking parts in global community, students and Chinese professionals need to participate in international seminars and conferences, and internationally collaborate with academics through the lingua franca, English. Hence, being able to speak intelligible English has unavoidably become a necessity, especially for Chinese university students. The purpose of this chapter focuses on the implementation of constructive role plays (CRP) via the NHCE e-learning in learning English as a foreign language classes. This chapter exploits quantitative and qualitative methods such as pretest, post-test, student questionnaires and student role play recording analysis to collect data to demonstrate the effectiveness of CRP on Chinese university students’ spoken English development. Results showed that there was a significant increase in the students’ speaking proficiency for the experimental group as compared to the control group. The results also indicated that CRP has been highly successful as an effective aid in improving EFL students’ speaking. The NHCE e-learning platform can provide a motivating environment for L2 students to practice spoken English. However, the empirical results showed that the use of online audio chat facility to perform the CRP may make some students feel anxious, due to its synchronized nature. This suggests that its use should be carefully considered in relation to divergent groups of learners.
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Currently, English speaking has become ever more important in people’s daily lives especially in the international arena. However, it is very difficult for Chinese students to speak with other people in English effectively. The term ‘dumb English’ used to describe Chinese students’ inability to communicate in English in the 1980s and 1990s (Hu, 1988; Weng, 1996) is still used today to describe students’ English learning in China, especially in Chinese universities.

Computer assisted language learning (CALL) has been suggested as one plausible way of improving college English learning and teaching curriculum in China. The Chinese College English Curriculum recommends that computer-assisted language learning should utilize a task-based language learning and teaching approach and be based on constructivism in college English learning and teaching (as cited in Xu, 2007, College English Curriculum Requirements, pp. 29-30). However, it is not clear exactly how e-learning can be employed to promote the development of the speaking skill in the College English curriculum.

At the College English Department of Guizhou University, the New Horizon College English E-learning, the only e-learning platform among universities in Guizhou province, was implemented since 2004. New Horizon College English (henceforth, NHCE) e-learning offers online computer laboratory practice based on the NHCE textbooks. Because the learning activities are online, students are able to engage in self-study activities at any time of their choosing. Moreover, it can also be used in a traditional classroom setting to supplement both EFL instruction and learning (Xu, 2007).

However, the existing NHCE e-learning does not seem to be an adequate platform to develop EFL learners’ speaking skills in English. An evaluation of NHCE e-learning platform revealed that activities contained in the NHCE e-learning are behavioristic in nature especially in the role play section (Wang & Wang, 2005). These role plays are usually teacher driven with objectives pre-determined by the content of the textbook. Speaking activities involved students role-playing designated roles by mechanically repeating language used by the roles through reading pre-set scripts.

Though the NHCE e-learning materials are conducted through advanced computer technology, the approach the learning materials take is more akin to audiolingualism than the task-based approach based on constructivism suggested by the College English Curriculum Requirements. Research on the extensive implementation of NHCE e-learning for college English classes further revealed that students who finished the repetitive role plays did not improve their spoken English (He & Zhong, 2006). Further questionnaire administered by the research team at Guizhou University on the use of NHCE e-learning platform showed that 50.33% of the students (N=300) reported that they learned little from the existing NHCE e-learning in their speaking classes. 43.83% of the students also felt that they were bored while doing the speaking activities on the e-learning platform.

Since Guizhou University spent a great deal of money implementing the NHCE E-learning platform, it is not economically viable to simply abandon the system. In this chapter, we would like to present research that investigates whether it is possible to enhance the role plays on the NHCE e-learning platform through ‘constructive role plays’ (CRP).

‘Constructive role plays’ are role plays based on the principles of constructivism. Four epistemological assumptions are at the heart of what is referred to as “constructivist learning.” (taken from http://www.prainbow.com/cld/cldp.html)

  • 1.

    Knowledge is physically constructed by learners who are involved in active learning.

  • 2.

    Knowledge is symbolically constructed by learners who are making their own representations of action;

  • 3.

    Knowledge is socially constructed by learners who convey their meaning making to others;

  • 4.

    Knowledge is theoretically constructed by learners who try to explain things they don't completely understand.

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Felicia Zhang
Chapter 1
Klaus Brandl
The goal of this chapter is to describe principles and guidelines that are to serve course designers and materials developers as a guide to task... Sample PDF
Principles and Guidelines for Task Design in CMC Learning
Chapter 2
Linda Jones
This chapter focuses on Google Wave, a new, emerging world-wide technology by Google that supports both synchronous and asynchronous communication.... Sample PDF
Interaction in Google Wave Sends Chat Rooms Out with the Tide
Chapter 3
Maliwan Buranapatana, Felicia Zhang
This chapter aims to explore the effect of providing multiple sources of feedback through a language teaching approach called the... Sample PDF
The Effect of Feedback in Teaching Thai as a Foreign Language
Chapter 4
Evan Bibbee, Esther Smidt, Vladimir Lazar
This chapter evaluates the pedagogical significance of a digital language lab as part of a university course in French phonetics. Based on both... Sample PDF
Teaching French Phonetics in a Digital Language Lab
Chapter 5
Lin Shen, Jitpanat Suwanthep, Felicia Zhang
As English has been increasingly recognized as one of the influential factors for China in taking parts in global community, students and Chinese... Sample PDF
Effects of an E-Learning Platform for EFL Chinese Learners
Chapter 6
Elzbieta Gajek
The European eTwinning programme, as part of the Lifelong Learning action has reached thousands of schools in Europe and beyond. It becomes a... Sample PDF
Constructionism in Action within European eTwinning Projects
Chapter 7
Daniel A. Craig, Jungtae Kim
Anxiety has long been considered a hindrance to both language learning and performance. To address this issue in oral language testing, it has been... Sample PDF
Performance and Anxiety in Videoconferencing
Chapter 8
Jane Vinther
The efficacy of computer-based activities that can incorporate grammar as well as language acquisition is at the centre of debates in CALL and SLA.... Sample PDF
Cognitive Skills through CALL-Enhanced Teacher Training
Chapter 9
Satoru Shinagawa
This chapter will discuss ways in which the iPhone/iPod Touch can be used for language learning. The built-in functions of the iPhone/iPod Touch... Sample PDF
Adapting the iPhone for Language Teaching and Learning
Chapter 10
Felicia Zhang
The above research has identified a deficiency in the communication skills of international students, crucial in seeking employment. This chapter... Sample PDF
Combining the Body and Mobile Technology to Teach English Pronunciation
Chapter 11
Roland Sussex
This chapter examines the technical, ergonomic, and cognitive implications for MALL for text input and editing with special reference to the mobile... Sample PDF
Text Input and Editing as a Bottleneck in Mobile Devices for Language Learning
Chapter 12
Felicia Zhang
It is argued that the use of Nivivo8 and Coh-Metrix is capable of increasing the quality of submissions for publication and will be an excellent set... Sample PDF
Writing Papers Using Nivivo8 and Coh-Metrix
About the Contributors