A Blended Chinese-as-a-Foreign-Language Short Course: Design and Perceptions

A Blended Chinese-as-a-Foreign-Language Short Course: Design and Perceptions

Shenglan Zhang (Department of World Languages and Cultures, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJCALLT.2016040103
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Abstract

This study investigated learners' perceived effectiveness of a blended Chinese non-credit bearing short course designed for engineering students with no prior knowledge about Chinese language. Few studies have examined how to design blended Chinese courses for beginning learners. The design of this study was based on the framework of parameters proposed by Neumeier (2005). Bloom's taxonomy of learning objectives in the cognitive domain was adopted in deciding on the time distribution to the two modes (Face-To-Face and online), and on sequencing the two modes. FTF was the lead mode with activities that help learners apply and practice what they learned creatively. Online activities were designed mainly to help learners memorize vocabularies, analyze word order, and comprehend culture. Data were collected through a survey and an informal interview. The findings show that the design is effective but improvements are needed.
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Introduction

Blended learning (BL) has been drawing increased attention in the field of language learning. It has changed the ways that students experience language learning. The main principle of BL design is to make foreign language teaching and learning effective by taking advantage of the strengths of the two different modes: face-to-face (FTF) and online (Neumeier, 2005). Research shows that BL can benefit language learners in different ways, such as improving learner autonomy (Murray, 1999; Luke, 2006) and linguistic achievement (Hegelheimer, 2006; Payne & Whitney, 2002; van Deusen-Scholl, Frei, & Dixon, 2005), promoting learner attitudes and motivation (Ushida, 2005), and increasing learners’ awareness of the target culture (Dubreil, Herron, & Cole, 2004; Zeiss & Isabelli-Garcia, 2005)

Due to the appeal and benefits of BL in foreign language education, more and more foreign language educators are adopting BL in their regular curriculum to achieve various instructional goals (Coryell & Chlup, 2007; Bond & Graham, 2006). Despite its popularity, however, many questions remain unanswered: How should a blended language course be designed with consideration of the features of the target language and the background of the learners? How should the online and FTF components be integrated well so as to maximally help achieve the instructional goals? Answering these questions in the context of teaching Chinese language will not only contribute to Chinese teaching and learning, but also, will shed light on, and contribute to, deepening our understanding of language learning in a blended learning environment.

The purpose of this study, then, is to examine learners’ perceived effectiveness of the design of a blended Chinese course on their learning. The blended course was designed using the framework of parameters proposed by Neumeier (2005). While designing the course, the following were taken into consideration: the special features of Chinese language, the unique group of learners, and the learners’ learning purpose. The study will provide a description of the detailed design process and the learners’ perception of its effectiveness. The ultimate purpose is to help other foreign language teachers develop their own blended courses based on the learners’ special needs and learning purpose, and the features of the target language.

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