A Case Study of Student Experiences of Multi-modal Net-based Language Learning

A Case Study of Student Experiences of Multi-modal Net-based Language Learning

Jonathan R. White (Department of English, Högskolan Dalarna, Falun, Sweden)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/IJOPCD.2020040101
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This article presents the results of a case study of student attitudes toward the development of language skills through net-based language learning, and especially through a multi-modal platform, Adobe Connect. Research has demonstrated that language skills can be developed through different net-based set-ups, but that technology can sometimes be a barrier. An online survey was conducted with students on net-based English courses at a Swedish university. Informants reported that they had positive experiences of such learning, but that they felt that speaking skills were difficult to develop, often due to connection problems. Listening was a particular problem during so-called hybrid seminars, where net-based students interacted with campus students. Informants felt that the main pedagogical issues for net-based language learning were the attitudes of the instructors and students. The set-up of courses can help develop spoken language skills, including interaction, but also the willingness of fellow students to interact orally rather than through text chat is important.
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There are many skills that make up our linguistic competence, and much research has investigated whether these can be developed in online language learning environments, including video conferencing, as discussed in the research syntheses by Lin, Huang, and Liou (2013) and Blake (2016). Student experiences of online language learning have been sought for many learning environments, such as forums, blogs, textchat, etc. However, web-based video conferencing has not been investigated to such a great extent.

Since such environments offer the possibility of interacting in both oral and text-based modalities, we can hypothesise that students would perceive video-conferencing environments as being richer environments for language learning. Indeed, as noted in Trinder (2016, p. 97), out of the different online environments, multi-modal environments were rated as most pleasing aesthetically. To investigate this issue, a case study was carried out in order to collect students’ opinions about a specific video-conferencing service, Adobe Connect, used in courses at a mid-size university in Sweden. This study sought to examine how the students experienced the development of their language skills in the environment, from oral and listening skills to more formal academic writing and grammatical competence, and also how they experienced interaction with teachers and fellow students. Therefore, this study aims to give an insight into the positive and negative sides of video conferencing as an environment for online language learning.

A survey was conducted with students at different levels of undergraduate net-based English studies (first to third semesters) through Google Forms (net-based is the common term used at this university to refer to courses conducted online involving synchronous online seminars, and so this is the term that will be used in the article, as opposed to terms such as online or distance). Before presenting the results, though, some background on the issues of language skill development and interaction in net-based learning environments, as well as reports of student attitudes to net-based language learning, will be given, plus a description of the Adobe Connect environment.

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