A Comparative Study of Open-Access Websites for Autonomous Learning of English

A Comparative Study of Open-Access Websites for Autonomous Learning of English

María Elena Gómez-Parra (University of Córdoba, Córdoba, Spain) and Roberto Espejo-Mohedano (University of Córdoba, Córdoba, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/IJCALLT.2020040105

Abstract

Computer-assisted language learning (CALL) benefits from undeniable steps forward such as the use of authentic materials, real communicative contexts and the ubiquity of learning. However, to discriminate the quality of digital resources for autonomous language learning from a critical perspective is not an easy task due to its diversity. This article offers the evaluation of a selected set of open-access and institutional websites for the learning of English as a Second Language (ESL) as the result of a research project for which expert-validated tools have been used. The statistical analyses carried out offer interesting data on the highest- and lowest-ranked ESL sites from both technical and academic viewpoints related to the quality of the resources offered. The conclusions address at a valuable contribution to the orientation of autonomous learning as an inherently human activity, but which nowadays still needs professional guidance and support.
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Background

According to Hilinger and Pérez (2019), computers have rapidly evolved as a resource for learning languages since the late 1960s with the first studies on language learning through the use of computers in the United States. Then, the first applications (apps) were developed and, despite the fact that they focused mainly on grammar, syntax and translation, two key concepts for the autonomous learning of foreign languages have been incorporated to the term: interaction and interactivity (Contreras, 2008).

The emergence of ICT in the field of second languages, where language learning through computers (CALL, the acronym that stands for computer-assisted language learning) or technology in general (TELL – Technology-Enhanced Language Learning) are playing an essential role in the area, has modified (in a wide range of factors) the way in which the learner accesses information, selects it, retains it and uses it to communicate (transcending the limits of the language itself).

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