Designing Distance Learning Tasks to Help Maximize Vocabulary Development

Designing Distance Learning Tasks to Help Maximize Vocabulary Development

John Paul Loucky
DOI: 10.4018/jvple.2012040103
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Task-based language learning using the benefits of online computer-assisted language learning (CALL) can be effective for rapid vocabulary expansion, especially when target vocabulary has been pre-arranged into bilingual categories under simpler, common Semantic Field Keywords. Results and satisfaction levels for both Chinese English majors and Japanese Engineering majors were high in this qualitative comparative study, indicating its potential for helping many students from various language backgrounds to rapidly expand their target language vocabulary, especially when blended with other real language negotiation tasks, preferably for an authentic audience. Print versus online reading and vocabulary development methods are compared, as well as surveys of both Chinese and Japanese college students, after they were engaged in a “Collaborative Writing Exchange Project” using similar online vocabulary development tools. All target terms were pre-organized and made available under common Semantic Field Keywords online in both Japanese and Chinese, but students had freedom to choose within sets of most relevant words from five academic disciplines. Writing themes were suggested to learners in both countries to keep their email exchanges consistent.
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Literature Review

Many language teachers have been looking for more innovative and interesting approaches to improve online second language reading and writing instruction. Pan and Huang (2009) developed a web-based college English outside reading (which they abbreviated as a WBEOR) learning system for freshmen, evaluated recently in Japan’s JALTCALL Journal. While their site was not made publicly available for testing, the writer compared his online reading-writing course with his research partner’s in Taiwan (Huang et al., 2009) from Fall 2007-Spring 2008. Common points between these studies are their search for features that enhance language learning motivation, web-based learning satisfaction, and both English reading and writing achievement as well as L2 vocabulary acquisition rates. Two other recent studies related to CALL-enhanced writing instruction are Chang, Chang, Chen, and Liou (2008) and Napolitatno and Stent (2004).

Dictionary research has sought to answer general questions about which kinds of electronic portable, software or online dictionaries offer the best support for vocabulary and language learning. Our study in particular sought to find out to what extent using a pre-organized, bilingualized online glossary based on an author-designed computerized version of the Semantic Field Keyword Approach would enhance both vocabulary learning and use by Japanese and Chinese learners engaged in five “Collaborative Writing Exchanges.”

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