Learner satisfaction with content of an online English learning course

Thứ tư - 06/08/2014 22:18
Background and the course content
Online learning in general and English language online learning have been a common trend in many countries in the world and Vietnam (Dang, Nicholas & Lewis 2012; Pham et al. 2012). At Hanoi University, an English online course has been implemented for many years. The online course offered at Hanoi University was called English Discoveries Online (EDO). The course included spaces for learners to interact with content, peers and instructors. The content repository of the course included digital materials (text, audio, video formats) for learners to practice listening, speaking, reading and grammar. There were three levels of study: basic, intermediate and advanced, each of which was divided into three sub levels for learners of different levels of language competence. In addition, the course consisted of other tools for learners to broaden their knowledge in some specific fields through reading comprehension tasks, and to have fun while studying such as doing quizzes to improve their vocabulary etc. The latest version of EDO also included a BBC Learning English part to provide more opportunities for learners to enhance their language skills in general.

The course was equipped with automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology (Golonka et al. 2012) for oral practice in which learners could listen to a sentence and repeat it. The ASR technology recorded the learner oral production and scores were given to tell the accurate levels of learner repetition. Learners could do this again and again until they were happy with the result. They could also send the result to instructors for comments. In the speaking component, they could do the same, and/or enhance their verbal reaction by responding to prompts in a dialogue. The practices could be boring for some learners, but many others found the tool effective to make their pronunciation and intonation more accurate.

Learner interaction with the course content

This online course was used as part of the curriculum for the first and second year English major undergraduate students of Hanoi University. It was delivered in a fully online mode in which whe-re learners were given privilege access to course during their own time. There was a regulation which stipulated that learners had to complete 80% of interaction with assigned levels of study (usually two levels) by the end of each semester. Failure to do so might mean that they were disqualified to sit for the term tests which evaluate learners’ overall performance of their English competence in four macro skills of reading, listening, speaking and writing. However, these term tests did not include the content of the online course.

Before learners start using the course, an orientation session was given in which learners were provided with hands-on instruction on how to work with different components, for example how to drag and d-rop an answer, how to record their voices, save and submit exercises that had been completed. They were also advised to take part in a placement test which gave them information about the level of English they are at. However, the test can only measure learners’ reading and listening skills, not speaking and writing.

Survey of learner satisfaction with the course content

In 2013, a survey was conducted to investigate, among other things, learners’ perceptions about their satisfaction with the course content. Over 210 learners took part in the survey which gathered, among other things, information about (i) their confidence of using the course, (ii) their satisfaction with practicing of language skills and overall satisfaction with the course content.
Analyzing learners’ responses to the above issues yielded some interesting results. First, learners of this course had a very high confidence in using the course with over 74.7% of them reporting that they were confident or very confident in using it. This meant that the orientation at the start of the course could provide learners with basic skills on how to use different course components. However, over a quarter of learners were still not confident in the interaction with content, which suggested that continuous support to the learners during the online study time was crucial to make sure that learners to make the most of what that course could offer.

Second, nearly one third of learners (around 32%) were satisfied with practices in the listening and grammar, followed by doing reading and speaking exercises (1.7% and 14.4% respectively). Over four percent of learners were not satisfied with any of the practices. Overall, nearly 80% of the learners were satisfied or very satisfied with the course content. However, nearly 20% of the learners were still unsatisfied with it.

In order to find relationship between learners’ confidence in using the course and their overall satisfaction with its content, the researchers used the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) (Pallant 2011) and results of analysis interestingly showed that the relationship was negative and insignificant, rho =-.05, n=209, p>0.05. This suggested that learners’ confidence in using the online course did not have impacts on their satisfaction with its content.

In summary, learner satisfaction with an online course depends on a many factors, one of which is the usefulness of the course content (Liaw & Huang 2013; Zimmerman 2012). Results of this study are in parallel with the corresponding research into the usefulness of learner interaction with content by the same authors. In this study, learners’ higher satisfaction with practices in listening and grammar suggest that they (these practices) help them improve competences in these skills and aspects. On the other hand, their lower satisfaction with speaking practice implies that the ‘listen and repeat’ or ‘listen and respond’ exercises were not sufficient to enhance their oral production. Indeed, it is difficult to design online oral practices that meet learners’ expectations such as communicative confidence in natural settings and oral presentation skills in English etc.
* Corresponding author: thachpn67@gmail.com, Tel: +61430915558.

  1. Dang, XT, Nicholas, H & Lewis, R 2012, 'Factors affecting ubiquitous learning f-rom the viewpoint of language teachers: a case study f-rom Vietnam'.
  2. Golonka, EM, Bowles, AR, Frank, VM, Ric-hardson, DL & Freynik, S 2012, 'Technologies for foreign language learning: a review of technology types and their effectiveness', Computer Assisted Language Learning, no. ahead-of-print, pp. 1-36.
  3. Liaw, S-S & Huang, H-M 2013, 'Perceived satisfaction, perceived usefulness and interactive learning environments as predictors to self-regulation in e-learning environments', Computers & Education, vol. 60, no. 1, pp. 14-24.
  4. Pallant, J 2011, SPSS survival manual: a step by step guide to data analysis using SPSS, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, N.S.W.
  5. Pham, T, Thalathoti, V, Dakich, E & Dang, T 2012, 'English Discoveries Online (EDO): Examining Learner - Instructor Interaction - A Case Study at Hanoi University – Vietnam ', in Teleconference on Information and Communication Technology in English Language Teaching in Vietnam., Hanoi, Vietnam, p. 14.
  6. Zimmerman, TD 2012, 'Exploring Learner to Content Interaction as a Success Factor in Online Courses', International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, vol. 13, no. 4.

Tác giả bài viết: Pham Ngoc Thach, Tang Ba Hoang, Nguyen Quang Vinh (Hanoi University)

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