An innovative method to evaluate usability and learner experience

Alice Gasparini

Abstract

The contribution presented here offers a reflection about digital learning environment from the point of view of usability and learner’s experience in a context of L2 acquisition. Besides, it presents an innovative application of non-pedagogical tracking software used to evaluate students’ behaviour within linguistic learning environments. The study is part of for a PhD project carried out at the University G.D’Annunzio of Chieti and Pescara and University for foreigners of Siena. 

Keywords: Learning Environment, Usability, Learner’ Experience, Learning Analytics, Italian as L2

Introduction

The 2020 pandemic situation brought distance education to everybody’s attention and multiple questions were raised. It became clear the need for teachers and students to adapt their usual way of teaching and learning to a distance context and get familiar with new tools. The contribution based on a PhD project carried out at the University G.D’Annunzio of Chieti and Pescara and University for foreigners of Siena focuses on digital learning environments and tries to answer this main research question: How can good usability enhance and promote a better learner experience?

A well-built learning environment, like a comfortable classroom, helps to create the best condition to learn because it contributes to reducing frustration, fears, and anxieties caused by a lack of familiarity with the technological system. Frustration and anxiety, as Krashen maintained, can raise the affective filter and be an obstacle to real acquisition (1983). How can a teacher or designer monitor their digital classroom and get the best of it? The study reports an application of non-pedagogical tracking software used to evaluate usability and learner experience of linguistic digital spaces. First, we will outline the basic concepts on which the study lies: usability, learners’ Experience and Learning Analytics.

Usability

The idea of usability has a long story, its birth dating back to Henry Ford who at the beginning of the last century started to reflect on the relationship between machines and workers of his companies. His objective was to increase industrial production and he understood that the machines needed to be “human-tailored” to make their usage easier and produce more. This is considered to be the beginning of Ergonomics, the discipline that coordinates and arranges workplaces and workers. The design of professional spaces and objects became user-centric. This approach later applied to all kinds of products made for people. The main idea was designing and creating machines or objects for potential users. Continue reading

A critical review on “Digital affordances on WeChat: learning Chinese as a second language”

Aishowarza Manik

Abstract

This present paper has reviewed the study conducted by Li Jin and revisited her significant findings on the educational affordances of using WeChat in Chinese learning. Jin’s study has a great potential in the field of second language acquisition with particular focus on mobile assisted language learning. The integration of technology for second language learning is nowadays considered as an emerging field, which has motivated her to adopt a qualitative approach to investigate the advantages of using WeChat in language learning. She collected all data from weekly survey, participatory observations and semi-structured interviews, and the data analysis was conducted by following the framework of grounded theory. Four educational affordances of using WeChat in Chinese learning have been emerged from the results. The present review critically focuses on Jin’s new ideas of technological integration and tries to evaluate its impact on Chinese as second language learning. 

Keywords: Chinese as second language, WeChat, Affordance, Mobile assisted language learning 

Introduction   

This article review presents a critical overview of Li Jin’s research entitled “Digital affordances on WeChat: learning Chinese as a second language”. Dr. Li Jin is an associate professor and Chinese studies program director in the Department of Modern Languages at DePaul University, Chicago. The article was published in the Computer Assisted Language Learning journal in 2017.  

At the beginning of the paper, the author draws attention to the prominent features of social media for language learning. This paper includes the use of social networking sites (henceforth, SNSs) in the second language (L2) context in order to improve the interconnections between learners and the social world. Integrating technology for pedagogical improvements widens the array of opportunities for learners to become active participants. Several studies (Blattner & Fiori, 2011; Reinhardt & Zander, 2011) have stressed that L2 learners’ linguistic and social competence can be improved by using social networking platforms. However, most of the research focuses on English language learners while using the English language dominated social networking application, such as Facebook (Jin, 2017). Unfortunately, researches on the learners of other languages and the use of SNSs for teaching L2 except English are very few in numbers (Diao, 2014; Wang & Vasquez, 2012). Studies suggest that 700 million of internet users in China are active users of Chinese social media and different SNSs become a part of daily life (China Internet Network Information Center, 2016, cited in Jin, 2017). However, researches on the benefits of using multiple SNSs for Chinese as second language (CSL) learners are very few in numbers. Therefore, this study aims to address the gap and to focus on the use of WeChat, a Chinese language based application, as a tool for learning Chinese. The outcome of the paper emphasises on the affordances of WeChat for Chinese language learners.      

An overview of the reviewed literature

The reviewed paper outlines the digital affordances of WeChat in Chinese language learning. WeChat is one of the most popular and free Chinese language based social networking application used in China and in other countries. This instant messaging software shares common features with other similar applications, such as sending text messages, audio-video calling, and sharing content. It also offers an interactive platform for formal and casual communication among Chinese learners. The linguistic and semiotic resources of this application assist practising in and improving Chinese language skills for all level language learners.   Continue reading

Vocabulary and derivative morphology in “¡Genial! A2: Curso de español”

Raquel Rodríguez-Fernández

Abstract

The role that vocabulary plays in any communicative act has led to its conception as one of the fundamental cornerstones in second and foreign language learning. However, although research has recently focused on the development of new methodological approaches that favour lexis acquisition, these strategies and innovations have rarely been applied to teaching materials. Word lists, word-image associations, and rote memorization have remained frequent techniques in vocabulary presentation and teaching in Spanish, while other more efficient mechanisms such as derivative morphology have generally been overlooked. This review thus aims to examine one of the few teaching materials that implements this linguistic resource to foster a less memory-based vocabulary learning and provides some suggestions to improve the productivity of this technique.

Keywords:  Spanish as a Foreign Language, vocabulary learning, derivative
morphology, teaching materials

The pivotal role that the lexicon plays in any communicative process has contributed to its being acknowledged and conceived of as a fundamental element in learning a second or foreign language. For this reason, theoretical research from the last few years has focused on the development of new methodologies to facilitate vocabulary acquisition in the target language. However, on a practical level, teaching materials that incorporate these innovations and strategies in lexicon treatment are still lacking. In this situation, the publication of a student book such as ¡Genial! A2 – Curso de español posits an original contribution to the field of SFL (Spanish as a Foreign Language). In this book, the layout and treatment of the vocabulary provided for this learning level manage to distance themselves from the traditional listing of words, in order to present the student with a more dynamic learning strategy, not limited to memorisation alone.  

Divided into eight different units, this student book includes within each of these a section solely devoted to the introduction of new lexical content, although its treatment is not limited to them: an accompanying workbook also offers the student the possibility to reinforce and establish the learning of new lexical units. In accordance with the guidelines and specific notions contained in the CEFRL (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) and the PCIC (Plan Curricular del Instituto Cervantes), the lexical content within each didactic unit stretches over a wide range of semantic fields. Hence, throughout ¡Genial! A2 we find vocabulary related to leisure, hobbies, life experiences, travelling, the working place, home and the domestic life, food, technology, and health. To the fact that all these aspects consider both single- and multiple-word lexical units, a second remarkable feature is included: the inclusion of activities aimed at promoting both direct and indirect lexical learning (Nation, 2013), by means of its treatment in both receptive and productive communicative skills.

In addition to facilitating a contextualised introduction to all vocabulary, a “lexical bank” is provided at the end of every unit, where the most important words and phrases related to each topic are included.  This section, which consists of six activities on average, often resorts to the use of images to present lexical items visually, and to the role of technology, such as smartphones, as a learning and reference tool. On top of this, we find activities, both written and oral, requiring that the student looks back to previously introduced items. Nonetheless, the most original element in this book is the inclusion, at the end of every unit, of an activity devoted to personal learning strategies and lexicon development. In this section, the student is asked to choose which forms and phrases among the new items are the most important for themselves, and to explain what strategies they use to learn and remember them. However, oral comprehension activities are not included in this lexical bank, though they are present at different points within each didactic unit.

Moreover, the student’s work on new or unfamiliar words is not limited to the unit in which they first appear. To facilitate the implementation of new lexical items into long-term memory ―namely, their retention and incorporation in the student’s mental lexicon― repetition and spaced-out reiteration of vocabulary are key strategies (Rufat and Jiménez Calderón, 2017). Accordingly, throughout each unit, and with a view to ensuring intentional and implicit learning alike, every effort has been made to include frequent repetition of lexical units in both oral and written contexts. Therefore, all forms included in each didactic unit appear later in other sections of the book, which undoubtedly favours the student’s consolidation of their previous knowledge of them. Continue reading

A critical review on ‘Users’ perspective on the adoption of e-learning in developing countries: The case of Nepal with a conjoint-based discrete choice approach’

Sagun Shrestha

Abstract

Use of digital technologies or e-learning is expected to have some significant impact in education in Nepal. Of late, some studies have been conducted to understand the impact and status of integration of digital technologies in education in Nepal. The study by Acharya and Lee is one of them which analyses the users’ perspective on the choice of e-learning in Nepal using conjoint-based discrete choice approach. This current paper makes a critical assessment of Acharya and Lee’s study and questions their research design and methods which they have employed in their research. Since their findings are based on purely survey research, the author of this paper suggests that some other research instruments  such as interviews or focus group discussion could be further help to explore the issues for an area they are researching as it belongs to a social research category. It is expected that this paper will help future researchers plan their research design and execute their study taking account of certain issues, such as sample representation. 

Keywords:  E-learning, developing countries, users’ perspective, conjoint-based discrete choice approach

 Introduction

The paper entitled ‘Users’ perspective on the adoption of e-learning in developing countries: The case of Nepal with a conjoint-based discrete choice approach’ by Bikram Acharya and Jongsu Lee was published in Telematics and Informatics journal volume 35 (pp. 1733-1743) in 2018. Their study looks at the users’ preference of e-learning in school environment using conjoint based discreet choice model.

In the beginning of this paper, the authors stress that the recent technological advancement has impacted significantly to deliver quality education. However due to the lack of a strong policy framework as well as resources, the implementation of ICT is not very dominant. They have also emphasized that the e-learning environment has been easy to access to the privately-owned schools, and these resourceful institutions use them as a means to attract students rather than to improve for the overall education system. And such a voluntary adoption has created digital gap amongst people and institutions. Referring to a developing country like Nepal, they state that there exists an introjected policy in the country that does not reflect the demand side of consumers which in turn cannot ensure the required output for the sustainable growth. Continue reading