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Advances in Language and Literary Studies Effectiveness of E-learning for the Teaching of English: A Study of Comparative Strategies

Teaching of English in Saudi Arabia (KSA) is on top priority these days. Linguists, researchers, pedagogues and teachers have different perceptions and views regarding the approaches/methods/techniques of teaching of English in EFL/ESL classrooms. In
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    Advances in Language and Literary Studies   ISSN: 2203-4714 Vol. 7 No. 3; June 2016 Australian International Academic Centre, Australia Effectiveness of E-learning for the Teaching of English: A Study of Comparative Strategies Intakhab Alam Khan King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia E-mail: Doi:10.7575/aiac.alls.v.7n.3p.125 Received: 11/01/2016 URL: Accepted: 13/03/2016 Abstract Teaching of English in Saudi Arabia (KSA) is on top priority these days. Linguists, researchers, pedagogues and teachers have different perceptions and views regarding the approaches/methods/techniques of teaching of English in EFL/ESL classrooms. In today’s modern learning scenario, it is believed that appropriate utilization of sophisticated tools of e-learning has generally been recommended in order to yield best possible results in a given situation. It is found that many students are found indifferent towards learning the target language (English). Different reasons are attributed to this situation. However, in order to overcome learning difficulties and motivate the concerned learners it is suggested that the students should be well involved in the teaching/learning activities. Online resources in particular can catch the attention of even a passive learner. While ascertaining the effectiveness of e-learning in general, the following aspects were also taken into account: relevance of e-learning, utilization of e-resource, e-training for the teachers etc. The effectiveness has been measured on account of the observation, responses of the questionnaires, experiment on the sample. The findings of the study are hopefully going to be effective and useful in the current practice of teaching English. Keywords: Teaching, E-learning, online learning, pedagogues, linguists, resource utilization, e-training 1. Introduction 1.1 Importance of e-learning in an English class Learning English is always a matter of difference of opinions and ideas. English is taught in different parts of the world using different ways: both traditionally and innovatively. However, e-learning has recently become an integral component of modern education system. Keeping the relevance of modern and innovative strategies of teaching/learning in a specific situation, variety of e-learning tools and strategies have been developed with a view to foster teaching-learning process to make it more effective and result oriented. Almost all the modern colleges in Saudi Arabia enjoy the infrastructural and other resources that are easily accessible. It has been generally found that the modern learners have deliberately switched over to be not much attracted towards the e-learning mode that is more like a fun (such as gaming) which is practiced without any burden. In this case, distance learning or blended learning mode will be quite useful. It has been noticed that youngsters in Saudi Arabia is quite friendly with computers, internet and other communication tools. Therefore, e-leaning is expected to de-burden the 21 st  century Saudi learners. In addition, internet access and e-learning are easily accessible anywhere and anytime without any trouble. E-learning can operationally be defined as the use, delivery and achievement of learning, training or education electronically. E- Learning as a mode of education may go along with the traditional mode leading to the practice of  blended learning. 1.2 Background   Teaching of English at King Abdulaziz university community college serves two purposes. Initially, it boosts the level of general English and then lays basis for English for Specific purpose (ESP) to be used in the learning of the specialties such as Business, Computers, Health technology. As already mentioned, teaching of English generally starts in Saudi Arabia from the middle school (6th standard onwards), but the English curriculum and students’ performance are not the same as in other gulf or Asian countries. The government’s initiative must be praised for conceiving language  planning, designing good curriculum, providing interesting textbooks, recruiting globally trained teachers and using effective administration, the achievement of the learning outcomes seems to be quite below the expected level and conceived standard. 1.3 The Research Context Enough literature and studies in the area of e-learning is available both online and offline. Almost all the aspects, dimensions, philosophy and theories pertaining to the e-learning have been taken into account to arrive at a clear idea   Flourishing Creativity & Literacy  ALLS 7(3):125-135, 2016 126   related to the present research problem. In the context of education in particular, the relevance of e-learning in a given scenario and effectiveness of e-learning based strategies have been the focus of most modern researches. Many studies revealed less effective results of traditional educational practices in different countries. Saudi Arabia is no exception. It is felt that even if the teachers are well equipped, they are seldom able to utilize the e-resources available in an institution. Thus, it is inevitable to focus on the relevance and specific need of e-learning in a place like Saudi Arabia where the achievement of education is not up to the expectations despite the availability of almost all the e-resources. E-resource includes variety of items: equipped classroom, computers, net, web access, language labs and similar facilities/resources that can be used for teaching and learning. The present study is a modest attempt in this direction. The nature of learning environment requires the regular interest with the topic and interactive study so the result is high level of learning (Istifci & Kaya, 2011). It has been suggested that the more flexible learning environment created the new role of a teacher as a “facilitator of learning”. (Harlow, Cowie & Jones, 2008). There is an urgent that the  practicing instructors to accept the fact that Web 2.0 has already changed the objectives and prospects of the whole learning cycle in the modern society like ours. (Jimoyiannis et al, 2013). In an e-learning environment, learners are able to be more involved in their learning and the assessment of their learning (Chandra & Lloyd 2008). A researcher took up the issue of the learner control by which the students can self-control the instructional activity and they don’t always need a presence of a teacher (Piccoli, Ahmad & Ives, 2001). Such an activity is characterized by more autonomous and flexible learning environment. (Parr & Fung, 2000). The related literature on computer assisted learning identified that little has been done to assess the effectiveness of teaching technology. The researchers noted that certain studies and articles suggests that ‘technology-mediation may yield better learner’s achievement (Gilbert, Morton, & Rowley, 2007). It was found that e-learning environment can successfully be enhanced by multimedia (Klassen & Milton, 1999). Such implementations even were tried out in other contexts. (Zhao, 2007). A study in the Social studies teachers' perspectives of technology integration was conducted which he found quite interesting and pedagogically useful. (Oblinger, 2006). Crossword puzzles are one of the activities of Edu-gaming which has also made its mark. Games are inherently experiential (Whisenand & Dunphy, 2010). Those who play games engage multiple senses. Research into first year students building and maintaining their vocabulary demonstrates that crossword puzzle is an effective learning tool (Shah, Lynch & Macias-Moriarity, 2010). It has been used in various fields of learning. (Barbarick, 2010). 1.3.1 Research Objective ·   To explore the relevance of e- learning mode, ·   To study the teachers’ towards the relevance of e-learning for learning English, ·   To ascertain the perception of the students on e-learning, ·   To find out the available e-learning resources useful for the courses and English language, ·   To study the effectiveness of e-learning as teaching mode for learning English. 1.3.2 Research Questions ·   Does e-learning play an important role in the learning process in general and in the learning of English in  particular? ·   Is there compatible and up to date e-resource at JCC, KAU? ·   Do the teachers need to evolve e-learning strategies? ·   Does e- learning yield more effective results than the traditional learning/teaching? 1.3.3 Hypotheses The following testing hypothesis was formulated: There difference in the performance between the two groups is insignificant. 1.3.4 Directional hypotheses E-learning is quite crucial in the learning process in general and in the learning of English in particular, The e- resource at the JCC is up to date and useful, There is a need to evolve e-learning strategies. E- Learning is more effective than the traditional learning/teaching. 2. Literature Review 2.1 An overview of theoretical considerations Learning is a complex process. It may or may not attract a student in the class. Most students are found passive in the classes during a lecture. On the other hand, if they are left unchecked they start using mails/SMS even in the class itself. E- Learning can be a boon for the learners of the modern age. It can be equally enjoyable experience for the Saudi learners of English language. However, it is felt that both the teachers and learners require initiate training for efficient use of learning resources. Psychologically, learners in general would like to work in groups. Saudi learners are expected to benefit each other in the form of puzzle based interaction and learn the targets of the language. In addition to other e-based learning, ‘social media’ is also conceived as an important learning tool for English language. The teachers are not supposed to create an  ALLS 7(3):125-135, 2016 127   environment for a utilization of social media because the learners have already been found using them. The only task an instructor is to do is to integrate the learning scenario and motivate them to shift their focus from general issues to a bit specific that can yield the maximum possible results. The ability to develop and apply the lessons of electronic educational resources for teachers true today, it is a requirement of time (Condie & Livingstone, 2007). The teachers should know as to how to blend the modern and traditional learning, face to face and distance learning etc. As everyone knows, the Internet that connects the world and offers all kinds of information available to a few clicks is certainly one of the most important inventions of the last century. Besides, one of its most interesting features is the fact that it continues to evolve and to discover. (Whisenand & Dunphy, 2010). With so much free information spread online, it is no wonder that the language teaching has also evolved to adapt to this new reality and that, nowadays, one can learn free English without even leaving home. In addition, the student who chooses this method still has the tranquility you can access your course you are, whenever you want, and the only  prerequisite to start the class is an internet connection. (Shah et al, 2010). Although it is a technology that had only room to grow in the last decade, e-learning is already showing good results in specialized disciplines and research. Education scholars agree that, in some fields, the online education outcomes are superior to the results of the courses using the method of the traditional classroom. It is known to most practitioners that the act of learning becomes much more effective when it is interesting and enjoyable for the students. And that's where the internet environment stands out. The diversity of available online technologies not only support as enrich the learning experience. Using multimedia tools, an online English class can have video, audio, images and interactive exercises that facilitate the student's experience and transform the moment of learning in a fun and light practice. (Barbarick, 2010). A non-customary sort of instruction is a home-based learning that regularly stresses the estimation of little class size, close connections in the middle of understudies and teachers, and a feeling of group. The ways learners learn, recall, and methodology data has been the essential concern of scientists lately. On account of dialect learning strategies, Littlewood (1996) holds the assessment that, as the measure of data to be handled in a course of study is fairly high, and learners need to perform the errands and procedure the new include, they normally apply some dialect learning strategies deliberately or even unwittingly. The use of dialect learning strategies is viewed as essential to a dialect learner's advancement. Oxford & Nyikos (1989) perceive that the choice of suitable dialect learning strategies empowers learners to assume liability for their own adapting by upgrading learner self-governance, autonomy, course toward oneself, and essential qualities forever long learning. In an electronic course as learners work rather autonomously, the strategies to be connected are generally self-created and the obligation of the determination of the suitable strategies pertinent to the given setting is upon learners' shoulder. Learning inclination influence the way understudies approach any errand and the way they work under diverse conditions and distinctive learning situations (Jimoyiannis et al, 2013). Strategies ought to be picked so they work and support one another thus that they fit the necessities of the curriculum, the learners' needs, and learning styles. Self-created strategies like instructional ones ought to empower understudies to assume responsibility they could call their own learning and lead to autonomy, independence, and achievement (Liu & Chu, 2010).   2.2 Distance Learning Distance learning is nothing but a set of technologies that provide students with the basic delivery volume of the studied material, interactive interaction of students and teachers in the learning process, providing students with the possibility of independent work on the development of the material under study, as well as in the learning process (Nuray, Ercan & Ozden, 2013). 2.2.1 Distance Learning Technologies Distance learning offers several different technologies that can be used during training. The basic technology of distance learning technology is built on the use of Internet technologies. Within the framework of distance learning have been used all the means offered by the Internet users. In general, it should be noted that the use of distance learning technologies, built on the use of Internet technologies, displaces all other distance learning technologies including due to the fact that Internet technologies gradually include other information technology. For example, telephony is increasingly becoming part of the Internet (Sosabowski et al, 1998). It may be quite beneficial for pronunciation drill and speaking skills. 2.2.2 Distance Learning Tools Modern distance learning systems provide: 1. Automated management training; 2. Rapid and effective deployment and providing students with educational content; 3. A single platform to address major challenges in planning, implementation and management of all training activities in the organization; 4. Support for the latest standards in the field of distance learning technologies; 5. Personalization of learning content and the possibility of repeated use; 6. A wide range of means of interaction between all participants in the educational process. 2.2.3 Scope of Distance Learning Technologies The possibilities of modern distance learning technologies can successfully apply them to study virtually all categories of students. The most widely used distance learning gained in the field of training. Almost all organizations with distributed structure, in varying degrees, use of distance learning technologies in the training of its personnel. In turn,  ALLS 7(3):125-135, 2016 128   training centers, offering services in the area of staff development, also began to offer services to its customers in the field of distance learning technologies. 2.2.4 Main Advantages of Distance Learning One of the key advantages of distance learning compared to traditional full-time education is its personification. Listener distance learning can independently: 1. Study to determine the relevance and speed of educational material; 2. Explore the right time for his training; 3. Assess the sections and right order of educational material for teaching. Distance learning provides an opportunity to get a lot more information to assess the knowledge and skills resulting from the passage of distance learning. Another advantage of distance learning compared to traditional full-time education is its cost and effectiveness. The analysis shows that when the minimum number of students of distance learning, distance learning is becoming more expensive as compared to traditional full-time training. Distance learning allows us to provide access to quality education to persons in those or other reasons, are unable to be trained in the traditional full-time. For example, in their  places of residence there is no qualitative educational institution. In a nutshell, the use of modern information technology in distance learning creates an effective learning management system built on the ability to collect much more information on graduation student of distance learning compared to traditional full-time training. 2.3 Place of English in Saudi Tertiary Curriculum In general, teaching of English at the preparatory level serves initially two linguistic and pedagogic purposes: first, it strengthens the existing foundation of English and later it lays the basis for Specific English which will be used in the years (second and third years) of the students' specialties. Thus, English language teaching (ELT) for the preparatory year students (in Saudi Arabia) has been in focus for the simple reason that all the crucial specialties (Engineering, medical sciences, computers etc.) are taught and evaluated through English. Total 20 classes are taught on weekly basis, and the contents as well as skills are focused according to the most modern curriculum design. As already mentioned, teaching of English starts from the middle school (6th standard onwards) in KSA, but it does not enjoy as important  place in the curriculum as in most developing countries. 2.4 Compatible E- Environment The teacher is the most vital element of any educational system. He plays a significant role in every sphere of teaching/leaning activity. The active role of an English teacher is possibly an outcome of his teaching philosophy,  background, experience, training and even teaching-learning environment. Every teacher has a teaching philosophy so has e-learning philosophy. He might have developed his philosophy on account of his teaching experiences or an outcome of some philosophers’ ideology. Out of many educational philosophers, John Dewey, the pioneer of pedagogy, appears to be quite pedagogically connected with the philosophy of e-learning because he stressed on practicum, real experience and interaction during the teaching-learning process. E-learning includes most of the pre-requisites of Dewey’s philosophy if not all. For him, teaching is a social process, and takes on his novel role of a leader of group activities (Dewey, 1938). He further elaborates as to why progressive education is more difficult to carry on than was ever the traditional system. (p. 381). Dewey’s philosophy may help the curriculum designers in studying the pedagogic issues, and propose the web based curriculum- the need of the hour. Long ago, Dewey raised some questions related to instructional activities: 1.   What and how can be done in order to bring together the school (formal agency) and home and neighborhood life (informal agency of education). 2.   What can be done to relate the subject-matter in history and science and art with the child’s own life, and attached values and significance? 3.   How can instruction or teaching in these formal system be carried on with everyday experience…? (Dewey 1899). Dewey would probably have thoughtful encouragement for “hybrid” online courses in the field of education allowing for field-based experiences, activities, and internships in teaching. Based on teaching philosophy and pedagogic knowledge, the role of a teacher (in an e-learning environment) is specified to a position of a ‘facilitator’. It is so  because the teacher doesn’t traditionally teach his students, rather participates in the teaching-learning activities and in more than one sense, he facilitates the learners. In order to develop a teaching philosophy and carry out the job of an actual teacher, he should either have a pre-service teacher training or professional development in a specified area of teaching. The teacher training may be quite intensive which prepares him a true professional. Besides, it would remain an unfinished task if the concerned professionals are not aware of certain pre-requisites for effective e-learning and learners’ achievement. As mentioned, the availability of resources, infrastructural facilities, human resource etc. are the necessary conditions for realization of the e-learning philosophy. 2.5 Relevance of e- learning There are many advantages of e-learning. One of the major benefits of e- learning is ‘motivation’ for the learners in the  present learning environment of Saudi Arabia. There is a need to innovate a strategy: perhaps a self-learning environment. Distance learning mode can play a crucial role in e-setting. Online learning, e-learning resources, integration of computer assisted language labs, social media can be well integrated to offer an environment which is completely e-  based. The role of a teacher is reduced to a facilitator or an observer. And, the learners will opt for all the modes they can use or even explore. This will lead to discussion based learning or problem based learning.  ALLS 7(3):125-135, 2016 129   2.5.1 Crossword Puzzles Crossword puzzles are now being used as an electronic tool which is sometimes known as interactive puzzles integrated with edu-gaming. (Khan 2011). The modern age of computers and technology offers 21 st  century pedagogues and language instructors to integrate any number of online programs. There are readymade online programs that can create crossword puzzles. In addition, local platforms can include such puzzles to be practiced by the learners under the supervision of the instructor. 2.5.2 E-Learning, Social Media and Teaching of English Social media and social networking are the modern tools and electronic platforms. Popular social media technologies (such as facebook YouTube, Wikipedia, Twitter, LinkedIn and many more) can be used for learning and teaching. The e-teachers can use messaging, discussions via forums, personal blogs and wikis. Facebook has been exploited by millions of users in the World and has become an inevitable part of their life. Social networking provides communication and information exchange. People who have Internet connection, they remain in touch where ever they are. Since most youngsters are interacting with the people across the globe via sites like facebook, it is a golden opportunity for educators to exploit it for learning sake as well. 3. Methodology 3.1 Design of the Study This quasi-experimental study explored the differences between two groups exposed to different treatments (i.e. e-learning mode versus traditional face to face instruction). Questionnaires for general teachers, sample teachers and sample students were administered to support the experimental data and analysis. 3.2 Sample There were three samples: the students of the KAU-Community College (25 each of 2 groups), the concerned teachers (14) and general teachers of English (other than JCC teachers (52). 3.3 Limitation The study is limited to Jeddah community college, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, KSA. However, the implementations of the findings will be open to any such college in the Kingdom or even outside. 3.4 Data Collection Technique 3.4.1 Questionnaires: Description In the questionnaires for the general teachers, there were 15 items. Questions were related to the current mode of teaching English: traditional or modern(blended learning), teachers desires to technology integration and e-resource availability including internet in the class, importance of e-learning, preparedness and CPD, significance and effectiveness of distance learning. Questionnaires for JCC teachers included different heads such as technology, resource availability, use of media, effectiveness. Some parts included yes/no questions (5 point scale: always to never) while the last part elicited agreement on the statement (agree, undecided and disagree). Responses were sought on the technology related issues: net access, use and feasibility, availability of desktops in the classrooms with data show and online facility, any  program like moodle, blackboard, LMES/EMES, teacher training and development, social networking, online material like crossword puzzle, availability of equipped language labs. In addition e-learning effectiveness was also questioned: different modes of teaching, technology as a tool, traditional vs modern strategies, need of technology integration. Students' questionnaires (controlled group) included 12 items on knowledge of computers, interest in mobile use and learning, mobile access for meaning and pronunciation, internet availability at home and college, online assignment, social networking for learning, relevance of e-resources, is online learning more interesting than the traditional books? Students' questionnaires (experimental group) included 13 items related to nearly the same points except the items related to modern teacher’s use of online resources for teaching, home assignment and active class learning, and students readiness for social site’s use for learning apart from other tools. Questionnaires for general teachers (from different places) were administered through e-mails based on the availability of the names and e-mail addresses. In addition, JCC instructors and the target learner groups were requested to fill in the questionnaires to assess relevance and effect of e- learning apart from observation and assessment of the e-learning resource and its availability at the sample college. The learners’ questionnaires were translated into L1 (Arabic) in order to focus on the contents. The data gathered through the questionnaires was cross examined by the evaluation of the availability and implementation issues pertaining to e-learning. The effectiveness was measured by the results of both the groups. 3.4.2 Test for controlled and experimental group A self-developed test was used to assess the achievement of the two groups of the target learners. 3.4.3 Validity The content validity was tested by taking expert advice of the academicians, fellow teachers. Based on their suggestions, the final version was given the last touch. 3.4.4 Reliability testing A smaller group (other than the sample) was given the test with a time interval of 15 days. The result was calculated to get to the coefficient of correlation which was 0 .69. Therefore, the test was considered reliable. 3.5 Ethical Consideration The concern for the ethical aspects contains the research focused on the involving humans as subjects, refer to the review of the principles, criteria or requirements that an investigation must satisfy to be considered ethical. Trust is the  basis of ethical research. The dignity and welfare of individuals who participate in research should be a central concern
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