Technology-enhanced blended language learning in an ESL class: A description of a model and an application of the Diffusion of Innovations theory
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Blended learning, a combination of face-to-face and online instruction, is seen as one of the most important advancements of this century and a natural evolution of the learning agenda (Thorne, 2003). Blended learning studies that compared traditional and blended foreign language classes showed no significant differences in learner outcomes and indicated student satisfaction with their learning experience. However, these studies did not allow for a sufficient description of what actually happens in an environment of a blended learning class because they lacked information about a number of characteristics such as teaching materials and methods, patterns of interaction, and participant roles. Moreover, some of the studies did not contain a theoretical base necessary to unify information about blended language learning.
In view of these needs, this dissertation investigated a technology-enhanced blended learning in an ESL program. The study described the blended learning model using the framework for blended learning design proposed by Neumeier (2005). It also approached the investigation of blended learning as an innovation from two theoretical perspectives: Diffusion of Innovations theory (Rogers, 2003) and Curricular Innovation Model (Markee, 1997) by examining the innovation, its attributes, and stages of the innovation-decision process.
Case study methodology was used to describe a hypothetical blended learning ESL class situated within the context of an Intensive English Program. The description of the case, the hypothetical lower-intermediate listening/speaking class, was based on the analysis of two actual listening/speaking classes which constituted two embedded units of analysis. Main participants in two classes included two teachers and their thirty-one students in addition to five other teachers and two administrators. Two classes used a commercially-available learning management system (LMS), MyNorthStarLab, to combine face-to-face classroom teaching and online learning in the computer lab and for homework. Both qualitative data (in-depth teacher interviews, class and lab observations, and student and teacher focus groups) and quantitative data (student surveys and student LMS records) were analyzed.
The main findings indicate that participants could observe integration of face-to-face and CALL modes and that students could practice all language skills in both modes. A number of interactional patterns among the teacher, students, and computer were observed while teachers exhibited a variety of roles. It was also found that the use of MyNorthStarLab in blended learning classes represented an innovation according to Rogers' definition and that both positive and negative innovation attributes were present. Overall, teachers and most students had positive attitudes towards the innovation and teachers passed through the first four stages of the innovation-decision process.
The results of the study showed that innovations theory can have applications in applied linguistics and computer-assisted language learning. Case study methodology yielded evidence about the blended learning model that previous comparison studies were not able to provide. This dissertation has practical implications for language programs and teachers and theoretical implications for the innovation and blended learning frameworks that informed it.