Resource centres and self-study: issues in computer assisted language learning
Jarvis, HA 2008, 'Resource centres and self-study: issues in computer assisted language learning' , in: The Fourth Education in a Changing Environment Conference Book 2007 , Informing Science Press, California, pp. 137-154.
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University students increasingly access computer-based materials (CBMs) beyond the classroom, in Resource Centres (RCs) – where the facilities are usually only available to students studying a specific academic discipline, in college and university libraries – where the facilities are available to all students, as well as at home and in internet cafes; and there is an increasing expectation that such materials are, at times at least, being used for self-study purposes. The pedagogical advantage of using a number of particular CBMs in both classroom-based situations and beyond is well documented. Surprisingly, however, few studies have been conducted which look at the choices that students make where a wide range of CBMs are available, as in self-study contexts, and the extent to which students view such CBMs as actually helping their learning. This paper reports on a languages-based study, which employs a combination of quantitative and qualitative research methodologies in order to examine such issues. It asks the following questions: Which CBMs do non-native speakers (NNS) of the English language make use of and why? Where access is available in a range of locations, where do students choose to work and what might the implications of this be for RCs? To what extent do students consider a variety of CBMs as actually helping with their language studies? What might the answers to these questions imply for our understanding of computer-assisted language learning (CALL)? Although this study is based in languages, its findings arguably have implications for educational practice across academic disciplines. Several themes arise out of this work; firstly, the physical location of an RC is important even when most CBMs are available elsewhere - it is suggested here that where the physical and the virtual worlds meet is a significant factor and one which warrants further investigation. Secondly, from the learners’ perspective, a wide-range of CBMs are viewed as helping with learning, irrespective of whether they fulfill a direct and obvious teaching role. Thirdly, world wide web-based delivery is the preferred to networked, and sometimes more sophisticated, commercially available multi-media CD ROM packages. Finally, live computer-mediated-communication (CMC) appears to be a considerably underused resource. These findings suggest that the validity of some of the long-established frameworks for conceptualising CALL need to be questioned.
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