Review of the article:
Using Audioblogs to Assist English-language Learning: An Investigation into Student Perception
by Hui-Yin Hsua, Shiang-Kwei Wang and Linda Comac
It has been almost five years since Hsu, Wang, and Comoc published their study of audiblogs. At that time there was much favorable opinion toward using blogs in learning, but the authors noted that there had been little research and discussion focus on using blogs as a way to promote language learning.
The authors designed their study as a way to meet the instructional needs of a particular language instructor. She needed to evaluate learners’ speaking and listening skills in an Advanced English Conversation course. They used audioblogs as the method of addressing those needs. They then used a variety of sources to measure the effectiveness of the method, as well as student perceptions of the method.
Prior to the study, the instructor had been assigning homework in which students were required to listen to the assignments and to record their oral responses on cassette tapes for evaluation. This was not satisfactory for two reasons: First, it was time-consuming for the instructor to listen to cassette tapes, and then give oral feedback. Secondly, many students did not own tape cassette recorders.
Audioblogs were chosen as the means of addressing the instructor’s needs for several reasons:
1. Ease of Use. Users can set up the blog (e-portfolio) and connect the audio clips with the blog by one-click-button publishing.
2. Affordance. A computer and a cell phone are the only needed equipment.
3. Easy archiving. This allows the teacher to measure outcomes and track progress, while allowing students to reflect on their learning and take responsibility and ownership of learning.
4. Compatibility with multimedia format files. The instructor can insert conversation audio clips or conversation video clips into blogs or can insert external links into blogs.
5. Easy to facilitate interaction. It allows the instructor to correct student performance in both the oral format and the written format, and gives students easy access to feedback.
In order to make the audioblogs operational and useful, four steps were taken:
Step 1: Setup of the Blog. The first two class sessions were used to introduce students to the concept of blogging, and to set up their individual blogs. The URLs of all students’ blogs were collected and posted on the instructor’s blog so the instructor could easily connect to their blogs.
Step 2: Online Audio Recording System. The study used Evoca (http://www.evoca.com), the online audio recording-playing system. A virtual voice recorder on each blog allows the teacher and other students to leave oral comments.
Step 3: Procedure for the Distribution and the Completion of Assignments. The teacher recorded each assignment on her blog. Students linked to her blog to receive the assignment, then responded on their own blogs. The teacher then evaluated and left feedback on the student blogs.
Step 4: Assessment of Audioblog Assignment. For the listening comprehension, students listened to a short recording and answered questions about it using audioblogs. The instructor reviewed the answers in class. On the blog, the instructor responded to the students’ recordings by making corrections and comments.
Research Method: The authors used a mixed methodology (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998), consisting of both qualitative and quantitative methods. The qualitative included: a student open-ended questionnaire, instructor interviews, and student blog analyses. The quantitative consisted of survey data.
Data Collection and Analysis: The authors were able to measure outcomes for the study from several sources:
1. Student-attitude survey. The 11-item Likert-scale survey was used to measure the perceptions that learners had of blog use’s contribution to English-speaking proficiency. Measurements included: A. The Ease of Audioblog Use (above 75% positive). B. Satisfaction Regarding Interaction with the Instructor (above 88% positive). C. Experiences Regarding Blog Use as a Facilitator of Language Learning (above 82% positive).
2. Student open-ended questions. Among other comments, students said: “It is easy to interact with the instructor and receive the instructor’s individualized feedback in a timely manner; it provides an efficient process for completion of oral assignments; it allows for practice and for repeated listening to assignments; and it is fun to use.”
3. Interview with the instructor. The instructor’s opinion about the advantage of audioblog was similar to the students’: It enabled fast two-way communication. It provided a convenient way to evaluate oral assignments and to give individualized feedback. But, the teacher felt the class size (22 students) was too large. It was difficult for her to monitor and respond. She recommends no more than 10 students. She noted improved speaking abilities among students who regularly completed assignments. But, she did not find language improvement over the short-term. She found that even those students who were improving their skills had significant pronunciation problems.
4. Analysis of students’ audioblogs. Special attention was given to the assignment-completion rate. The number of audio clips posted by participating students on their blogs varied from a high of 43 to a low of 3. The average number of audio clips posted was 16.66. It was noted that this class was conducted on a pass/fail basis, without a grade for the course, which may have affected student motivation in some cases.
The authors concluded that audioblog is a useful tool for an instructor. It provides a way to conduct “formative and summative assessment”. It allows the incorporation of multimedia formats of content, individualized feedback, two-way interaction, and builds an online learning community. For students, it allows them to develop their own e-portfolios, using the audioblog. It encourages them to develop reflective practices and to establish ownership of learning. The authors concluded that interaction between the teacher and students is the key to success. They agreed with the instructor that class size should be limited.
Authors’ Future Research Goals:
The authors anticipate the growing use of wireless handheld devices as a means of making audioblog technology even more useful. They say this will make the use of audioblog easier, and more universally available. They call for further research on the effect “ubiquitous learning devices”, combined with audioblogs, can have on ESL language learning.