The Trends of English Learning-Related Use of Technology: The Role of Technology
This chapter exposes what the sample students are actually doing with the Internet for English learning-related purposes, as well as delineating their perspectives of these digital experiences. These insights will shed some light on the first research questions posed in Chap. 4—‘Are Internet tools used by most of the participants for English learning-related purposes outside the classroom? If so, how are Internet tools mainly used?’. The data reported in this chapter are generated from two main sources. The first is the guided survey, involving 1485 Chinese undergraduates from various academic backgrounds. Using the data from the survey, the first part of this chapter describes the trends of WELL use. As defined in Chap. 1, the term WELL indicates the L2 activities that involve the use of online technology. The survey results reported here inform us of whether the participants in this inquiry are committed to the use of online technology for their English learning, while providing an overview of the research question posed. Where appropriate, the patterns of WELL use are scrutinized in comparison with the students’ general web use, so as to gain a fuller understanding of their behaviours surrounding technology. The second source of data draws on the semi-structured interviews with 49 students who were strategically selected from the questionnaire respondents. Thus, the second source involves qualitative data obtained from 26 heavy and frequent users (active), and 23 light and non-users (less active) of WELL from different academic departments and different years of study (for details, see Appendix H). As such, the picture that emerged from the interviewees should be more optimistic than normally expected from the questionnaire respondents, as most questionnaire respondents are found to be less active users of WELL in this study (see Sect. 5.1.1). Data from the two non-users are included in the reporting of qualitative data, essentially because they noted certain WELL activity during the interviews, although claiming themselves as non-users in the questionnaire. Notably, the active and less active users of WELL will not be discussed separately, essentially because this chapter does not aim to define different groups of users, but to explore the commonalities and varieties of usage patterns among the interviewees. Such exploration will help to further illustrate and expand the patterns of WELL use identified in the survey phase, and thus provide useful insights into the research question proposed. These in-depth descriptions uncover how online technologies assist or influence, if at all, the interviewees’ approach to English learning, and enhance our understanding of the contextually situated phenomenon of WELL.
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