Effects of Learner Control and Learning Strategies on English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Learning from Interactive Hypermedia Lessons

Article excerpt

This study investigated the effects of learner control, English learning strategies, and the use of advance organizers on English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learning from interactive hypermedia lessons. The experiment used 150 EFL subjects in Taiwan who studied English using one of several alternate versions of a hypermedia-based interactive video program. A 2 X 2 X 2 factorial experimental design was employed. The independent variables were: (a) variations of control--learner control or program control, (b) the use of advance organizers--presence or absence of advance organizers, and (c) students' English learning strategy ability--high ability or low ability as measured by Oxford's Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (S.I.L.L.). The dependent variables in this study included: (a) scores on immediate recall protocols, and

(b) students' attitudes toward learning English from interactive hypermedia lessons. Results of this study revealed significant effects of the learner control treatment and the use of advance organizers. Learner control was especially beneficial for students with lower ability in English learning strategy use. Students' attitudes were very positive toward learning English from interactive multimedia regardless of the treatments.

The issue of learner control in second language learning has been discussed by several researchers who have emphasized that effective language learning requires the learner's control and active involvement in the learning process (Liu, 1992; Oxford, 1993; Underwood, 1984). For instance, based on Krashen's (1982) assumptions about second language acquisition, Underwood (1984) categorized computer-assisted language learning (CALL) activities with linguistic dimensions by distinguishing communicative CALL from noncommunicative CALL. In communicative CALL, the learner is in control of the learning process, and students relate to subject matter in a personal way creating their own learning experience. In noncommunicative CALL, the program is in control of the learning process.

In the past, the issue of learner control in computer-assisted instruction (CAI) or multimedia has been investigated extensively but researchers have reported ambiguous results. In addition, existing studies have rarely addressed second language learners. Steinberg (1977) argued that many learner control experiments failed to show advantages of learner control because subjects used incorrect learning strategies. In addition to issues associated with learning strategies, researchers have noted that learner disorientation and cognitive overload are two challenges faced by instructional designers of hypermedia lessons (Jonassen, 1989; Kenny, 1992). To cope with this problem, Steinberg (1989) suggested that certain strategies might be embedded in hypermedia to help students.

Past research has demonstrated that advance organizers can have beneficial effects on memory and subsequent achievement (Ausubel, 1968). This view also aligns with the theory of communicative language teaching (Krashen, 1982), which stresses that while learning a second language, learners need to actively interact with the external environment and integrate new information with the information already stored in their memory. Although the effects of advance organizers on learners' comprehension of text have been demonstrated, very few studies have focused on how advance organizers influence EFL learning in a hypermedia-based learning environment.

Another factor that may play a role in students' language learning from multimedia is the language learning strategies that the learners themselves bring to the task. Language learning strategies are the various methods individuals have for perceiving and processing information while reacting to their environment. According to Oxford (1993), there is significant variation across levels in English learning strategy use among EEL students. Do EFL learners with fewer English learning strategies have difficulty learning in hypermedia-based lessons in the target language? …