The application of modern technology makes learners' perceptual learning styles play a decisive role in the process of interaction between lecturer and student. In this study, the Barsch Learning Style Inventory was used to examine participants' perceptual learning styles. The sample consisted of hospitality college students (N = 72) in Taiwan who engaged with a virtual learning environment (VLE) of an English course. Six types of perceptual styles were found using cluster analysis and the follow-up discriminant analysis implemented to justify the results of cluster analysis showed that the proposed clusters were able to successfully predict 95.83% of the classification.
Keywords: VAK styles; virtual learning environment; EFL
As Webification of instruction offers greater flexibility and applicability to students of hospitality and tourism programmes worldwide (McDowall & Lin, 2007; Sigala, 2002), such courses in Taiwan are using the Internet as a complementary tool to enhance students' learning (Horng, 2007). While more and more students benefit from web-based learning, it is necessary for course designers and instructors to familiarise themselves with learners' learning styles (Leung & Ivy, 2003). To respond to this, the study investigated the perceptual learning styles of Taiwanese hospitality students' in the context of a virtual learning environment (VLE). Since the hospitality industry is global in scope and marked by intense international completion, a proficiency in English is essential for hospitality professionals. Hospitality education programmes in non-English speaking countries are aware of this prerequisite and have begun to offer more English courses to students (Chang & Hsu, 2010). In fact, English mastery is regarded as a basic competence for employees in the industry (Martin & Davies, 2006). In Taiwan, English has become a core subject in hospitality training programme curricula (Hsu, 2010). For example, the National Koahsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism requires students to take 12 units of general English courses in their first and second years of study. Some departments also offer instruction in English for Specific Purposes (ESP) to cultivate competence in professional English usage. Language courses are presented in traditional weekly classroom settings, supplemented by online asynchronous discussion forums: e-Learning platforms (http://cu2.nkuht.edu.tw). e-Learning is facilitated by the course instructor who initiates online discussions on a specific topic and encourages student participation.
An informed English as a foreign language (EFL) pedagogy requires instructors to adjust their teaching methods to accommodate the abilities and needs of their students (Matthews, 1995) and be attentive to web-based communication, which is the most rapidly expanding medium for teaching and learning (McIsaac & Gunawardena, 1996). Many studies (Azevedo, 2005; Costen, 2009; Moos & Azevedo, 2009) argued that a computer-based learning environment (CBLE) or VLE is a popular and helpful channel of instruction for students. Furthermore, other research has revealed that learning differs significantly in physical and online courses (Hiltz & Wellman, 1997; Stonebraker & Hazeltine, 2004) so the relationship between individual learning styles and online English courses is an issue worthy of exploration (Saeed, Yang, & Sinnappan, 2009). While studies have shed light on student learning styles and behaviours in online courses, they have not focused on their perceptual styles in a online-instructional mode or on their habitual behaviour in using computers for learning.
A learning style integrates a person's cognitive, affective and psychological traits (Cassidy, 2004). Within the field of hospitality education, scholars have directed their attention to identifying students' learning style preferences in the UK and …