Evaluating the impact of an online English language tool's ability to improve users' speaking proficiency under learner- and shared-control conditions
This study aims to uncover whether English Central, an online English as a Second Language tool, improves speaking proficiency for undergraduate students with developing English skills. Eighty-three advanced English language learners from the American English and Culture Program at Arizona State University were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: the use of English Central with a learner-control, shared-control, and a no-treatment condition. The two treatment groups were assigned approximately 14.7 hours of online instruction. The relative impact of each of the three conditions was assessed using two measures. First, the Pearson Versant Test (www.versanttest.com), a well-established English-as-a-second-language speaking test, was administered to all of the participants as a pre- and post-test measure. Second, students were given a post-treatment questionnaire that measured their motivation in using online instruction in general, and English Central specifically. Since a significant teacher effect was found, teachers involved in this study were also interviewed in order to ascertain their attitude toward English Central as a homework tool. Learner outcomes were significantly different between the shared and learner conditions. Student motivation was predictive of learning outcomes. Subjects in the shared condition outperformed those in the learner condition. Furthermore, those in the shared condition scored higher than the control condition; however, this result did not reach statistical significance. Results of the follow-up teacher survey revealed that while a teacher's view of the tool (positive or negative), was not a predictor of student success, teacher presentation of the tool may lead to a significant impact on student learning outcomes.