Osaka Kyoiku University, Japan
Recently, educators in Japan have been working to change the way in which English Education is conducted in Japan while dealing with an increase in “computer illiteracy” among the younger generation. In order to determine if it was possible to improve learners’ abilities in both the fields of English language learning and technological competency, this study had learners create an online learning community where facilitator-led discussions and collaborative problem-solving activities could take place. The research goals were to measure the effect that using the English language to participate in such an online learning community had on EFL Japanese learners’ English language abilities, discover how this community affected the learners’ motivation to learn on their own, and see whether a blended learning style where face-to-face instruction was combined with virtual activities could increase engagement in the community among non-computer oriented learners. The study was conducted with 25 first-year university students at a Japanese national university who spent 12 weeks on a language learning website using English as the medium of conversation to discuss facilitator-posted weekly topics. Every 4 weeks, the facilitator conducted a workshop that covered ways to use various features on the website. Data was collected through a pre- test, a post-test and a questionnaire survey. The test results indicated that by participating in the online community, the English language abilities of the learners had increased. The questionnaire survey revealed that the community helped to raise the motivation levels of over half of the learners and indicated that the workshops were effective in helping increase learner engagement in the weekly discussions. It can be seen that with face-to-face interactions, which helps the learners to familiarize themselves with the technology that is to be used in online discourse, learner engagement increases, which in turn improves their overall language abilities.
Second language acquisition, E-learning, technology in education, collaborative learning, blended learning