Learning English Becomes Increasingly Important Education Essay

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Abstract

Learning English becomes increasingly important today. In china, most job applicants are required to demonstrate their English levels in a job interview. An applicant with a low English level will be less competitive in the job market. Therefore, Chinese people realize the importance of learning English. However, the traditional English teaching methods are unsatisfied by a majority of English learners who are Chinese. This project report will research on a new learning method, that is, online learning. In addition, the report will display an idea of designing an online learning program based on the research.

Introduction

Nowadays, E-learning becomes increasingly popular due to many benefits it offers. Learners can obtain flexible time and location by online learning. In terms of cost saving, E-learning can reduce not only travelling costs, but also tuition fees. Moreover, many computer and internet technologies can be applied to E-learning such as online learning program. However, E-learning still cannot satisfy with quite a few of learners. For example, a majority of learners believe that the main disadvantage of online learning is lacking interaction and without immediate feedback. The proposed project will briefly research on how to improve online English learning methods and design and implement an online learning application program for people who are Chinese.

The reason that online English learning has been selected as my topic is its high likelihood of replacing traditional learning methods and will bring economic benefits to both learners and organizations. In China, learning English is obligatory. For example, college students are required to pass CET-4 (College English Test) before they can obtain the diploma. In addition, with a large number of multinational corporations pouring into China, a job applicant who has a high English level is in great demand. However, China's government admits that most university graduates cannot even meet the minimum English requirements of entering a multinational corporation. According to David Park (2007), the average IELTS (International English Language Testing System) score that Chinese candidates got in 2007 is 5.45, which is lower than most countries in the list (Figure 1). A poor method of English teaching and learning in China are considered as the primary cause of low English level at large. Therefore, ministry of education in China keen to reform English teaching methods.

Figure 1

Objectives

To find out what English skills that Chinese people want to achieve the most.

To compare between the way of learning English online and in the classroom

Questionnaire regarding attitudes of English online learning will be distributed to 200 English learners who are Chinese

Analyzing the likelihood of improving current online learning tool (program) in terms of technique

To find out the way of budget saving by E-learning.

Analyzing some current English online learning websites and to find out their advantages and disadvantages.

To evaluate whether online learning benefit organizations or not.

Design and implement an online English learning program.

Literature Review

Based on literature reading, most authors believe that English online learning is still in the early stage. While it is also believed that there is an enormous space for E-learning development. In addition, many authors agree that online learning provides learners several benefits while classroom learning does not. For example, online learning is more flexible in terms of study time and learners can learn by self-paced. However, these authors also admit that online learning is still critical due to its low-interaction. Lacking self-discipline is another factor that online learning may not fit some learners. Therefore, the issue should be raised by how to make these disadvantages not present then. A number of excellent ideas which can be applied to my proposal project have been collected from some books and papers and I list them below.

Enhance system interactivity can appeal more people to use the system (D Zhang et al,. 2004)

Provide immediate feedback and allow learners to correct the wrong answer in the same time. The content of feedback should be designed to encourage the learners to retry the answer in order to increase their learning motivation. (Twigg & Carol A, 1999)

A well instructional design can attract to more learners. (Allen M, 2003)

Using the technology for online learning should be taken into account. Communication technology can be used as a good way for interaction between learners and teachers. (Bates A.W, 2005)

Frankly, many ideas have been enlightened after reading these literatures. First, this proposal project will research on instructional design and make sure they are creative rather than boring. Moreover, immediate feedback will be added in the program which will be shown after learners submit their answers of quiz. Second, online learning program with interactive features will be used for this project in order to convince more customers to use the program. Some interactive features are expected to achieve by communication technology, for example, video calls.

Methodology

The way I did the work is based on primary research and secondary research. The feedback of questionnaire and E-learning websites analyzing were applicable to the primary research; reading books and online academic papers as the secondary research.

Regarding questionnaire, it is an easy and fast way to get information. My questionnaires will be delivered to 200 people who are Chinese English learners. They were selected by different age groups and occupations backgrounds in order to get more analyzable data. Because some questions relate to the computer technology, all the responders should also have more or less relevant knowledge. Questions were designed to associate with objectives, which is the way to test hypothesis. The outcome of questionnaire is expected to find out learners general attitudes of E-learning and what English skill they wish to improve the most.

I will test some popular English online learning websites and list their advantages and disadvantages. Additionally, I will study 'ET' of 'PEST Analysis' for those websites. For example, BBC English Learning, it is one of the most popular English learning websites in China. I need to find out why it is popular and what attractive to users to use this website. Regarding disadvantage, I will not only indicate what can be or should be improved in the further, but also compare between BBC and the other websites to see whether these improvable aspects have been done by any other websites. The purpose of evaluating the advantage and disadvantage of some popular English learning websites are to find out what features can be referenced in my project and how to improve the identified disadvantage.

In teams of 'E' (economic factors), I will investigate how these websites make profit by interviewing a sales representative from Putclub (Putclub is a popular English learning website in China) for the purpose of analyzing the likelihood of higher economic interest can be made in the future and how they persuade English learners to click their website. Moreover, it is necessary to evaluate the benefit from online learning by making a comparison between these online learning websites and classroom learning.

'T' (Technological Factors) should be taken into account whether the technology can be improved to meet consumer's needs. The feedback may get by consulting some experts. Another important aspect is how technology can reduce the cost of online learning application program. For example, choose an easier and appropriate programming language to design the online learning program would require less resources, reduce the number of employees, for instance.

Reading related books and online papers can inspire me with some new ideas. Some statistical data can be obtained by reading books or papers. For example, Figure 1was taken from a paper.

The most important milestone of this proposal project is to design and implement an online learning program. This learning program is designed based on the researches I made, and it will follow four principals, they are: Logical, Interactive, Budget and Customized.

Work plan and tasks

The work plan and tasks are produced to assistance in fulfilling methodology. The schedule has been made with the principle of rationality. Time plan contains three stages, that is, secondary research, primary research and implementation. The time duration of this proposal project is 6 months. Some but not all tasks will be achieved in the reality. A table below represents a work plan and task.

Stage

Tasks

Time table

Research methods

Secondary research

Collect good ideas of how to improve English Online learning

10/10/2009-18/10/2009

Reading relevant books and online academic papers

Primary research

Analyze the data from questionnaire feedback and to justify the objective

19/10/2009-25/10/2010

Design and distribute questionnaire to English learners who are Chinese

Current English learning websites research in terms of its advantage, disadvantage

26/10/2010-31/10/2010

Accessing to some popular English learning websites and test the learning tools

Current English learning websites research in terms of its Economic Factors

1/11/2010-11/11/2010

Interviewing a sales representative from Putclub (The most popular English learning website in China)

Current English learning websites research in terms of its Technology Factors

12/11/2010-30/11/2010

Accessing to some popular English learning websites and research on the technology they are using

Review

Research Review

1/12/2010-

7/12/2010

Verifying and validation previous researches

Project

Scheme of project

8/12/2010-22/12/2010

Specification

18/12/2010-30/12/2010

Basic Design

31/12/2010-12/1/2010

Instructional design

13/1/2010-18/2/2010

Review the previous researches and focus on learners requirement

Implement an English online learning application program for Chinese people

19/2/2010-19/4/2010

Writing program language and consulting related experts in terms of computer technical problems

Evaluation

Program quality review

20/4/2010-1/5/2010

Test and ask some learners to try it and leave the feedback

Conclusion

Proposal Project summary

2/5/2010-14/5/2010

Outcome of research

All the researches have been achieved before the submission date of this document. The secondary research has been mentioned in the literature review.

Regarding primary research, 193 out of 200 questionnaires have been returned with the feedbacks. I list some important results which can justify the objective.

Most responders wish to improve their English communication skills. And they also indicate that they have very little opportunity to practice their English speaking

There are 73 per cent of responders believe that they would like to spend more time in learning English online than in the classroom if they could choose

In terms of technology, some people suggest that they would like to pay out if they have an opportunity to make a video call to the English native speakers.

Regarding budge saving, 87 per cent of people think online learning can help them to save money.

Online English program with a rich user interface will attract to people to learn and increase their learning motivation.

Generally, the result of questionnaires gives a fairly justification of objective. In China, lacking of English communication skill is a common phenomenon despite a lot of English learners keen to have this skill in hand. In reality, traditional English learning provides very little opportunity to speak English as Chinese students would like to speak their first language with each other. After class, more learners even never practice it. The question should be raised by how to create the opportunities of communication in English. Because of the distance restraint, face to face communication with a native speaker is always unrealistic. Online learning has solved this problem in terms of remote distance. It allows users to talk with native speakers by online video call. Regarding budge saving, 87 per cent of responders believe that learning online can bring a cost saving. For example, travelling fees, residence etc. Rich user interface is believed as a way to appeal to learners spending more time on online learning. Stone D et al,. (2005 p4) states that 'Users interface enables interaction and serves as a bridge between users and system'.

In terms of website research, some excellent instructional design ideas have been listed below:

Quizzes with different topics and immediate feedback with answer analysis.

Enrich user interface by adding lovely imagine and animation

Listen to the speeches by famous people online with speech draft

English online game (never get bored and have learnt some new words myself)

Pronunciation practice

A large number of useful English learning materials available

Many English learning websites offer a large number of quizzes and interactive online game. They are designed for the purpose of improving learners English with different skills. However, most of these websites do not allow learners to select a degree of difficulty for either quizzes or online English game. It may result in unfitness to some learners (either too simple or too difficult). In addition, online video call with English native speakers has still not been developed yet as all the websites I researched do not has does service.

It terms of technology, its development requires learners no longer necessary to study by attending regular classes. Traditional HTML-based website can only describe basic words, imagine, table etc. Its technology cannot be used to meet most learners' needs. With development of web 2.0 technology, RIA (Rich Internet Application) has released to the market, it enables websites contain dynamic web pages with a database. Regard of current online learning websites, most of them using Adobe flash + PHP + XML (or SQL) platform, which aim at creating a functional website and rich user interface. For example, CSS + XML platform are used by BBC learning English website, the former one is as a tool of designing pages layout while the latter one as database. Compare to the SQL, XML is less complicated to use than SQL. Therefore, choose a proper platform is very important. Pea R et al,. (2003 p56) believe that a wise choice in terms of E-learning technology can reduce the cost. For example, choose a proper programming language may avoid pay extra (more programmer require system maintenance etc.). Therefore, using the appropriate technology is important.

Funding and budget

Budget for the proposal project

In terms of project expenditure, this project is expected to make a considerable profit with a reasonable cost. I list them below:

Research compensation (travel, materials fees, mobile phone)

Delivery (domain name space)

Software (programming)

Program maintenance

Employees (programmers)

Special employees (English native speakers)

This proposal project requires reasonable expenses as an investment. Purchasing a domain name space in order to deliver the online learning program and employ some programmers to provide technical support. In addition, this project require some 'special employees', that is: English native speakers. According to some feedbacks from questionnaires, online video call with English native speakers can convince users to pay out of their own pockets. Therefore, I suggest that hiring these special employees is expected as a good way of investment.

Profits for the proposal project

This project is believed to make considerable benefits which contain tangible benefits and intangible benefits. According to Khan B (2005), they can easily be defined as tangible benefits can be converted to monetary value while intangible benefits are difficult to convert to figures. In terms of this project, tangible benefits include as following:

Saving the overall cost (travel, classroom rental, meal)

User charge for the program

A lot of intangible benefits will be brought from the project. This type of benefit is always ignored because it is difficult to quantify. However, it is still worth to discover and document. (Horton W, 2004) Regarding this project, intangible benefits include as following:

Saving time of travelling

Quality of online teaching improvement

More flexible time

Self-paced study

A large number of materials online are available to download without charge

No restriction on admission (all people are allowed to learn)

E-learning development

Conclusion

Project impact

In general, this project aims to increase the learning opportunities and learning quality to English learners. According to the research, a quite few learners prefer learning online, so the online learning program will be designed to meet their requirements. Online learning with interaction feature is believed to attractive to learners spending more time on study. The development of online learning is necessary due to it can improve the education system and would fit some learners who are not happy with traditional classroom learning.

Project limitations

There are a number of main limitations for this project as following.

Limited research expense would reduce the research power

Insufficient research manpower would result in less data collection and lower data accuracy

Limited research time (need further work)

Research scale constraint due to some physical limitations, for example, locations and energy

Ethical Considerations

In china, all students have to suffer a fierce competition from college entrance exam. About 20 per cent of examinees will not be allowed to go to the college. John R Gardner (2006 p30) states that 'Learning who disadvantaged as well as those with specific learning abilities should not be left behind.' Online learning provides an extra platform for those people who cannot attend to class. In addition, online learning can increase motivation

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