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How learners engage with e-learning: findings from the project research
Literature review

The focus on digital storytelling allowed teachers to refine key aspects of the students’ current use of technology and the internet in relation to their developing language skills. This project also channelled students’ existing engagement and enthusiasm for ICTs towards collaborative, learner centred language learning.

Focus group results

A focus group was conducted at the completion of the digital storytelling project. Participants were from Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia, with varying levels of English proficiency.

The researcher therefore presented the students with a print based questionnaire, and asked the students to workshop their answers in small groups.

The students were asked questions about:

  • their level of skill and satisfaction with the technology
  • its application in helping them learn about and improve their English, specifically around developing independent learning strategies, employability skills and its contribution towards their own personal development.

Digital storytelling using Photo Story 3 for Windows software enables students to produce a relatively quick result, whilst still giving students the satisfaction of creating a product that is personally relevant. The findings of the focus group interviews are summarised as follows:

Peer mentoring

The focus group interviews revealed that 50% of the students found the software easy to use. Those who reported difficulties said that “with help from my classmates” they were quickly able to grasp the basics and move on. This reinforces the value of peer mentoring as a strategy to improve English language fluency, facilitated by the introduction of easy, enjoyable and accessible ICT activities.

All the students expressed high levels of satisfaction with the process and the products, as they could see the relevance to their major goal, i.e. improving their English skills.

They particularly appreciated the opportunity to “learn new skills” and they could see its application to many other aspects of their lives.

Working with audio

The students were particularly interested in the audio aspects of the project, and wanted to explore recording their voice in order to practice pronunciation, with 66% of students seeing this as something they wanted to pursue further.
Students particularly liked the idea of scripting and recording a narrative. One student commented on the fact that it required him to think (and plan) in English, whilst others could see that it was improving their speaking, listening and reading skills, broadening their vocabulary, as well as giving them more independence in the classroom.

Employability skills

Student responses around improvements in their generic (employability) skills were also very positive with 83% indicating that they worked well as a team and could see improvements in their ability to do so.

Perhaps the greatest gains were in their ability to plan and organise information. In using such a highly visual medium, the student could quite clearly see how this helped them in assessing their efforts, and were able to reassess their work constantly.

Students also reported real gains in their personal development. Although some (33%) indicated that they were scared to start off with, they all reported feelings of pride in their stories, and they were keen to share them with a wider audience.

Level of satisfaction and uptake

All the students indicated that taking part in this project had improved their confidence in their use of ICTs.

Overall their increased confidence in their ICT skills and the real benefit of using the technology in learning English were the two most beneficial aspects of having been part of this project – many students were intrigued by the fact that they could “learn English and computers at the same time”, and another commented on the fact that it alleviated boredom.

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