The twentieth century will be remembered as an age of communication. From the car to internet, ease and forms of communication increased dramatically with a corresponding growth in contact between cultures and languages. Language learners have benefited from both increased access to other languages and an ever expanding range of teaching and learning materials. From videos to cassettes to multimedia CD-ROMs and once again the internet, there are a large number of technologically-led resources to choose from. Many of these tools allow the student a great deal of flexibility in where, when and how they study. This may be positive for many but it also contains challenges as "language learners are more and more forced to rely on their own resources in an increasingly technological world." (Benson 1997 :11)

The increasing range of self-study material available may even create a situation where "Institutions could become total providers of self-access learning and the traditional classroom could disappear entirely in some institutions" (Sturtridge 1997: 68). The author continues, however, to make a crucial qualification: "What is critical is the recognition that alongside the organisational changes there must be an appropriate methodology which directs those changes and ensures their success" In other words, technological advances and changing learning contexts do not free either the learner, educational institutions or teachers from examining, considering and researching the learning process. Indeed as Dickinson (1992:1) points out "A naive view of self-instruction is one in which the teacher is seen as redundant."

Unfortunately, many self-study aids for languages, such as videos or CD-ROMs, frequently market themselves as an easy, quick "do it yourself" approach to language learning in which places few demands on the student and in which the teacher has been replaced by the package on offer. Nevertheless, as Sheerin (1997: 56) points out: "None of the aids which are for sale, no matter how expensive and ‘good’ they are, can have the magical effect of turning non-proficient language users into proficient language users if the learners themselves are not engaged in and do not take responsibility for the learning process. Since money can buy most things nowadays, this realisation can come as something of a shock to some would-be language learners." The existence of material, no matter how advanced technologically, does not imply learning or teaching is automatic. What is crucial is the changed role of the language learner in this situation and of the teacher in helping the learner confront these challenges.

Dickinson (1992:1) claims that "Only a few people are spontaneously self-directed. Many turn to self-instruction as a solution to an otherwise intractable problem ..." and this unfortunately exacerbates the situation when learners are presented with new, often technologically based material, which promises so much for too little effort. Fortunately, the learner has not been completely abandoned. Many educational institutions spend time, effort and thought on the provision of self-access facilities, material and student support. What is more, learner autonomy and independence have become increasingly important theoretical concepts in the field of education. Benson and Voller (1997: 1) outline how these have become "buzz words" but then continue to point out that "there remains a good deal of uncertainty about their meaning and applications for language education". What exactly learner autonomy and independence mean can become even more elusive when placed within a wider cultural context as outlined by Pennycook (1997: 44-47).

Benson (1997: 25) argues for three versions of autonomy; technological, psychological and political (control over content and processes) and this provides an good theoretical framework to work within. Dickinson (1996: 36) provides a more detailed discussion of how students work in autonomous situations: "Self-instruction clearly entails that the learners themselves undertake more of the tasks associated with learning without the assistance of a teacher. There are various degrees of this learning mode, the ultimate being autonomy, in which the learner is responsible for all of the decisions concerned with her learning, and carried out all of the necessary activities."

Little (1991: 4) offers a more specific definition of what this autonomy may entail: "Essentially, autonomy is a capacity – for detachment, critical reflection, decision-making and independent action." The author then continues to support the idea expressed by Dickinson that it is very much a process which develops over time and one which is continually changing: "The fact is that autonomy is likely to he hard-won and its permanence cannot be guaranteed; and the leaner who displays a high degree of autonomy in one area may be non-autonomous in another."

The modern language learner is thus faced with increased opportunities for self-instruction but may not always be aware of the demands this makes, or of the complex processes involved. For this reason the role of educator and educational institutions may be changing but they are not redundant. A large step towards autonomy or successful self-instruction implies that "Learners need the professional guidance of a teacher or advisor so that they can take informed decisions by themselves." (Sheerin 1997: 64)

What follows is the outline of a program developed to assist learners in their use of computer based English language teaching materials within a particular context. Learning English with a Computer will supply technological autonomy by its very nature and encourage psychological autonomy through usage and content. Political autonomy, control over the content and processes, is more difficult to provide although the program is seen as an introduction which will allow the learner make decisions about selecting and following a computer based language course. As an introduction to the area, the program is seen as the first step of the gradual process described above.

Criswell (1989: 50-51) outlines ten steps in the Design, Production and Evaluation of computer based instruction (CBI) material and these have been used to provide a framework for a more detailed analysis of the process involved in the development of Learning English With A Computer.



1. Environmental analysis (proposed use of program, available material, user attitudes)

E.L.I. is a private language academy in southern Spain offering E.F.L. classes to all ages and levels. As part of its package it has successfully developed the use of multimedia CD-ROMs to supplement the normal course books. As a result of this experience the school has also obtained various computer based language courses. These are available for the use of students who are not able to accommodate the rigidity of normal class timetables. They have been used by individuals and groups, both on premises and at their place of work.

The school has, however, treated such material as being very much secondary to more traditional classes and courses. As a result, preparation of students who are going to use CBI material has been minimal, as has been their access to teachers. The length and organisation of their courses, testing and progress assessments are all left in hands of the students. While there is no self-access centre in the school the students do have access to school facilities such as library, videos, cassettes and internet. On the basis of observation and of recent surveys with students who have done such courses it is generally recognised that, overall, the courses need re-thinking for students to obtain maximum benefit.

Replies to the survey are difficult to generalise about as each student appeared to have their own style or opinion when it came to approaching the material, organising their time, assessing their progress, making notes etc. What was interesting was that the majority of students who completed the survey stated they felt their level of English had improved, that using the computer had been easy and that they would be prepared to try a similar course. In other words the experience had been perceived as being positive and beneficial. This must, however, be placed within a context. Most of the students who completed the survey were still studying at the school and all of them had been long term users of CBI material. Surveys sent to students who had done a brief CBI course and then left (a larger number than those still studying) were not returned so it is difficult to gauge what their reactions to CBI English language learning courses were.

Observation highlighted the fact that most students did not use any form of note taking while working on the computer and, even when available, seldom completed record sheets of their progress. Very few used other facilities provided by the school and in general, any extra practice away from the computer appears infrequent. A certain number of students also appeared to perceive the course as a race against time attempting to get through as many CD-ROMS as possible within the allotted hours with little concern for the quality of work or of the long-term language learning implications.

Undoubtedly, different learning styles may appreciate one method more than another and this to an extent is what has happened with these courses: they appear to appeal to and suit certain learners and learning styles, notably those who seem to be better good at organising their own studies and are more aware of learning techniques which they like. Dickinson (1992:1) says that "Effective learners have a high degree to which they involve themselves in making decisions relevant to their learning." and this appears to hold true for the information observed and obtained through surveys at the school. Dickinson (1992:1) continues logically: "One way of improving effectiveness, then, is by helping learners to become more independent. This independence does not entail autonomy or isolation or exclusion from the classroom; however, it does entail that learners engage actively in the learning process."

Reaching a wider range of students and helping those who may be more independent anyway to continue this development, implies some degree of learner training. Voller (1997: 107) points out that: "There is a paradox about a teacher’s role in independent language learning; the truly autonomous learner would not need a teacher at all. Equally, autonomy is not a gift that can be handed over by the teacher to the learner, so is autonomy un-teachable?" Autonomy is certainly not easy to achieve and clearly some students may need more help than others; all learners, however, need at least to be made aware of how important it is and instruction of some form therefore has a role.

Aware that attempts at promoting CBI learning have been limited so far, aware that the area is developing and becoming necessary as adults in particular find it harder to accommodate rigid timetables, the school has decided to re-think the use and organisation of CBI courses. Procedures in introducing needs analysis for students, selecting the program which may be most suitable and advising them on its use and maintaining some record of progress and support during the courses are being developed. Learning English with the Computer is one further step in this direction.

Learning English with the Computer attempts to increase student awareness of their power to make decisions and become involved with the learning process now that they are using CBI material in a self-study context.. In doing so it needs to consider the previous arguments and information while also considering two further elements within this environmental analysis: the CBI programs used by the school and the students themselves.

English Express, English+ and Dynamic English are the three primary courses used along with additional support CD-ROMS from readers to dictionaries. The three programs all offer a gradual movement from beginner to upper intermediate and in a general sense appear similar in that a student selects a CD-ROM and moves within the material supplied with certain liberty. A more in dept analysis highlights differences in how students are encouraged or not to organise their approach, how their progress is charted, how they are aided when making errors etc. Learning English with the Computer would have to prepare students for all three packages and therefore make them aware that the above points can be important and can vary from one program to another.


Learning English with the Computer would also have to consider the students it is aimed at. Considering the importance of cultural factors outlined by Pennycook (1997: 44) it is important to remember that as Spanish adults, usually professionals, they will have possibly spend a lot of time studying alone in order to pass exams. Such study, however, frequently involves rote learning of facts rather than independent thinking but even so, this will have provided some experience of having to organise their own studies. Adult, Spanish students are products of a system in which the teacher tends to be an authority on their subject and learning is often exam focused rather than exploratory. The majority of these students also have basic IT skills and while they may vary a lot in terms of typing speed, students in general have encountered few problems using multimedia packages.

Finally, with regard to their level of English the majority of students who have been interested in these courses tend to be lower-intermediate to intermediate. Ellis and Sinclair (1996 :9) see this as being an advantage: "In our experience, learner training is most effective at lower-intermediate level, as the learners are usually able to complete activities in the target language, which provides additional language work, and already have some language learning experience of reflect on." Learning English with the Computer could therefore be in English rather than Spanish thus providing further stimulation as students would feel they were learning English even before they started the real course. This, combined with the actual content of the program itself, would hopefully aid generate a positive and creative attitude to the overall experience.




2. Knowledge Engineering

(Course content, concept and task analysis)

The paradox of the teacher’s role in "teaching" autonomy has already been mentioned. Nevertheless, few would claim the teacher or educational institutions have no role in enabling students to develop such an important skill. In this case it is a computer program devised by a teacher which is providing the stimulation and this in itself may reflect the changing role of instructors. Having outlined the context the program will be used in and the general areas it should therefore attempt to deal with, it is necessary to be more specific about course content. Consideration of content initially requires a more accurate definition of exactly what is meant by "autonomy"

Nunan (1997: 195) breaks autonomy down into levels of implementation moving through Awareness, Involvement, Intervention, Creation and finally Transcendence with a corresponding breakdown into Content and Process for each level. For students who use the program, Learning English with the Computer will probably be the first introduction to CBI and the autonomy it requires. Therefore, enhancing and encouraging the earlier steps in this process, those of learner AWARENESS of INVOLVEMENT in the learning process, will be the crucial aim of the program. In the future, based on an evaluation of this program, other instalments could be created to take students further into the exploration of autonomy and CBI material. Learning English with the Computer is thus the beginning of a gradualist approach as indicated by Nunan above and also promoted by Dickinson (1987: 153)

Nunan sees Awareness and Involvement implying content through which learners are made aware of the pedagogical goals and content of the material they are studying while being encouraged to select their own goals from the material provided. This implies learners becoming aware of their own learning styles and strategies and on this basis gaining the confidence to make choices from what is available. Along with the basic freedom to make decisions, the program also has to provide guidance as to how to approach these decisions.

In terms of developing content Dickinson’s argument (1992:18) that preparation needs to be psychological primarily, and then methodological. When discussing learning strategies Wenden (1991: 19-25) makes a further contribution when the importance of both cognitive strategies and self-management strategies are mentioned. One further consideration when deciding on the initial content was the fact that students were being prepared for a degree of independence and autonomy while studying English and that the program should reflect both the typical task types found in the programs they would possibly use while also preparing them for approaching aspects of the language they may previously only have done with the guidance of a teacher.

The content is thus fixed in two parts which is quite similar to Sheerin’s organisation of the book SELF-ACCESS (1989). Part 1 contains an initial psychological preparation of the student moving into self-management concepts and awareness of what CBI material may provide while also guiding students to other resources they may use to complement work on the computer. Each section or sub-section is organised around principles such as those outlined by Sturtridge (1997: 76-68) and Riley (1997: 122) of encouraging initial reflection, providing a task which furthers self-analysis and finally the provision of suggestions which hopefully encourage further reconsideration of techniques and approaches. The tasks in general aim at providing an element of both psychological and methodological preparation as referred to earlier.

Part 2 deals with more specific aspects of language learning (Reading, Listening, Writing, Speaking, Grammar and Vocabulary) but retains the same basic procedure as Part 1. Tasks in these sections follow the general model used by Ellis et al (1989) in the sections on skills training, by encouraging students to reflect first, then complete a task and later assess through comparison with the hints and suggestions provided.

The tasks and hints provided for each skills and subsection need to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of CBI for this area. In this respect it is important to remember that different skills or areas of language are different in approach and requirements. It is, for example, important to consider what Sheerin (1989: 89) says: "The productive skills of writing and speaking present difficulties for self-access work which the receptive skills of reading and listening do not. The fundamental dilemma concerns the provision of feedback for students at the moment when they produce a stretch of language, no matter how short, which is not a predictable response."

The content thus includes preparation on two fronts: a section concerned with preparing the learner in a more general sense for leaning autonomously with computer based language lessons followed by material related to specific language areas and skills and how computer materials can be used to maximum benefit in improving these skills.





3. Goals and objectives:

The primary goal of the program is that of providing an introduction to both learner autonomy aimed at a specific context and certain CBI programs which will be available to the student. This introduction, as stated earlier, will focus on raising leaner awareness primarily but also encouraging an element of involvement in the organisation of their learning and the strategies they use in general and for specific skills and areas of linguistic knowledge.

A further goal is that of complying whenever possible with Dickinson (1996: 80) who points out that "Self-instructional materials should have all the features good language teaching materials have – interest, variety, clarity and so on."

Students should also start the program knowing what to expect and finish the program with a better idea of their own learner styles and some practical ideas (both their own and taken from the program) about how to either adapt or maximise their personal approaches. This requires a clear explanation to students both by the program and through external, personal presentation, as to why it may be worthwhile.

The level of English used in the program should be within an accessible range for the lower to intermediate students the program will primarily be used by. It is important that students view problems with the language as challenging rather than difficult and off-putting: a challenge may prove encouraging if overcome while excessive difficulty may mean students not only react unfavourably to this program but the concept of CBI instruction in general.

Students are encouraged and expected to complete all sections of the program with the final test as an incentive and a means of self-assessment. Accomplishing this is a primary goal of the program. Completion, either on the photocopy or on the accompanying WRITE files of progress sheets is another goal in that it implies student awareness, prompted by the computer, of the value of maintaining records. Obtaining a completed feedback form is an additional goal in that it provides information and reaction from students along with an indication that students consider this to be of relevance.



4. Sequencing topics and tasks.

Within Part 1 the sequencing follows the aims outlined in Section 1. Firstly, there is a psychological test which is followed by related suggestions for learner behaviour. This leads into a consideration of previous learning experience which learners are then encouraged to compare to that of studying with a computer. The next stages encourage the necessity of time-tabling, keeping records of progress, knowing how the program works and finally the use of other resources. Essentially, students are guided form more general psychological considerations to more specific, methodological strategies. Part 1 is linear in that students have to work through it page by page, although they can exit whenever they want. At all times, a menu allows access to Part 2 and also to the beginning of Part 1 again if necessary.

Part 2 contains the following sections: Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking, Grammar, Vocabulary, Test. The order of the sections in Part 2 is decided by the learner by clicking on the chosen object from the Menu. As in Part 1, Learning English with the Computer does restrict movement within sections to Forward and Back buttons: the student cannot select the page they want to go to. Within each section the sequence is the following (as indicated by section 2): initial reflection on content and strategies, a task encouraging further thought and finally, comparison with computer models and suggestions. The task types attempt to reflect the typical tasks students may find when studying these skills areas with CBI material.

Overall, the program aims at providing the required mixture of freedom and restriction found in the programs students will eventually be using to study English. An attempt has also been made to vary the tasks throughout the program.



5. Writing courseware:

Having established, content, goals, task type and sequence the courseware itself has to be written. The writing of the material relied on the developer’s own experience teaching students from the target groups, combined with ideas and material from a variety of other sources.

With the primary material written for exercises and section content finished, it is important to remember at this point the addition of instructions for using or navigating the program. As Criswell says (1989: 7) "It is good design to tell the students in advance what he or she will learn." while Wenden (1991: 42) takes this a step further when it is point out that "learners must know why they are being asked to perform a task to appreciate its significance."

The writing of instructions, combined with the sequencing of tasks is vital in generating the necessary context for maximum use of content and thus achievement of goals. Care was taken with the initial introduction on opening the program in that it both encouraged the students to proceed while also advising then on what the recommended pathway was. Further instructions were written with the intention of maintaining brevity while continually encouraging the learner to use the full range of material and ideas offered by the program. Care was also taken that the English used was of a level which, while possibly challenging, would not be either impossible or off-putting.

While the courseware includes no specific record of student progress it does provide various ways for students to test themselves. Firstly, in Part 1 there is a psychological test including scoring and evaluation. Then, throughout the program students are required to do a variety of tasks from typing responses, to matching, to multiple choice. All of these provide feedback as to correct or incorrect answers. Student response can frequently be compared to the HINT pages, which encourage comparison and reflection.

Finally, there is a test at the end of the program allowing students to assess their progress and a feedback form allowing general comments on the program.



6. Design each frame (student-computer dialogue):

The visual aspect of the program is designed to ensure the clarity of both instructions and sequencing. Each section uses a specific background colour and logo to aid identification while also providing a sense of variety and progress as the learner moves from one section to another. On the other hand, instructions, throughout the program used the same design of white text on blue background to maintain a feeling of continuity and clarity of purpose and support across all sections. The use of different typefaces is designed to highlight the move between instructions, tasks and suggestions.

A navigational bar is available at all times allowing access to EXIT, MENU as well as WRITE and BACK / FORWARD buttons when applicable. Students thus have freedom to move within sections if not individual pages.

To highlight their importance, HINT pages, are clearly indicated by a button which is not connected to the basic navigational menu. Again these pages have a different background to other sections and are of a "pop up" rather than sequential nature to emphasise their difference.



7. Program the computer:

The complete program is on the accompanying disk entitled English.exe.


8. Produce accompanying documents:

The accompanying disk contains three files for Microsoft WRITE. These files can be opened from the program itself by selecting WRITE from the menu. They are also available on photocopy for those who prefer to write by hand or simply like having an immediate hardcopy of their notes.

Lesson.wri encourages students to keep a record of individual lessons while Course.wri encourages more long term planning. Finally, Feed.wri is used as a means of student reflection on the program which may be of use for later evaluation by the program developer.

These files are also available on the accompanying disk.

9. Evaluation:

Effective implementation of a new program requires evaluation and revision of early versions. Hubbard (1996: 16-17) identifies four main "players" in the development and use of computer based materials: the learner, the developer, the evaluator and the classroom teacher. Evaluation for Learning English With A Computer attempts to incorporate the first three of these as the classroom teacher is largely absent: the role is being assumed by the developer, the program and the learner personally.

As a guideline for assessment for both the developer and the evaluator, a questionnaire has been designed using Barlow’s (1998) summary of Hubbard's criteria for analysis. Two learners’ response to the feedback section of the program will also be included followed by additional oral feedback with the developer.

This initial evaluation thus has three primary elements: feedback from two students after completing Learning English with a Computer; the developer’s personal analysis and an external analysis from a person familiar with the needs of students in self-access situations and also the use of CBI. These three assessments will be summarised in Part 4, forming the basis of an initial analysis of the program’s achievement of goals. They may also indicate some immediate changes and the possible directions of longer term studies about how effective the program is or may be with appropriate alterations.


Evaluation stage 1.

The developer’s own analysis and

identification of possible problems.


A: Software Methodology:

Is the aim of the program clear from the beginning?

The introduction intends it to be clear although it will become even more so as students work through the program.

Is it clear how it will achieve these goals?

This may be a weakness. In keeping the introduction short the overall methodology is scarcely explained. It could perhaps be attained through accompanying documents or a personal presentation to the student.

How easy to use is the software?

There should be few problems. It is designed for all sections to be clearly accessible. Perhaps the inability to select what page you may need to go to in Part 1 does limit students and could prove frustrating if they have had to interrupt their progress through this section.


Is feedback to students sufficient and helpful rather than threatening?

The HINT element may actually provide too much input; there is a lot of information to remember, compare etc. It could be an idea to have the HINT sections printed for students to take with them. At the same time, students making their own notes of what they consider useful encourages a more autonomous approach.

For specific tasks the help offered when errors occurs attempts to guide rather than criticise.

Is the test at the end useful?

It may be a bit limiting and could leave students feel slightly cheated in that they have to assess themselves. Perhaps it is not challenging enough.

Are accompanying print documents sufficient in range and content?

As mentioned above they could include HINT sections so students have some concrete information to take away apart from their own notes. They could also offer a more detailed explanation of the purpose of the program, an explanation which could provide too much reading on the computer screen but could be useful for the student to have.



B: The software’s approach to Language Instruction:

Is it appropriate for lower to mid-intermediate level learners?

It may be a little difficult at points even in some of the instructions and this could prove off-putting if students find it too challenging rather than encouraging them in their success.

Are the approaches to learning in Part 1 useful in this context?

Hopefully, as a starting point.

Are the approaches to different aspects of language learning in Part 2 useful in this context?

Hopefully, as a starting point.

Do the above approaches aid the student develop both psychological and methodological strategies for self-study with computer materials?

Hopefully. One problem may be that there is too much information, which is why in the feedback students are encouraged to consider doing the program again, perhaps at a later stage in their studies.



C: The software Design:

Is the order of sections and parts logical?

Yes. returning to the content of the program the sequencing appears logical.

Is the use of varied colours helpful for navigation?

It is intended to make navigation clear while also provide some variety. The number of sections and thus the variety of colours used could prove too much.



D: Software Procedure

Are the types of activities relevant to the types students may later encounter using computer based material?

Yes overall, although particularly in Part 1 there is a lack of variety with students required to type and express their opinion a lot.

Are the activities suited to the sections within which they are used?

They try to reflect typical task types found within these areas.

Is there sufficient variety in types of tasks?

As mentioned above this may be a problem, especially in Part 1.

Students are frequently asked to type their opinion: is this useful?

Useful in that it encourages self-awareness and independence. If students are weak typists it may prove frustrating. Perhaps there is too much at the beginning whereas these tasks should have increased as learner independence builds up, as students move through the program.





Evaluation stage 2.

An analysis by an external evaluator.

The person chosen for this stage of the evaluation has many years’ experience in T.E.F.L. along with the RSA Diploma and extensive experience with the use of computer based material for class and for self-study use. The evaluator was presented with a photocopy of the following evaluation criteria and asked to read through it first in order to have some prior conception of the points being evaluated.



A: Software Methodology:

Is the aim of the program clear from the beginning?


Is it clear how it will achieve these goals?


How easy to use is the software?


Is feedback to students sufficient and helpful rather than threatening?

The feedback is good, although it involves quite a lot of reading.

Is the test at the end useful?

Yes. It could be an idea to encourage students to write their answers on paper.

Are accompanying print documents sufficient in range and content?

See above.




B: The software’s approach to Language Instruction:

Is it appropriate for lower to mid-intermediate level learners?

The approach yes. The language in some areas, particularly HINT may prove a little difficult for some students.

Are the approaches to learning in Part 1 useful in this context?

Yes, very much so.

Are the approaches to different aspects of language learning in Part 2 useful in this context?

Yes, particularly reading, listening and vocabulary. Speaking may require more thinking about: it leaves the students without much support.

Do the above approaches aid the student develop both psychological and methodological strategies for self-study with computer materials?

Yes. There are a lot of good ideas in both areas.


C: The software Design:

Is the order of sections and parts logical?


Is the use of varied colours helpful for navigation?



D: Software Procedure

Are the types of activities relevant to the types students may later encounter using computer based material?

Yes, especially listening and reading.

Are the activities suited to the sections within which they are used?

Yes. Speaking is weaker but harder to do on the computer unless it is pronunciation work. Perhaps an example of this in this section?

Is there sufficient variety in types of tasks?


Students are frequently asked to type their opinion: is this useful?

Good to get them to think about the ideas before reading the suggestions. Sometimes they need more guidance though. In some cases I think prompts beforehand would be useful: e.g. on last page of listening prompts such as ... "What can you do before you listen? followed by a space and then Do you need to understand every word? and another space rather than the general space provided.



Evaluation stage 3.

Student reaction.

It was possible to test the program with two students. The following summary is based on casual observation, their completed feedback sheets from the program and an informal chat with the developer afterwards.

Student A:

The student has studied in a traditional T.E.F.L. academy before but was new to both the E.L.I. and to using a computer to study English. Basic computer skills were not a problem, however, as they were used at work. After an initial level test the student was judged to be lower intermediate level, better at grammar than spoken English. The student was beginning a C.B.I. course at the E.L.I. as work and other commitments did not allow attendance three hours a week on a fixed timetable.

The student took almost two hours to complete the entire program with three breaks. Initially the students did not have a pen but acquired one and began to take notes on the print material provided. The feedback sheet was also completed on paper rather than the computer but the student had no problems manipulating the program.

The feedback sheet provides little in depth information apart from a general appreciation that the program offered ideas and that the content was sometimes difficult. References to Part 2 and 3 of the program were obviously unclear. Speaking with the student afterwards this was explained and the student appeared to consider it a good idea in general although was not completely convinced of what further parts of the program could entail. Indeed, in the spoken feedback, it became clearer that the student appreciated the ideas offered by the program but was somewhat at a loss as to how to apply them. The student had completed the Test without problems and appeared to have used the Hint sections extensively. Less attention had been paid to scheduling the two hours study: breaks had been spontaneous rather than planned.


Student B:

This student had spend some time at the E.L.I. as a self-access student and had therefore used various CBI programs while studying English. The student is of intermediate level, is unable to attend the rigidity of standard timetables and is used to using computers both at work and at home.

Student B completed the program in slightly over one hour and a half with one break. From the beginning the student made notes and used a dictionary. The feedback sheet and other records were completed on paper rather than on the computer.

Speaking to the student later, enthusiasm for the program was obvious. While the student claimed to have reached many of the approaches through previous experience the program appeared to have reinforced these practices along with provoking further reflections, ideas and approaches. The idea of using the program again or of having access to continued development of self-study skills through a second or third part of Learning English with the Computer was highly appealing to this student. The student had used Hint extensively, had completed the Test without problems and was obviously accustomed to making goals and scheduling studies. The break after the first 45 minutes had been planned from the beginning.



Evaluation stage 4.

Summary and reflection on the above.

Initially, the evaluation procedure was very encouraging in that the program appears to achieve many of its primary goals: it is easy to use and appears to provide valuable pointers for students studying with CBI material. All aspects of the program appear to have been used by the students. Tests were completed and feedback sheets handed in and general response was positive.

The external evaluator highlighted some important points which may need immediate rectification, particularly the level of the language and the provision of extra aid occasionally, especially when students are asked to write their opinions or suggestions. Re-considering the approach to the Speaking section may also be necessary although it is also a characteristic of CBI that speaking can often be a neglected area and it may be useful to help students realise this. On the other hand, as suggested by the external evaluator, the computer can provide some useful pronunciation practice which is not clearly explained or demonstrated by the program.

Student feedback was interesting for various reasons. While the students had been selected by chance the contrast between a student new to the E.L.I. and to CBI based study and a student who was familiar with both proved extremely productive. Both appeared to appreciate the program but it was Student B, with prior experience of studying alone with computer material, with a certain degree of autonomy already well-developed, who found the program most exciting and who certainly wanted more.

New to both the E.L.I. and to studying with a computer, Student A was naturally more reticent. This leads to the question of whether it is a good idea for students to do this program immediately they register for a CBI course or whether students should first be given the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the program they will be using and then access Learning English with a Computer to aid with ideas and a possible framework for their learning approach.

It is also clear that, familiarity with the material and the school itself, will almost certainly contribute to achieving the overall aim of producing more autonomous learning situations. For example, student A did not use a dictionary but that may have been because the student did not have the confidence to ask somebody if it was possible, where they were kept etc.

Interestingly, both Student A nor B completed their records and notes on paper which may be faster (particularly considering typing skills) and more practical (it is easier to look at a screen and write notes than move between different screens on the computer). This does not mean the WRITE option need not be available but it may need to be indicated that it is not considered essential to type on the computer, that written notes are equally valid.



Overall, the program has done well under initial evaluation. There remain some questions about the level of English and the approach to some of the skills sections may need to be altered but the basis of the program in terms of content, design and sequencing has proved robust. The evaluation has, however, raised questions about when and how the program could be best used: rather than as an introduction to using CBI it may be better a little into the experience when students have an idea of what is involved but may need some guidance in dealing with the challenges they are now facing.

This analysis remains quite basic. Long term evaluation of how students and their learning progress over time (and how this compares to previous experiences as outlined in Stage one) need to carried out and the results studied.



10. Implement and follow-up as necessary

As stated, the above evaluation is only a starting point. The intention is to make some immediate changes to the program in terms of level of English required to make certain skills sections more accessible to the learner. The program will then be tested with a group of learners new to CBI and the results compared to previous observations as outlined in Section 1.

Further adaptations may then be required and there remains the question of when the program can be used for optimum advantage, either before starting a course or after students are accustomed to their particular CBI material and have some experience of autonomous learning conditions with a computer as mediator. Encouraging students to do the program more than once as they progress with their courses may also provide interesting material for study.

This more in-depth analysis will provide indications as to the content, design and objectives of further programs which will extend students’ awareness of learner autonomy and how it can be related to studying English with the computer. One final factor to be considered is that the program is only part of a wider context, which includes presentation to the student, the courses offered to students, needs analysis and other factors of how the general courses are organised.

Overall, what the development of the program shows is how complex the area is. As referred to in the introduction, technology is without doubt producing a range of means and materials for language study. Equally true is the revolution David Crystal (1999) predicts in viewing the continued development of English as a world language in terms of how it is spreading and being forced to adapt and incorporate multiple influences and changes as it does so. This revolution is technologically driven to a large extent. Technology and English language learning therefore appear to be becoming ever more closely related.

Nevertheless, computers as educators have serious limitations as Hardistry & Windeatt (1988: 6) point out: "The most important point is that computers are not very good at teaching by themselves. How efficient computers are in the classroom will therefore depend on the way teachers and students use them..." Much CBI material, however, implies self-study, with little guidance from a teacher. This in turn implies a degree of learner training in autonomy to take full advantage of the arsenal of material available.

The development of this simple program indicates how complicated the process may be and the number of factors which need to be taken into consideration. Above all, development and analysis of Learning English with a Computer highlights the need for serious and continuous testing and adaptation in order to develop a product which really does achieve what it sets out to do. The fundamental problem here is that learner autonomy, implying a focus on individual learning styles, automatically produces results based on individuals. No program can hope to suit each individual learning style.

Hence the importance of guiding the learner to a degree of self-awareness and analysis so that the learner becomes equipped with the tools to analyse, adapt, select, manipulate material for maximum personal gain. This implies a combination of all three types of autonomy outlined by Benson: technological, psychological, and political. Learning English with a Computer attempts a very timid first step down the road. In doing so it highlights the length of the road and some of the issues involved. It also appears to provide that first step, in some way, for some learners. The challenge is to extend that guidance in terms of dept, range and applicability over a range of learning contexts.



Barlow in Motteram G & Slaouti D (1996-97) University of Manchester School of Education Distance Learning Educational Technology for ELT: MD319 Unit 1 p.15-17

Benson P. (1997) "The philosophy and politics of leaner autonomy" in Benson et al (Ed) Autonomy & Independence in Language Learning

Benson P. and Voller P. (1997) Autonomy & Independence in Language Learning New York; Addison Wesley Longman

Criswell E (1989) The Design of Computer-Based Instruction New York; MacMillan

Dickinson L. (1992) Learner Autonomy: Learner training for language learning Dublin; Authentik

Dickinson L. (1987) Self-Instruction in Language Learning Cambridge; Cambridge University Press

Ellis G. & Sinclair B. (1989) Learning to learn English Cambridge; Cambridge University Press

Hardistry D and Windeatt S (1988) CALL Oxford; OUP

Hubbard P. L. (1996) "Elements of CALL Methodology: Development, Evaluation and Implementation" in Pennington (Ed) The Power of CALL

Little D. (1991) Learner Autonomy: Definitions, issues and problems Dublin; Authentik

Nunan D. (1997) "Designing and adapting materials to encourage learner autonomy." in Benson et al (Ed) Autonomy & Independence in Language Learning

Pennington M (ed.) (1996) The Power of CALL Houston; Athelstan

Pennycook A. (1997) "Culteral alternatives and autonomy" in Benson et al (Ed) Autonomy & Independence in Language Learning

Riley P. (1997) "The guru and the conjurer: aspects of counselling for self-access." in Benson et al (Ed) Autonomy & Independence in Language Learning

Sheerin S. (1989) Self-Access Oxford; Oxford University Press

Sheerin S. (1997) "Self-access and independent learning" in Benson et al (Ed) Autonomy & Independence in Language Learning

Sturtridge G. (1997) "Teaching and language learning in self-access centres: changing roles?" in Benson et al (Ed) Autonomy & Independence in Language Learning

Voller P. (1997) "Does the teacher have a role in autonomous language learning?" in Benson et al (Ed) Autonomy & Independence in Language Learning

Wenden A. (1991) Learner Strategies for learner Autonomy Europe; Prentice Hall


Bibliography 2:

for sources consulted when writing the actual content of the Learning to Learn English with a Computer program.

Bartram M & Walton R (1991) Correction: A Positive approach to language mistakes Hove; Language Teaching Publications

Batstone R. (1994) Grammar Oxford; Oxford university Press

Byrne D. (1993) Teaching Writing Skills London; Longman

Ellis G. & Sinclair B. (1989) Learning to learn English Cambridge; Cambridge University Press

Grellet F. (1981) Developing Reading Skills Cambridge; Cambridge University Press

Hedge P. (1998) Writing Oxford; Oxford University Press

Lewis M. (1993) The Lexical Approach London; Language Teaching Publications

McCarthy M. (1990) Vocabulary Oxford; Oxford University Press

Ur P. (1984) Teaching Listening Comprehension Cambridge; Cambridge University Press

White R & Arndt V (1991) Process Writing London; Longman


Appendix 1:

Survey carried out with students for general information about experiences with CBI material for self-study purposes at E.L.I.

Appendix 2:

The three CD-ROM courses used at E.L.I.

Dynamic English:

A series of CD-ROMS which take learners from beginner to intermediate level. The course is linear in approach with learners being encouraged by the package to begin at the beginning and work through the material and levels. The courses allow students, however, freedom to move as they wish and also keeps records of student progress and allows students to change the level of the material presented. At all stages learners can access a MENU which permits movement through the program and access to records and level etc.


A series of CD-ROMs which claim to provide material from Basic to Advanced levels. The content is organised into sections, Speaking, Listening, Writing, Vocabulary and Grammar. The student is free at all times to move from one section to another: indeed the student has to take responsibility for deciding what and how to study as the course provides no guideline or sequence. Within each section the series ot presentations, tasks and feedback through models etc also require learner discipline as it is easy to skip from one area to another without having completed all the tasks or having seen all the information the course contains. The course keeps no record of student progress.

English Express

The course provides material for beginner to intermediate level and emphasises functional languagge and presentations throubh video. The material is divided into units each with a pre and post test for students to assess their progress and ability to move to the next unit. Each unit provides material for vocabulary, functions, grammar etc. Student records are kept by the program and there there is print based material also.

Students at E.L.I. also have access to The Grammar Rom, CD-ROM encyclopedias and dictionaries and other CD-ROMS for skills practice such as listening.

Appendix 3:

Surveys from students doing evaluation.


Appendix 4:

Print materials included with the program.