Ten SURF Stories: Do you wish to learn English online?

19 Oct 2021

To what extent do you accept AI English learning tools? To what extent are you motivated to use the AI English learning tool?

Led by Dr Bin Zou from the Department of Applied Linguistics, a SURF team consisting of students from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and the School of Advanced Technology conducted a series of research on participants’ understanding of such AI-powered technology.

“Using EAP Talk as the key material, we wish to explore participants’ perceptions, learning outcomes, and their willingness to continue using such learning tool.” Ms Qinglang Lyu, one of the team members, says.

Designing the questionnaire and interview questions according to the Integrated Model of Technology Acceptance (IMTA), a total number of 124 questionnaires have been distributed and collected from participants with a higher education background.

“We recruit participants who showed their interest in using EAP Talk and allow them to use it freely for two weeks. The feedback will be collected afterwards to make sure their comments are authentic after using the tool.”

“A bunch of websites have contributed to the rise of AI-powered language learning tools, with a wide range of features and optimized interface; however, according to the feedback collected, EAP Talk is still very competitive despite being relatively homogeneous.”Ms Yining Han, another team member, says.

79% of participants agreed that EAP Talk is beneficial for improving academic English learning, while 75.81% of participants highly value its user-friendly feature. In addition, 95.16% of users show their willingness to continue using the tool in the future.

“During our investigation, it can be identified that the strength of EAP Talk lies in its focus on academic English which is in direct relevance with the students in higher education while also meet their needs to cope with various academic exams.”Qinglang explains.

“It is also very interesting that the majority of our interviewees mentioned that EAP Talk has improved the efficiency of self-learning. It is understandable because the database can provide the timeliest feedback on students’ learning outcomes, which bridges the gap between classroom learning and self-learning.”

EAP Talk has also developed a new Wechat applet that promises a more convenient system that allows students to learn online at anytime and anywhere.

“Although the examine results demonstrated a generally positive attitude toward EAP Talk, the irreplaceable face-to-face communication is of vital importance as well.” Qinglang says. Facial expressions, gestures, and tone of voice are the essential elements that AI language learning tools cannot replace.

In addition, Yining suggested that another limitation of EAP Talk is its user group. By explicitly focusing on academic English, the scope of its user base is limited to students with a need for academic English development. It might lose the attention of people who would like to learn general English.

“We believe our findings can contribute to the refinement of EAP Talk and offer insights into further research in AI tools for language learning.”

By Ying Jiang

19 Oct 2021


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