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Computer Assisted Language Learning in L2 Education Essay (Critical Writing)


The technological breakthrough that the world has been witnessing since the mid-20th century has affected an array of domains and the environment of education is not an exception to this rule. As a result, second language education has come to incorporate both traditional and modern tools, including software that was either designed specifically for the needs of L2 learners or that can be shaped to meet them.

Understanding the direction in which IT advances can influence L2 processes is crucial to the design of teaching strategies and helping learners acquire necessary skills. In his paper, Mohsen (2016) addresses the issue of combining visual and narrative elements in a video as one of these teaching tools.


The study conducted by Mohsen (2016) contributes to a better understanding of the needs of L2 students, as well as how the latest technological advances can be used to meet these needs in an appropriate and timely manner. Furthermore, the author explores the opportunities for improving the quality of the teaching and learning processes alike by reconsidering how modern technologies are applied. Therefore, the significance of the article and the issue that it raises is rather high.

According to the author of the study, the paper was aimed at detecting the efficacy of using narrated texts, along with the relevant imagery, by utilizing YouTube services as the means of improving students’ knowledge of the L2 vocabulary. Therefore, the research can be considered a crucial addition to the range of studies that explore the opportunities for improving L2 teaching strategies currently promoted among educators to enhance learning processes.

The use of IT devices as the means of reinforcing the process of L2 skills acquisition, in general, and vocabulary learning, in particular, can become an essential element of promoting the concept of lifelong learning and the consistent acquisition of new skills among students (Rogan & San Miguel, 2013).

The outcomes of the study indicated quite clearly that there is a direct correlation between the application of the teaching strategy involving the use of both narrations and pictures and the results delivered by the learners when carrying out the corresponding L2 vocabulary tests: “Positive findings of the use of annotations and captions align with previous literature findings, which reported annotations or captioning modes would help improve L2 vocabulary acquisition” (Mohsen, 2016, p. 12). In other words, the research results imply that the combination of visual and narrative elements provides a rather strong foundation for the successful incorporation of the words and collocations into the learner’s vocabulary.

Mohsen (2016), however, admits that the outcomes of the study cannot be generalized to the required extent: “With regards to the tests, the number of the target vocabulary was small, possibly restricting the generalizability of the findings. Therefore, a similar study with a larger vocabulary sample size is recommended to obtain more reliable and valid results (Mohsen, 2016, p. 15). The identified characteristics of the research, however, do not make the paper results any less significant; rather, they point to the evident limitations.

Therefore, the outcomes of the research can be viewed as the implications for building a more comprehensive and successful approach to teaching students L2, in general, and helping them acquire the necessary vocabulary, in particular. Herein lies the significance of the article; Mohsen (2016) sets prerequisites for an extensive update of the approaches that are currently used in teaching L2.


To evaluate the effects of IT on the TESOL processes, Mohsen (2016) uses a set of tests designed to determine the students’ ability to spell words correctly and understand the mechanics of the English language. By selecting the “L2 form recall test and L2 spelling tests” (Mohsen, 2016, p. 6), the author made it possible to assess the mounting evidence as precisely as possible.

As a result of the application of the tests mentioned above, the learners’ ability to apply the newly acquired skills to writing correctly were bound to come to light (Leśniewska & Pichette, 2014). In other words, the tests, as the tools for data collection, can be considered as highly accurate due to the objectivity of the data classification and the assessment of the learners’ results (Balance, 2016).

As far as the actual experiment is concerned, Mohsen designed a narrated story that was made available to the learners using the YouTube service: “A 542-word story entitled ‘The Tooth’ was downloaded from the Internet on March 2013 (source: http://www.storylineonline.net/)” (Mohsen, 2016, p. 7). From this, it is clear the author prefers a quantitative, as opposed to a qualitative, approach, thus, indicating that his focus is more on the statistical correlations between the essential variables rather than the nature of the problem and the implications that it is likely to have on the future progress of L2 methods and techniques (Ghasemi, Kermanshahi, & Moharami, 2015).

Similarly, there is strong evidence that the application of both imagery and auditory information allows for an increase in learners’ abilities to retrieve, interpret, and use the provided data properly: “Our data showed that words that were presented both through songs and stories were not recalled significantly better than those presented in either mode” (Leśniewska & Pichette, 2014, p. 8). To be more specific, the approach devised by Mohsen (2016) falls into the category of retrieving the necessary data from management information systems and vocabulary tests can be deemed as the essential tool for collecting the necessary information (Venkatesh, Brown, & Bala, 2013).

Arguably, the author used a variation of a survey that implied selecting specific words from the texts provided to the participants. As such, the author determined the research design as a quasi-experimental design, since a group of students was chosen to participate in the experiment with no pre-selection processes carried out before the testing. However, one might debate the accuracy of using the term quasi-experimental as the author confesses to subjecting two of the groups to a pre-test selection:

I employed a quasi-experimental design in which only two experimental groups had been examined because the researcher believed that prior studies have already established the fact that using help options were significantly better than no help options in L2 vocabulary development. (Mohsen, 2016, p. 6)

Nevertheless, the fact that none of the rest of the groups that took part in the experiment points to the fact that its design has warranted the definition of a quasi-experimental one (Chamberlin-Quinlisk, 2012). The positive implications of the applied framework are quite obvious. By incorporating the elements of a quasi-experimental design, Mohsen creates the research environment that is very close to the actual one. As a result, the model created by the researcher reflects the real-life relationships between the essential variables (i.e., the use of YouTube and the related services and the students’ ability to acquire the necessary L2 vocabulary within the required amount of time) accurately (Linck, Osthus, Koeth, & Bunting, 2014).

On the one hand, the use of a test as a quantitative analysis device can be considered a powerful tool for revisiting the essential stages of L2 strategy developments. Furthermore, the author introduces the readers to the effects that IT has had on the intended target, as well as the potential problems that L2 educators will have to address (Ahmadian & Tavakoli, 2014). To put it another way, the survey results inform the reader about the correlation between the progress in L2 strategies development and the evolution of IT in general.

On the other hand, the application of tests triggers an immediate drop in the variability of the outcomes, therefore, reducing the accuracy of the data retrieved in the process (Plonsky & Oswald, 2016). Nevertheless, tests serve as a rather accurate tool for retrieving statistical data, which means that their adoption in the identified environment is justified.

Alternative Research Approaches

It could be argued that a qualitative approach, particularly the use of a grounded theory or a case study as the means of exploring the effects of IT on L2 strategies, could have been viewed as an option (Lee, 2012). Indeed, a closer look at the data retrieved in the course of the study could reveal that the current framework of information collection and interpretation could be tweaked slightly so that a qualitative approach could be utilized (Creagh, 2014). Specifically, the author of the study could consider YouTube narration as the foundation for creating a larger test with general questions that imply expanded answers.

As a result, more detailed information could be elicited from the participants in the form of unstructured texts, which could, later on, be processed to determine the participants’ understanding of how the target language works (Préfontaine & Kormos, 2012). It could be argued that the identified approach would not help measure the degree to which the learners will have progressed in their studies. However, the framework described above would have provided prerequisites for a follow-up study that would have shed light on the subject matter in a more detailed way based on the implications of the qualitative study (Plonsky, 2014).

If the quantitative research design is considered as a compulsory element of the research, one might suggest the use of correlational research. This aims to determine the correlation between the chosen variables in the environment as close to the real-world scenarios as possible (Wang & Vasquez, 2012). The analysis would have benefited from the use of the correlational research design since it would have helped focus on the interactions between the two variables solely without being distracted by other factors (Sandbank & Yoder, 2016).

The use of the correlational quantitative research as an approach to studying the variables under analysis, however, would still have lacked precision since correlational research does not allow for the acknowledgement of the extraneous variables. Since it focuses closely on the study of the two key variables involved, i.e., the students’ grasp of the L2 vocabulary and the use of modern IT media, such as the YouTube services, it would have delivered the results that implied the absence of the factors that may have affected the learners’ performance. As a result, the outcomes of the study would have been deemed as generic (Zhang & Zhang, 2013).

Therefore, with specific regards to the case in point, the quantitative analysis should be preferred to a qualitative one due to the focus of the study. Seeing that the author’s objective is to identify the extent to which the use of IT tools such as YouTube affects the learners’ performance in acquiring the L2 vocabulary, it is necessary to quantify the results to make them palatable and relevant to the hypothesis of the study. A change in the focus of the research, however, could have made a case for a qualitative design; for example, the author could have focused on the types of outcomes, the nature of the learners’ success, or, which is the most obvious choice, the attitude of the learners toward the application of the YouTube material as the means of enhancing their productivity (Ardasheva, Norton-Meier, & Tretter, 2015).

Nevertheless, the overall design of the article analysed above can be viewed as suitable. It helps gather the information necessary to answer the research question, it allows the collection and analysis of the data within a relatively small amount of time, and it provides extensive information for a follow-up study, i.e., an in-depth assessment of the effects that the application of various YouTube tools has on the learners’ ability to acquire specific types of vocabulary, the challenges that learners are likely to have with the tool, and the means to manage these challenges, etc. (Norris, Ross, & Schoonen, 2015). A solid and credible piece of academic analysis, Mohsen’s (2016) article is bound to serve as the foundation for addressing the related issues in both the IT and L2 domains (Barkaoui, 2014).

Reference List

Ahmadian, A. M., & Tavakoli, M. (2014). Investigating what second language learners do and monitor under careful online planning conditions. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 70(1), 50-75.

Ardasheva, Y., Norton-Meier, L. A., & Tretter, T. R. (2015). Integrating science and literacy for young English learners: A pilot study. NYS TESOL Journal, 2(1), 3-16.

Ballance, O. J. (2016). Analysing concordancing: A simple or multifaceted construct? Computer Assisted Language Learning, 0(0), 1-15. doi:10.1080/09588221.2016.1209527

Barkaoui, K. (2014). Quantitative approaches for analyzing longitudinal data in second language research. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 34(1): 65-101.

Chamberlin-Quinlisk, C. (2012). Critical media analysis in teacher education: exploring language-learners’ identity through mediated images of a non-native speaker of English. Convergence, 18(2), 215-229.

Creagh, S. (2014). A Foucauldian and quantitative analysis of NAPLaN, the category ‘Language Background Other Than English’, and English as a second language level. TESOL in Context, 24(2), 7-9.

Ghasemi, A. A., Kermanshahi, F. V., & Moharami, M. (2015). Conceptualizing willingness to communicate: A quantitative investigation of English-language major students. Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods, 5(1), 103-110.

Lee, L. (2012). Appraising research in second language learning: A practical approach to critical analysis of quantitative research by Porte, Graeme Keith. Modern Language Journal, 96(2), 333-334.

Linck, J. A., Osthus, P. K., Koeth, J. T., & Bunting, F. M. (2014). Working memory and second language comprehension and production: A meta-analysis. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 21(4), 861-883.

Mohsen, M. A. (2016). Effects of help options in a multimedia listening environment on L2 vocabulary acquisition. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 29(6), 1-18. doi:10.1080/09588221.2016.1210645

Norris, J. M., Ross, S. J., & Schoonen, R. (2015). Improving second language quantitative research. Language Learning, 65(Suppl. 2015), 1-8. doi:10.1111/lang.12110

Plonsky, L. (2014). Study quality in quantitative L2 research (1990–2010): A methodological synthesis and call for reform. Modern Language Journal, 98(1), 450-470. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4781.2014.12058.x

Plonsky, L., & Oswald, F. L. (2016). How big is “big”? Interpreting effect sizes in L2 research. Language Learning, 64(4), 878-912. doi:10.1111/lang.12079

Préfontaine, Y., & Kormos, J. (2012). A qualitative analysis of perceptions of fluency in second language French. IRAL: International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching, 54(2), 151-169.

Rogan, F., & San Miguel, C. (2013). Improving clinical communication of students with English as a second language (ESL) using online technology: A small scale evaluation study. Nurse Education in Practice, 13(5), 400-406.

Sandbank, M., & Yoder, P. (2016). The association between parental mean length of utterance and language outcomes in children with disabilities: A correlational meta-analysis. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 25(2), 1-12.

Venkatesh, V., Brown, S. A., & Bala, H. (2013). Bridging the qualitative-quantitative divide: Guidelines for conducting mixed methods research in information systems. MIS Quarterly, 37(1), 21-54.

Wang, S., & Vasquez, C. (2012). Web 2.0 and second language learning: What does the research tell us? CALICO Journal, 29(3), 412-430.

Zhang, L. J., & Zhang, D. (2013). Thinking metacognitively about metacognition in second and foreign language learning, teaching, and research: Toward a dynamic metacognitive systems perspective. Contemporary Foreign Languages Studies, 396(12), 111-121.

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