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General CALL effectiveness and efficiency; cost efficiency

Background:  Despite much enthusiasm for CALL, we don’t really know whether it works effectively or whether it is better than. All we have is anecdotal information, usually reported by enthusiastic practitioners.

My own work in the area showed that it is measurably and significantly effective. The study did not show whether that effectiveness was because of CALL or because of my enthusiasm for seeing it work.

This is annoying, because effectiveness and efficiency would be so easy to measure in a scientifically valid manner.

Research question:  What is the impact, if any, on the use of CALL? More specifically,

1)      Do students learn more of a foreign language with it —as measured by an impartial study?

2)      If it is effective, is it also more efficient than other methods of learning? (I.e., if it works, is that just because students spend more time on studying with CALL?)

3)      Is CALL cost-effective? Even if students have access to computers because of other needs, the software itself costs something. Does using CALL enable instructors to handle more students? Does it give them more (or less) free time?

Suggested methodology/comments:   Some precautions:

1)      The test(s) would have to be (a) on a specific software package and (b) be repeatable with other software packages, to test not CALL in general but a specific application of CALL

2)      A big problem is getting a control group that does not use the software. Most students will not want to be in the control group that is to do poorly if the software proves effective. A solution might be to alternate between using the software one year and teach the classes without software the following year. The test would then have to run at least four years, for in any two years one can find natural discrepancies between students. 

Contact: John Robin Allen   allen@cc.umanitoba.ca

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