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Exploring English as foreign language (EFL) students’ perceptions on the use of blended learning to develop academic English language skills in preparatory year in Saudi Arabia

Sheerah, H. A. (2018) Exploring English as foreign language (EFL) students’ perceptions on the use of blended learning to develop academic English language skills in preparatory year in Saudi Arabia. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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Abstract/Summary

The unsatisfactory competence level of English as a foreign language (EFL) among undergraduate students in Saudi Arabia remains one of the country’s major concerns. Despite the tremendous projects that aim to develop EFL curriculum, textbooks, and a variety of professional development programs, learning English in Saudi Arabia plays a limited role as targeted learners rarely practice the language outside the classroom. The rapid growth of technology in education has led the Saudi Arabian government to take decisive steps towards blending traditional teaching approaches with technology to enhance language learning. The purpose of this study is to explore EFL undergraduate students’ perceptions concerning the strengths and weaknesses of blended learning as a technology-enhanced pedagogic tool on the development of their academic English skills (i.e., reading, listening, speaking, writing) as well as their recommendations for improving the skills using blended learning in the preparatory year in two contexts in Saudi Arabia: students at University A are required to attend 25% of the lectures in person and the remaining 75% virtually whereas students at University B are required to attend only 25% of the lectures virtually and the remaining 75% face-to-face. During the preparatory year in both universities, students complete an extensive English language program as a compulsory entry requirement into their colleges. An explanatory, sequential, mixed methods research design was used, which consisted of gathering quantitative survey data from 310 Saudi students across the two universities, followed by the use of in-depth qualitative data from a focus group interview with 28 participants to explain the quantitative survey results and allow for deeper insights into the research problems from different points of view. The interpretation of results in this study primarily focused on how qualitative findings explained survey data in relation to the study’s purpose. The students in this study indicated that the use of blended learning in preparatory year has the potential to support EFL learning for students in Saudi universities. According to the findings, the students believed that blended learning could maximize EFL learners’ opportunities to practise English language freely, at their convenience. The study concludes the need to focus attention on Saudi universities’ infrastructures, students’ initial training, and blended learning knowledge as an institutional culture. Finally, a realistic plan to develop preparatory year to avoid any challenges that might occur before and during the implementation of blended learning would be useful for all students as a transitional step between completely different environments. Clearly, there are issues which need to be addressed and/or resolved, such as ensuring that the library facilities are capable of delivering this type of approach, online materials are suitably supportive of the students required to access them, and the design of blended learning approaches take account of the preferred learning methods of students, and the workload required to be successful. As blended learning is in its initial stages in the Saudi educational system, this study contributes to the existing research as it provides guidance for using blended learning to enhance English as a foreign language in Saudi Arabia. It can be concluded that the participation of Saudi EFL female students in blended learning is associated with a range of positive consequences, including a higher level of English proficiency, vocabulary knowledge, and better cultural connections.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Trakulphadetkrai, N. V.
Thesis/Report Department:Institute of Education
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Institute of Education
ID Code:84952

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