Original Research

Students’ perceptions of the inclusion of the English Word Power programme at one university in South Africa

Thuli M. Makhura, Gary W. Collins, Hendrietta Segabutla, Madoda Cekiso
Literator | Vol 42, No 1 | a1709 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v42i1.1709 | © 2021 Thuli M. Makhura, Gary W. Collins, Hendrietta Segabutla, Madoda Cekiso | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 May 2020 | Published: 07 June 2021

About the author(s)

Thuli M. Makhura, Department of Information and Communication Technology, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa
Gary W. Collins, Department of Applied Languages, Faculty of Humanities, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa
Hendrietta Segabutla, Department of Applied Languages, Faculty of Humanities, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa
Madoda Cekiso, Department of Applied Languages, Faculty of Humanities, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: South Africa has incorporated Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL) into many university classrooms in order to help address ubiquitous concerns related to the limited English language proficiency of first-year university students. In the context of this study, the research site used the CALL application called the English Word Power (EWP programme). Research to establish students’ perceptions of the CALL application is somewhat limited, although students’ perceptions of a learning environment can be more useful in explaining their behaviour. Therefore, teachers’ understanding of the students’ perceptions towards a new learning programme is likely to assist them in tailoring the content according to the needs of the learners.

Objectives: The objective of this study was to explore the students’ perceptions of the use of the EWP, a computer-based programme used for improving English language proficiency. The researchers endeavoured to gain an understanding of the students’ perceptions of the strengths and frustrations of the EWP programme. Specifically, the focus was on what the students perceived as their preferred mode of learning and what their views were regarding the contribution of the EWP programme in improving their language skills.

Method: The study was qualitative in nature and a case study design was adopted. A purposive sample of 60 students from an Information and Communication Technology’s (ICT) Foundation programme was used to collect data. Focus group interviews were conducted with 60 purposefully selected students and content analysis was used to process data.

Results: The study yielded mixed results, as some students were happy with some of the components of the EWP programme whilst others were frustrated with some components. Specifically, some students reported experiencing frustration with the irrelevant nature of the EWP content. On the contrary, the study revealed that students were satisfied with the EWP programme’s accessibility, which facilitated their learning opportunities. Some students reported that their language proficiency concerning spelling and vocabulary had improved. The findings further revealed that the students preferred face-to-face learning to the EWP programme learning environment.

Conclusion: The implication of the findings is that students need a language learning programme that is relevant to their field of study. They also require a programme that allows for student–student and lecturer–student interaction.


Keywords

English Word Power; student-centred instruction; language learning tools; student perception; English language proficiency; Information and Communication Technology

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