CEC Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

1999

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences

Advisor

Getrude W. Abramson

Committee Member

Marlyn Kemper Littman

Committee Member

Vivian Zamel

Abstract

Foreign language students experience added difficulty when they are isolated from native speakers and from the culture of the target language. It has been posited that MOOs (Multiuser domain Object Oriented) may help to overcome the geographical isolation of these students. MOOs are Internet-based virtual worlds in which people from all over the real world meet for synchronous textual conversations and can interact with asynchronous textual objects found there. Students who enjoy a MOO site may identify with its virtual target language community and find integrative motivation which the literature suggests is necessary for advanced language acquisition.

This study focused on the affective nature of MOO. An experimental group of Israeli high school EFL (English as a Foreign Language) students experienced 12 academic hours at schMOOze University, a MOO site for students of English as a Second/Foreign Language. A control group employed normal EFL procedures, including reading comprehension passages, taped songs, class discussions, and grammar exercises. Using pretest and posttest questionnaires, participants indicated their anxiety about and motivation towards various EFL procedures and English class in general. (Motivation was divided into course-specific subconstructs: interest, relevance, expectation of success, and satisfaction.)

The findings demonstrated some significantly positive attitudes towards using MOO as an EFL procedure, particularly for male students and those who felt proficient with computers. Nevertheless, the findings did not match the enthusiasm found in various position papers about MOO in Second/Foreign Language instruction. The experimental group gave significantly higher scores for relevance and expected success in regard to general EFL instruction. However, it gave MOO significantly lower scores in relevance and satisfaction as an EFL procedure when compared to the overall averages of the 13 other EFL procedures.

No other major significant differences were found. External factors, which could not be compensated for by the experimental design, may have caused the discrepancy between tile position papers and the findings, Repeated, long interruptions of the research may well have produced feelings of discontinuity and frustration, rather than greater motivation, for students unfamiliar with the technology. Therefore, recommendations for further research include an experimental design with a more concentrated MOO experience.

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