In the current world, technology advancement is increasingly facilitating the learning of English language. Central to this innovative learning process is the significant role played by computers as training aids. According to Hartoyo (2006), the computer as a tool and medium of learning can facilitate learning language, but the effectiveness largely depends on the particular user. In the education system, computers provide tutorials programs for learning language called Computer Assisted Learning Language (CALL) (Hartoyo, 2006). As such, CALL can provide an opportunity for individuals to learn English productive skills through computer technologies. These productive skills define the art of speaking and writing the language as compared with receptive listening and reading skills. CALL is credited for providing an individualized learning environment that is compatible with individual knowledge needs; offering guided practice, immediate feedback, and optimal use of learning time. In teaching English productive skills, CALL program presents various disadvantages to tutors and learners that require strategic solutions to achieve efficiency.
CALL program is disadvantageous to the learners in that they provide limited accessibility. The program varies sharply from the traditional mode of learning. Traditionally, the instruction of English writing and speaking skills involves the use of learning materials such as books that students can carry with them from one place to another (Hartoyo, 2006). In comparison, learning English in an educational institution through CALL usually requires one to access a computer laboratory. Such facilities are often not available, are costly to equip, and may operate within restricted time meaning learners access is limited (Hartoyo, 2006). As such, the program's full benefits are mostly available to individuals with personal computers and portable laptops or notebooks. Learning a new language is a laborious task that requires both convenience and time and hence limited access to computer devices impedes the efficiency of CALL programs.
CALL programs are a costly option for learning English productive skills. The system requires substantial initial investment in acquiring the hardware and developing software. Computer devices and accessories are usually expensive especially for low-income institutions and individuals (Dina & Ciornei, 2013). Besides, software development is a skilled task that attracts specialists' services that are typically expensive. Even if an individual develops their software, the process of programming and filling the English lesson is a laborious task. Expensive computer hardware and software heaps a burden to individual and institutions and this limit the equity of education systems (Dina & Ciornei, 2013). Where the hardware is available, unequal access to the internet also frustrates the learners and tutors. Also, computers and systems require regular maintenance while software needs constant upgrades. The increase in education cost discourages the use of CALL programs for English learning thereby hindering learning process.
Limited technological knowhow acts as a limitation to CALL program. It is essential for both learners and instructors to possess the necessary technical know-how before they can utilize CALL as a tool for learning English productive skills. The foundation of using the computer as an education aid is having technological training (Roblyer, 2012). Romano (2012) notes that access to technology will only improve learning objectives if teachers and pupils have skills to adopt computer technology as an education tool. Hence, learners wishing to explore assisted learning language must have computer training first. Where the computer technology skills are non-existent, the benefits of CALL programs may not be available for English learners (Lai & Kritsonis, 2006). Besides students who are not familiar with computer usage suffer from computer-anxiety. This requirement becomes a challenge for language learners whose only interest is to improve their spoken and written skills. Necessarily, it translates to longer training time and added costs required first to acquire computer skills.
The current CALL programs have limited speaking capabilities. Majority of the software present in the market are developed to enhance listening, reading, and writing skills rather than speaking skills. More so, the speaking programs available have limited functions. Good software should have the capacity to comprehend the speech input by a user and evaluate both the correct and appropriate use of words (Lai & Kritsonis, 2006). These abilities are often missing in the existing crop of software to the disadvantage of learners. In addition, spoken and written English follows specific rules in pronunciations, sentence construction, and use of grammar. Unfortunately, most of the speaking programs available are not able to diagnose the proper use of these language features (Lai & Kritsonis, 2006). This discrepancy compromises the efficiency of CALL programs as learning tools for spoken English skills.
The attitudes of teachers and learners act as a barrier to the application of CALL program in learning English productive skills. Various studies on the challenges of technological use in academia have established that teacher's attitudes affect the efficiency of CALL programs. Teachers concerns include the view that technology is disruptive and it was a threat to their authority. At the center of their lack of confidence in the fear associated with failure and limited technical knowledge base. Other researchers are concerned with the student's reaction to learning language through technology. They argue that for CALL programs to work, positive attitude from learners must accompany the learning experience. There are fears that CALL may cut off students from the classroom context. CALL, unlike classroom learning, does not allow pupils and tutors to share the knowledge they learn and their feelings toward the subject (Babu & Komuraiah, 2011). Hence, the program provides less opportunity for communication as opposed to the classroom learning making it less attractive. The negative attitude to technology by tutors and the fears associated with a change in learning context affects the quality and focus of language learning.
The inability of CALL programs to respond to learners unplanned situations is another disadvantage. A language-learning environment has to evolve and changing circumstances that require innovative and adapting responses. Computers operate based on artificial intelligence meaning they can only do as much as what they are programmed to do (Lai & Kritsonis, 2006). As such, CALL programs are not able to deal with all emerging learners problems, as a personal teacher would do. This reality means that CALL does not address learning challenges beyond the scope of the programmed intelligence. Though there is increasing improvement in developing intelligent language learning programs, they are not yet wholly interactive (Lai & Kritsonis, 2006). Additionally, software is designed to respond to specific questions that may arise in the learning process. As such, students may not get answers to all their learning queries. Each software has its unique limitations that include complexity in use and mismatch with users' needs. A user may find it difficult to learn using a CALL program since the design is rigid and non-responsive to the learners evolving needs.
Criticism directed towards CALL points at the poor quality of content due to skills disconnect by developers. Most of the programs designed for teaching English productive skills targets self-study. As a result, computer technical experts rather than English scholars and teachers create the input in these programs. In comparing CALL programs and English textbooks, the computer acts as the mode of communication between the programmer and the learner. However, a programmer unlike a book author has business motives and is not an English subject expert. The difference between an author and programmer explains the unsuitable content, grammatical errors, and inappropriate feedback experienced in CALL. While the programs meet the technological requirement, they are limited in the value and depth of material needed to teach spoken and written English skills. Alternatively, teachers who have linguistics skills but little technical skills also develop the programs. These limitation leads to constant needs to fill in the gaps between language and technical aspects thus compromising the quality of learning.
CALL software used for teaching spoken English has unique design weaknesses. The learning of English speaking skills follows listening and repeating drills. In a computer laboratory context, students usually talk at the same time while putting on headphones. Essentially the learners are not able to hear themselves as they speak and hence self-correction becomes limited. More so, the program may not provide immediate feedback on the speech skills unless it is a grading software. Furthermore, the computerized assessment cannot match the quality of an English native speaker. The alternative is to record speech through the programs, submits it to the teacher for evaluation, but this strategy is time-consuming and fails to provide immediate feedback. Besides, getting teachers to grade the speech recording in a repetitive process opens an otherwise objective process to human subjectivity. These shortcomings water down the strengths of CALL programs designed to teach English spoken skills.
Some of the CALL programs do not satisfactorily address English writing skills. The ability of software to assess and grade English written compositions is limited. Some of the programs designed to do writing do check spelling but cannot adequately determine grammar. Spell checkers only allow learners to accept suggested corrections without learning the grammar skills hence making a learner dependent on the program. The quality of feedback depends on the depth of details rather than the correctness which majority of CALL programs fail to provide. Where a student uses CALL as the only tool for learning written English abilities, the learner's skills may be inadequate since the program fails to provide thorough feedback on written submissions (Babu & Komuraiah, 2011). Also, the software for written skills usually relies on vocabulary exercises without teaching their different context for use. Where the activities address context, they may have cultural biases. Likewise, programmers format the software in a way that does not allow modification meaning that tutors cannot enhance a pre-designed program. These disadvantages prevent the learners from fully comprehending the English written skills they intend to acquire.
CALL program limits creativity in writing. In a traditional classroom, learners write compositions with originality and authenticity. However, since a linkage exists between CALL programs and the internet, it becomes more enticing for learners to copy articles available on the web rather than create their own. The high dependency created on computers may inhibit the students from having profound reflections and applying their ideas in writing (Babu & Komuraiah, 2011). Besides, learners develop a habit of typing and relying on the program to correct spellings. This feature further denies the student an opportunity to process their words in writing. It follows then that one may not enhance their ability to remember vocabulary spelling or nurture creativity, which form part of the learning skill objectives.
CALL programs are vulnerable to technical breakdowns that inconvenience the learning process. CALL depends on computer devices that are prone to techn...
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