The development of web 2.0 has enabled people to transfer knowledge actively. Social network is one of internet facilities which is based on web 2.0. This paper examined students’ perception on the use of a language learning social network, Livemocha, as independent learning. The subjects were 25 first-year students of Sriwijaya University majoring Mining Engineering and the data were collected through questionnaire and interview. The respondents were required to set up account in Livemocha and used it as independent language learning. The findings showed that that Livemocha is useful in helping the students learn English independently. It can help them learn anywhere and anytime. The features offered by Livemocha are helpful even though some contents are too easy for them.it is hoped that the results of the study give an insight on students’ perception on the use of Livemocha to help learners learn English independently. It is also suggested that further studies are conducted and focus on the use of Livemocha in classroom and its challenges. Experimental studies could also be done to see the effectiveness of using this website.
Keywords: web 2.0, social network, Livemocha, independent language learning, students’ perception.
At first, people were only able to take information or knowledge on internet passively. They come to websites and read the content without being able to share their own. Only those who posses knowledge about html (hypertext mark up language) are able to make websites and fill the contents. With the development of web 2.0, it enables users to participate actively to transfer information. Social network, blogs, wikis, and podcasts are examples of websites which are based on web 2.0. This development has led to a new opportunity in language learning. As stated by Elam & Nesbit (2012), “Nowadays, with web 2.0 tools, educators and students alike find the internet as a participative medium in which users can collaborate.” Moreover, Harrison & Thomas (2009) assert that “Web 2.0 technologies have been advanced as potentially transformative in the area of education in general and foreign language learning in particular.”
Social network as one example of web 2.0 has been very popular nowadays. It allows people to connect to each other easily. Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace are categorized as social network sites which offer opportunity to meet people and interact with them virtually. Besides that, there are also social network sites which are intended for the use of language learning. People could use them to interact, communicate as well as learn language. According to Sumalatha (2013), “Social Media Language Learning (SMLL) links interactive social media channels to language learning. This enables students to develop communication and language skills”. In such websites, people could learn language and have chat with native speakers so it promotes language learning actively by providing content, exercise, even chat feature for communication practice.
Language learning should not be limited to classroom activity and relied on formal learning. Students should be willing to absorb in the target language by doing more independent activities. What is good from such kind of sites is that they also offer autonomous or independent learning. In accordance with what has been declared by Reinders & White (2011), “Technology has the potential to not only provide access to resources for learning in a superficial sense, but also to offer increased affordances for autonomous learning.” Moreover, by practicing the target language via chat feature in social media, students are exposed with authentic context of language use. This study focused on language learning social network, Livemocha, and investigated students perception in using it.
Currently, the users of social media like Facebook increase significantly, especially in Indonesia. Based on the data published by Smith (2013), facebook users in the world is 1. 11 billion users. With the high number of users, Facebook becomes the most popular social network. There are some studies related to the use of Facebook in language learning. For example a study conducted by Shih (2011). The researcher investigated the effect of integrating Facebook and peer assessment with college English writing class instruction through a blended teaching approach. The findings suggest that incorporating peer assessment using Facebook in learning English writing can be interesting and effective for college-level English writing classes. Another study was by Yunus & Salehi (2012). The study was conducted to investigate the students’ perception on the effectiveness of Facebook groups for teaching and improving writing. The finding showed that Facebook group is an effective tool in improving the students’ writing skill.
Facebook is not intended specifically for language learning. However, based on the study mentioned before, it could be inferred that social media could be an effective tool in language learning. Due to the phenomena, the writer was interested in conducting research which focused on social media intended specifically for language learning. As explained earlier, there are some social media intended particularly for this purpose. The writer would like to know students’ perception in using this kind of media in learning English, especially for autonomous learning. Livemocha (www.livemocha.com) supports an interactive online community networking drives the learning community (Jee & Park, 2009). This community was the first web-based language learning integrated with social media. It is free to join this websites but the users also have option to learn by using the paid version.
Some previous studies related to Livemocha were found. For instance, the study by Chwo, et.al (2012). This study assessed whether learning style and learning strategy impact on technology university EFL learners’ degree of satisfaction, learning attitude, and other general perceptions with respect to web 2.0 informal learning with the Livemocha program. The results showed that no significant correlations were found among the four measures of attitude to and perception of Livemocha. Another study was by Harrison & Thomas (2009) which investigated Livemocha in learning language. The results indicated that it can be used by language learners to explore new relationships rather than merely maintain existing one. In this study the writer formulated the research questions as below:
- What is the students’ perception in using this website for independent language learning?
- What are the strengths and the weaknesses of this website?
It is hoped that this study will give an insight of students perception in using this website to help them learn English independently. It is also useful to know the strengths and the weaknesses of this website so that teachers could decide whether or not to recommend it to their students. Moreover, it is hoped that it will add more literature review related to the use of livemocha in language learning.
Livemocha claims as the world’s largest online language learning community which fuses traditional learning methods with online practice and interaction with native language speakers from around the world (www.livemocha.com , 2013). It was launched in 2007 and it has over 16 million members from 195 countries. Livemocha was purchased by Rosetta Stone in 2013. This website offers free basic and paid version. Its membership is free and it includes a lots of free features: chat, flashcards, messaging, making friend and more. Learners can practice over 35 languages for free with Basic Vocabulary Courses 101, 102, 201, and 202 which include Learn, Review, Write and Speak exercises.
The way to sign up is almost the same as other social network. Learners are asked to fill their personal data with valid email then they can continue to set their profiles. Livemocha implements point system like a game. Users are provided with two choices for enrolling in a course. After setting up the account, Livemocha will give virtual point which can be redeemed to take course, for example taking vocabulary course. They can also add their points by completing one lesson. They will be given 2 points each time they have completed a lesson. Besides, helping others in learning their native language could increase their point. The user could also use ‘beans’ feature to take a course but it means they have to purchase first. For example, if the learners would like to take English Alphabet course, it needs 99 beans. Livemocha offers 199 beans for $2.29 USD.
Here is the printscreen of the courses feature.
There are four features in Learn section; Get new lessons, My lessons, Help others, and Language Partners. Get new lesson consists of new courses that can be taken. One lesson contains introduction, review of the vocabulary term in the lesson, review of the language usage, practice of the language usage, practice reading and writing, practice reading and speaking, practice listening and speaking, and practice conversation with live language exchange. In the course, user can get feedback from native speakers related to the exercise or practice they have completed. My lessons contains the lessons that have been completed by the users. Help others contains other users who need user’s help in learning his/her native language. So in this website users can learn another language as well as teach those who would like to learn their native language. Users can ask feedback from native speaker and also can give feedback to people from other countries.
This is the printscreen of starting a lesson, video explanation about the lesson.
The participants of the study were 25 undergraduate students of Mining Engineering of Sriwijaya University Inderalaya who were taking course of English 2 in the even semester of academic year 2012/2013. The participants were freshmen consisted of 23 males and one female.
At first, the students were introduced about Livemocha and were explained about the functions, features, and also the use of livemocha. Then they were asked to set up their own profiles and use it for two weeks as their independent language learning. The students used the websites at their own needs meaning that it is free for them to select what features they would use. To ensure that all the participants use it, the researcher, who was their English instructor, asked them to make it as their final project of English course. However, the researcher also told them that the result or their perception related to this website should be their own real perception and that it would not influence their scores.
Instruments and Data Analysis
The researcher used qualitative method in this research. After the project, the participants were given questionnaire and were interviewed by the researcher. The questionnaires and the interview were intended to explore students’ perception in using livemocha and to know the strengths as well as the weaknesses. There were 10 questions in the questionnaire containing two sections. First section included 5 questions related to basic use of livemocha. Second section contained 5 questions related to students perceptions. The interview consisted of their overall opinion or perception about this websites and also the strengths and the weaknesses.
Findings and Discussions
There were 24 respondents who participated in using Livemocha and responded to the questionnaire. There were 23 males and 1 female and all of them have used this website for two weeks during the research. 58% used it for one to two hours a day. 16 % used it less than an hour a day and 8.3% used it for more than two hours a day. Livemocha provides level of language learning starting from beginner to advanced. 45% decided to start using it from beginner level and 45% used the material intended for intermediate learners. The rest, 8.3%, skipped the beginner and intermediate material and learned the lesson for advanced level.
The second section of questionnaire asked questions related to students’ perception in using livemocha. Firstly, it asked about how helpful the features of livemocha. The results can be seen from the table below.
How helpful do you find the following features for your language learning? (check “not applicable “ if you do not use that feature)
|Very helpful||Somewhat helpful||Not helpful||Not applicable|
|Free courses or lessons||83%||12.5%|
|Posting audio recordings||33%||16%||8.3%||37.5%|
|Posting written practice||50%||33%||8.3%|
|Feedback from others||37.5%||8.3%||20.8%||20.8%|
|Premium/ paid courses||4.1%||8.3%||4.1%||79.1%|
from the table above, it could be inferred that 83% of the respondents found free courses/lesson are very helpful, and 12.5% found it somewhat helpful. It means that almost all of the respondents agree that free courses help them. In relation to audio recordings, 37.5 % did not use the feature, 49% thought that it helps them, while 8.3% stated it is not helpful for them. In written practice feature, most of them found it helpful. It can be seen from the table that 83% stated so. The table also showed that most of the respondents did not use flashcard, premium course and paid tutorial. In other words, the respondents used only the free version of this website.
The next question asked more about the language skills. The results can be seen below.
What language skills does Livemocha help you with? ? (check “not applicable “ if you do not use that feature)
|Very helpful||Somewhat helpful||Not helpful||Not applicable|
The data showed that only a small part did not use the language skill feature. 4.1% means only one respondent and 12.5% means 3 respondents. Those who used the feature agree that the language skills’ section offered by Livemocha help them in mastering the skills. The next question discussed about attitudes and perceptions in using Livemocha. The results are shown in this table.
|Strongly Agree||Agree||Neutral or No opinion||Disagree||Strongly disagree||Not applicable|
|I am motivated to spend more time learning a language after using it on livemocha||16.6%||62.5%||16.6%|
|Learning on Livemocha increases my self-confidence in the language||16.6%||62.5%||12.5%||4.1%|
|Negative feedback from others on livemocha discourage me||4.1%||12.5%||29.1%||20.8%||25%|
Based on the table above, it can be inferred that most of the respondents agree that Livemocha motivates them in learning English independently. Beside that, it also increases their self-confidence in the language. They also thought that feedback from others did not discourage them even though the feedback is negative.
The next question asked which features are the most important to the respondents.
Which of these features are the most important to you?
|Very important||Somewhat important||Not important|
|Available at all times and locations||70.8%||29.1%|
|Individualized, self-paced learning||29.1%||66.6%||4.1%|
|Quality of language learning materials||50%||45.8%||4.1%|
|Opportunities to practice||50%||50%|
|Opportunties to get feedback from others||25%||66.6%||8.3%|
|Opportunities to meet people||16.6%||58.3%||25%|
The data showed that most of them agree Livemocha’s strengths are very important to help them learn English. The strengths are for example free courses, available at all time and locations, self-paced learning, the quality of the material, opportunities to practice, opportunites to get feedback from others and opportunities to meet people. The last questions asked about how much the respondents learn from Livemocha. 20% stated that they learned a lot. 62% said that they learned some and 16% stated they learned a little from Livemocha.
Another instrument used was interview. In this section, 18 respondents participated. The researcher asked two main questions: (1) what is your overall opinion about Livemocha? (2) what are the strengths and the weaknesses of this website?. The result showed that 88.8% stated that it is helpful for them and it is effective to help them learn English independently. Only 11.1% stated that it is not useful because the content is too easy. 80% agreed that free courses which involve listening, writing, reading, grammar, vocabulary and feedback are the strengths while speaking section, point system and the easy content are the weaknesses.
Below is the sampe of the respondents’ interview.
- I think it is not very useful and it does not improve my confidence because it is very easy. It is not effective for communication but I recommend it for beginner. The strength is it is good in vocabulary lesson and the weakness is it is not good for speaking. It needs microphone so I can not use it.
- It is a good website. I can learn some other languages, not only English. The feedback feature is very helpful for me.
- It is effective to learn English because it can be used whenever and wherever. The weakness is it is very difficult to access the website. I sometimes fail to log in.
- Livemocha is very helpful for me because I can learn listening. But I don’t like the point system because sometimes my point is not enough to take a new course.
- Livemocha is effective because it helps me in simple material. I’m not a good student so I can start from the beginner. I have problem in log in and it also needs microphone in speaking activity.
- I think it is helpful for me to improve my listening skill because I seldom get listening activity in class.
- It is a good application and helpful. People can comment on our work in feedback feature. The problem is the point system but I can watch the introduction lesson again to get more point. So I think it is still effective.
- The appearance is too boring and the content is not really helpful. I know the answer because it is easy. Not effective I think. We have to meet the real people to communicate.
Based on the results of the questionnaire and interview, it can be concluded that Livemocha is useful in helping the students learn English independently. It can help them learn anywhere and anytime. The features offered by Livemmocha are helpful even though some contents are too easy for them. However, there are some strengths and weaknesses of this website. Language skill features like listening, grammar, vocabulary and writing sections are the strengths of this website, in addition, free courses, available at all time and locations, self-paced learning, the quality of the material, opportunities to practice, opportunites to get feedback from others and opportunities to meet people are also the strengths. Meanwhile, the weakness is the log in problem encountered by the respondents. Beside that, it needs microphone to take part in speaking activity. Most of the respondents did not use this feature due to the lack of the tool. It is suggested that further studies are conducted and focus on the use of Livemocha in classroom and its challenges. Experimental studies could also be done to see the effectiveness of using this website.
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