The role of E-learning in English language

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In an attempt to contribute to this research base, this paper draws on an empirical investigation using group interviews with students and teachers in order to gain insight into their perception about the role of E-learning in studying EFL in Saudi Arabia. The findings are presented and discussed in four thematic areas: promoting key learning skills, independent learning, flexible learning, and interactive learning. The paper also highlights the limitations of the research and concludes by making a number of recommendations.
1. English Language Teaching; Vol. 11, No. 5; 2018
ISSN 1916-4742 E-ISSN 1916-4750
Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education
The Role of E-learning in Studying English as a Foreign Language in
Saudi Arabia: Students’ and Teachers’ Perspectives
Ibrahim Mutambik1
Information Science, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Correspondence: Ibrahim Mutambik, Information Science, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. E-mail:
Received: March 4, 2018 Accepted: April 14, 2018 Online Published: April 16, 2018
doi: 10.5539/elt.v11n5p74 URL:
Over the past few decades, there have been tremendous increase in technology advancement and the significance
of this in the field of education cannot be overemphasised. The adoption and use of E-learning in studying EFL,
in particular, is one such areas that has experienced such fast-paced development for some time now. As a result,
the government all over the world are committing a lot of resources to keep up with this technology
advancement. In this light, the government of Saudi Arabia through its Ministry of Education has recently made
commitment, both as the practical and policy levels, with the hope to also benefit from using E-learning in
studying EFL in Saudi Schools. However, little is known about the perception of students and teachers regarding
the role of E-learning is studying EFL in the Saudi context. In an attempt to contribute to this research base, this
paper draws on an empirical investigation using group interviews with students and teachers in order to gain
insight into their perception about the role of E-learning in studying EFL in Saudi Arabia. The findings are
presented and discussed in four thematic areas: promoting key learning skills, independent learning, flexible
learning and interactive learning. The paper also highlights the limitations of the research and concludes by
making a number of recommendations.
Keywords: E-learning, computer assisted language learning, English as a foreign language, students’ and
teachers’ perspectives, qualitative analysis, Saudi Arabia
1. Introduction
1.1 Introduce the Problem
As information technology rapidly develops and spreads, there is an increasing body of literature that
emphasizes the importance of introducing E-learning to facilitate the studying of English as a foreign/second
language (EFL/ESL) depending on country or context (Yang & Chen, 2007; Allam & Elyas, 2016). This is
particularly the case in Saudi Arabia in recent years (Al-Hamidi, 2013). The term E-learning, although a
contested concept, is defined throughout this paper as computer-enabled learning of EFL. Today, this typically
involves the use of the internet as a medium for teaching and learning, either as a principal or supplementary
educational resource. There is also ample evidences regarding the relative potential benefits of this type of
technology use, for both students and teachers. For example, it is suggested that E-learning offers the option to
remove the temporal and spatial restrictions that apply in traditional learning contexts (Smith, 2000). In addition,
some E-learning applications permit students learning English to readily access beneficial language resources
and communicate directly with native English speakers. Furthermore, students can study English listening,
verbal communication, reading, and written communication skills in authentic contexts (Debski & Gruba, 1999;
Yang & Chen, 2007; Al-Qahtani, 2016; Al-Hassan & Shukri, 2017).
However, Westbrook (2006) has argued that incorporating E-learning into the studying of EFL is not delivering
anticipated outcomes. Debski and Gruba (1999) also suggested that while the successful inclusion of E-learning
for the teaching and learning of EFL is measurable, proper assessment methods that capture the perceptions of
both students and teachers towards technology use still demand consideration. Yet, the Saudi government,
through the Ministry of Education is hoping to benefit from E-learning, and has progressively encouraged its
implementation for studying EFL, particularly in high schools; i.e. ages 15 to 18 (Al-Hamidi, 2013). Thus, it
seems there is a pressing need to explore the prevailing beliefs and opinions of both students and teachers
relative to E-learning adoption for educational purposes. The significance of this paper lies in the fact that
2. English Language Teaching Vol. 11, No. 5; 2018
although numerous studies have been designed to comprehend the views of both students and teachers, regarding
the successes and limitations of E-learning technology (Toni Mohr, Holtbrügge, & Berg, 2012), there is a dearth
of such relevant studies on this subject matter in the Saudi Arabian context. This paper reports the results of a
qualitative research study designed to explore teachers’ and students’ perceptions regarding the introduction of
E-learning into the domain of studying EFL in Saudi Arabia.
1.2 Literature Review
Computer based technological innovations have a long history in its use for the teaching and learning of EFL
(Davies, 2012a, 2012b). In a broader sense, language education has utilised computer-based technologies since
the 1960s, when educational researchers first showed an interest in using their capabilities in instruction
following the development of commercial mainframe computers in the 1950s (Davies, 2012a). Over time, the
popularity of technology adoption in the domain of education has increased, especially since the emergence of
the World Wide Web.
A significant component of this technology advancement is the development of the E-learning environment
which has been recognised as having transformative potential in terms of English language teaching and learning
methodology (Hellebrandt, 1999). Specifically, students can use E-learning resources to acquire the four main
English language skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) (Yang & Chen, 2007; Shuchi, & Islam, 2016).
This section elaborates on the affordances of E-learning today, and discusses the implications for Saudi students,
while also identifying the challenges associated with these aspects when balancing the argument.
One of the major limitations encountered with traditional face-to-face studying of EFL in Saudi Arabia is that
students cannot be provided with an authentic English learning environment, as public life is primarily
dominated by Arabic language. Furthermore, class sizes are very large, meaning there are limited opportunities
for individual students to contribute or communicate one-to-one with their teachers. E-learning, therefore, offers
a platform on which students can develop their communication (speaking) abilities in English by engaging with
other students in the virtual-world (Yang & Chen, 2007). It is worth noting that these limitations are not peculiar
to the Saudi context but affects most other countries where English is used as a foreign language (Yang & Chen,
In light of this, Lee (2002) conducted a pilot study using synchronous electronic chat together with task-based
instructions, to enhance learners’ communication skills. The outcome of that study suggested the combined use
of online interaction and task-based instruction improves students’ communication skills by creating a lively
environment in which they can respond to conversations in real-time about topics relevant to their interests.
Furthermore, Warschauer (1999) and Yang and Chen (2007) pointed out that the benefits of E-learning for
developing speaking skills include the opportunity for more equal participation than supported during
face-to-face interaction. In addition, that communication need not be confined to the local level, but can be easily
and unprecedentedly extended to the international setting, opening up opportunities for learners to develop their
cross-cultural knowledge (Al-saggaf, 2004). For example, teachers in Saudi Arabia can open up discussion
groups for their students on any topic and invite participants from elsewhere to broaden and enrich the discussion,
without the need to leave the country or physically mix in a sex-segregated environment. However, it is
important to note here that, in Saudi Arabia, discussion platforms of this nature are considered more acceptable
for university level students and less acceptable for use in relation to the school context (Madini & de Nooy,
In terms of developing speaking skills, for those students who rarely have an opening to speak with native
speakers, and for others who are shy, automatic speech recognition technology provides opportunities for them to
practise speaking (Yang & Chen, 2007). As noted by other researchers, including (Chiu, Liou, & Yeh, 2007), the
use of automatic speech recognition systems that allow students to engage in speech interactions with a computer
is an advantage of E-learning. A web-based conversation environment called Candle Talk has also been
developed to enable students to communicate with their computers interactively (Chiu et al., 2007). This
software allows EFL learners to access explicit speech training programmes, thereby enhancing their oral skills.
Additionally, the application of automatic speech recognition software as used by college freshmen can facilitate
the teaching of oral communication. Importantly, the majority of students have welcomed instructional methods
based on speech recognition software.
Another value addition of E-learning is that it is useful as a tool for creating successful learning environments to
motivate students and create meaningful and worthwhile learning activities and outcomes (Garrison, 2011; Yang
& Chen, 2007). For instance, Garrison (2011) has argued that the text-based E-learning communication,
generated by e-mail messages or discussion threads, has unique and valuable attributes that can facilitate critical
3. English Language Teaching Vol. 11, No. 5; 2018
discourse and reflection.
Examining the significance of such text based tools, Al-Menei (2008) investigated the effectiveness of the
computer-assisted English writing skills of Saudi students. His study demonstrated a significant improvement in
the writing capabilities of Saudi EFL students when they had used computer-assisted programmes to correct their
grammar and paragraph writing, as the E-learning setting provides ample time for students to reflect and focus.
Farzi (2016) also observed that computers can be programmed to provide corrective instruction to identify any
mistakes in writing. This arguably helps students to correct their mistakes, enriching their writing.
Furthermore, E-learning provide unprecedented opportunities when developing their reading skills, due to the
unrestricted availability of course materials online (Brandl, 2002). Online information enables students to
overcome the confines of textbook based learning, by promoting access to knowledge at any time and from
anywhere. Opportunities for listening to authentic language also abound online. Indeed, Romeo (2008) observed
the importance of listening exercises to understand relative clauses and audio prompts available through online
applications. He reports on evidence that suggests that when more syntactically complex clauses are used,
learners alter their method of approach to learning and understanding.
The E-learning interactions identified above do not only support the development of students’ English language
skills, but also foster students’ interest and motivation in language learning in general. However, the benefits of
an E-learning system cannot be maximized if students and teachers do not use it. The next section explains the
methods used by the author to research the various benefits of E-learning mentioned above, from the perspective
of teachers and students; while ensuring attention was also directed towards any disadvantages of E-learning that
might emerge.
2. Method
To explore students’ and teachers’ perceptions of the role of E-learning in studying EFL in Saudi Arabia, a
qualitative approach based on group interviews was used. Qualitative methods are well-established as in depth
tools for exploring the perceptions of individuals and/or groups about particular phenomena including E-learning
(Creswell, 2009). Therefore, this study employs a qualitative approach to gain insights into the meanings and
interpretations the research participants ascribed to the role E-learning plays in studying EFL. Using a qualitative
approach means participants’ social reality can be conceived of as a constantly changing phenomenon with
emergent properties (Bryman, 2004). Finally, understanding the construction of meaning was a central issue in
this research and so the interview method assisted the researchers in learning how different individuals explain
the role E-learning plays in studying EFL (Bogdan & Biklen, 1982; Creswell, 2009).
Group interviews were used in this study and were preferred over other methods, because they allowed: rapid
information gathering, cost-effective, the generation of new ideas, and raised issues and concerns that the
researcher might not have encountered in individual interviews (Kumar, 1987; Ritchie & Lewis, 2003). The
study adopted a purposive sampling strategy and sought voluntary participation (Jupp, 2006; Mann & Stewart,
2000). In total, 24 participants were selected from among the students and teachers since the aim was to achieve
‘depth’ rather than ‘breadth’ (Blaxter, Hughes, & Tight, 2010; King & Horrocks, 2010). The sample distribution
included 16 students and 8 teachers.
The student participants were selected and grouped according to gender, English proficiency, and whether they
had previous E-learning experience. Table 1 illustrates the distribution of the student participants. The decision to
include these different criteria was made to ensure the selected sample was as diverse as possible within the
defined population boundaries. According to Ritchie and Lewis (2003, p. 197) “diversity in group composition
enriches the discussion, but there also needs to be some common ground between participants-based on how they
relate to the research topic or their socio-demographic characteristics”.
Table 1. Student participants according to proficiency, e-learning experience and gender
Participant category Number of student participants (male – female)
With E-learning experience & High proficiency in English 1–2
With E-learning experience & Low proficiency in English 3–2
Without E-learning experience & High proficiency in English 3–1
Without E-learning experience & Low proficiency in English 1–3
Total 8–8
4. English Language Teaching Vol. 11, No. 5; 2018
The teacher participants were divided according to gender and whether they had E-learning experience, as shown
in Table 2 below.
Table 2. Teacher participants according to experience and gender
Participant category Number of teacher participants (male – female)
With E-learning experience 2–2
Without E-learning experience 2–2
Total 4–4
In total there were four group interviews (lasting between 45 minutes and 1 hour). In total two groups of eight
students and two groups of four teachers (males and females were interviewed separately in both cases, due to
cultural and religious constraints on gender mixing). The rationale for involving both students and teachers (the
primary users of E-learning in education) was to gain information about different experiences and ensure some
diversity in the participants’ characteristics. Collectively the sample size and distribution helped the authors to
provide the diversity required to explore the topic and meet the aim of the study, as stated in the introduction.
The data collected during the group interviews was transcribed manually and then analysed thematically. This
involved identifying, examining and interpreting themes in textual data and then asking how these themes helped
address the research aim. The steps involved gaining familiarity with the data; generating initial codes; searching
for themes; reviewing and naming themes; and conducting the analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006). The group
analysis involved treating the data produced by the group as a whole, rather than focusing on individual
contributions (Ritchie & Lewis, 2003). Therefore, the groups were the units of analysis and were treated in the
same way as units of individual data. Group analysis was used in this particular study, because it enabled the
researchers to compare the differences and similarities between genders, as well as between teachers and
students. The researcher chose thematic analysis as an analytical tool, because it was seen as an ongoing, fluid,
and cyclical procedure occurring throughout the data collection stage, as well as involving data entry and
analysis phases (Bryman, 2004).
Finally, ethical issues raised during the research were dealt with in the strictest confidentiality and data was
anonymised in order to protect the identities of the respondents. The findings are presented below detailing the
role of E-learning as perceived by each group.
3. Findings and Discussion
3.1 The Role of E-learning in Promoting Key Learning Skills (Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Written)
Despite the many benefits provided by E-learning in English education, the study participants in general focused
on the development of listening and speaking skills only. As previously mentioned in the literature review, both
skills are subject to considerable limitations in the context of traditional face-to-face English education in Saudi
Arabia. The participants therefore saw E-learning as a platform, through which students would be able to
develop their speaking and listening in real-world situations. For example, the male group shared some of their
comments regarding the usefulness of E-learning, focusing on listening skills. Moreover, according to the M.S.
…Listening is one of the most important skills when learning English. You know, E-learning can provide audio
and video to listen and watch as much as you can, which will improve students with weak listening skills and
something like this e-learning should be used.
The above quotation illustrates a significant point associated with learning language; i.e. that E-learning can
promote the development of students’ listening skills. The respondents’ position was also that E-learning could
be instrumental in developing their listening skills more fully, particularly as they feel the current system is not
student centred. The textbooks provided do not seek to develop all areas of students’ skills, resulting in
weaknesses in these areas. Resources in Saudi Arabia are also woefully inadequate, video-based activities are
largely inappropriate, and little attempt is made to teach following a learner-centred methodology. This
highlights the space for the usefulness of E-learning in a context such as Saudi Arabia. Another quotation
considered interesting by the M.S. group is as follows:
There are many positive aspects I can think of, for example speaking, E-learning can maintain openness in
communication that, if used in the right way, can be extended not only in the school community but all over the
5. English Language Teaching Vol. 11, No. 5; 2018
world. You know, speaking in English is one of the main skills, E-learning can support speaking skills when using
chat rooms that are available in English. Since we are in a non-English speaking country, I see that E-learning
will help to develop students' speaking skills.
This group also focused on highlighting speaking as a particular skill, considered useful in E-learning. They
specifically felt that students might find chat rooms beneficial for practicing their speaking skills, providing
opportunities currently unavailable in the traditional teaching and learning context. However they cautioned
against total dependence on chat rooms for E-learning, because people might then feel isolated from one another
and their teachers. The outcome of this research supports research on communication by Warschauer (1996)
who argues that, “… the benefits of communication are seen as many: feeling part of a community, developing
thoughts and ideas, learning about different people and cultures, and students’ learning from each other” (p. 39).
In this research the respondents identified development in their speaking skills as a core affordance of
On the other hand, E-learning was also perceived as potentially inhibiting some aspects of English learning. For
example, the F.T. group stated:
…, it should not affect the other skills that students acquire from face-to-face teaching and learning, such as
handwriting skills...
Thus, a need for moderation emerged when interpreting this groups’ perceptions of the usefulness of E-learning.
That is, while the participants recognised the usefulness of E-learning (implicitly); they cautioned against
potential negative impacts, such as students not developing handwriting appropriately.
Overall, the analyses showed that E-learning helps to develop students’ listening and speaking skills, which is
important as proficiency in these areas is lacking in individuals who receive a traditional face-to-face English
education in Saudi Arabia only. This is because, as mentioned above, Saudi Arabia does not offer the opportunity
for students to be exposed to a natural English learning environment, as Arabic languages dominate public life.
Interestingly, the groups were relatively silent on the other benefits of E-learning for promoting reading and
writing skills. Possibly, this is because these areas are already well provided for by traditional methods of
teaching and learning. However, research reported elsewhere asserts that mastery of reading and writing in
English can be supported through E-learning (Al-Menei, 2008; Brandl, 2002).
What was also clear from the responses of the teachers and students was that they spoke generally about
E-learning and the use of technology, but did not elaborate on how it can be applied to the development of
learning EFL. This means that both teachers and students emphasised the technology itself, rather than how this
facilitates studying EFL. The reason for this could be that E-learning is a new development in Saudi Arabia,
especially at the school level, and the research respondents may have lacked the awareness or knowledge of its
utilities. This research outcome concurs with findings reported by Yang and Chen (2007), who also found that
the majority of students who research technology-enhanced language learning, appear to place greater emphasis
on the technology than on the language learning. What also appears to be missing is recognition of the fact that
speaking and listening helps forge relationships (Purdy, 1997). This research outcome therefore calls for a need
to develop teacher training in this area.
3.2 The Role of E-learning in Promoting Independent Learning
During the interviews, the potential for E-learning to foster independent learning came to the fore as a key
advantage. For instance, one F.T. suggested that:
I think if it is implemented in the right way, this will reduce the effort I do in the school, and this [E-learning]
helps students to rely on themselves and have different learning styles of English.
The above quotation from this teacher highlights the possibility that applying E-learning provides different
learning styles. Kinsella (1995) defines ‘styles’ more generally as: “being an individual’s natural, habitual, and
preferred way of absorbing, processing, and retaining new information and skills” (p. 171). Christison (2003)
also acknowledges the numerous ways of characterising learning styles, including: cognitive style, sensory style,
and personality styles. The identification of learning styles is however particularly useful when understood
relative to the needs of this research, because as argued in the work of Oxford (2002), “when allowed to learn in
their favourite way, unpressured by learning environment or other factors, students often use strategies that
directly reflect their preferred learning” (p. 127). One F.S. also made a useful comment in this regard, as follows:
The one thing that stimulates me to use E-learning is the huge amount of information that is easily accessible on
6. English Language Teaching Vol. 11, No. 5; 2018
The above statement suggests that through E-learning a lot of information can be made readily available to
students to enable learning regardless of context. Students do not have to be in the classroom to access relevant
information, nor do they always require the presence of a teacher. This was the characteristic of technology that
respondents considered very user friendly. However, another student who had never used E-learning had the
following to say:
You know, I don't have any experience with E-learning, you know, I don't think it will be easy for me to use it.
This student was clearly concerned that it would not be easy to use E-learning without any experience and
limited guidance. This highlights the importance of the teacher’s role in supporting students when using
E-learning tools.
Moreover, the F.S. group commented that E-learning promotes independent learning by providing feedback. For
example they mentioned:
… E-learning sometimes gives feedback immediately, which is sometimes helpful, especially when you don’t need
a teacher to know if your answer is correct or not. …, this really encourages us…
This suggests that students consider it motivating that they can use E-learning technology to learn independently
without their teachers watching or intruding. As stated, a key aspect of this is the opportunity to access instant
feedback when using E-learning. Indeed, the capacity for computers to provide instant and individualised
feedback has long been recognised by educators as beneficial to the learning process, including foreign language
educators (Salaberry, 2001; Alrabai, 2017). Additionally, findings from research by Ghanizadeh, Razavi and
Jahedizadeh (2015), demonstrate that modern technologies improve the quality of input, the authenticity of
communication, and the relevance of feedback. All of the above corroborates the position of the F.S. group.
3.3 The Role of E-learning in Promoting Flexible Learning
Many of the participants stated that the flexibility that E-learning offers can promote English learning. For
example, according to one of the F.T group:
Through [E-learning] students have access to the coursework 24 hours/day which gives them more flexibility on
time to follow up what they missed in the classroom and I think that will help to improve their English.
This statement contends that students who are willing and able to practice more, will take the opportunities
offered by E-learning tools and thereby effectively improve their English. Emphasis should therefore be placed
on the flexibility provided by the chance to practice any time, rather than just the mere availability of the
resources online. In relation to flexibility of place, the respondents stated:
… They can have access to coursework from schools or home or where ever they have a computer and internet
connection. Teachers also can have the same flexibility to monitor students’ progress.
The concept of flexibility mentioned above, extends beyond students to include teachers. What this means is that
with E-learning, both students and teachers can perform their duties from anywhere. A similar viewpoint was
raised in the other groups. For instance, the F.S group mentioned:
We can use it [E-learning] any time which means we have flexibility to use E-learning to complete more
exercises or to do homework.
The male group also provided insight into how they consider E-learning to be flexible to meet their teaching and
learning needs. Quoting the M.S. group:
Most of students spend time on the internet, you know; in the traditional classroom I have limited time to learn
but with the use of E-learning I will have unlimited access to the lessons for learning in my free time. In our
learning of English nowadays, we are restricted in learning only in the classroom, which means we don't have
flexibility. I think E-learning will help us to overcome all geographical and spatial barriers for students to learn
English and exchange knowledge.
The above comment goes a step further than previous comments made by the participants, observing that
E-learning removes geographical and spatial barriers for students. This points to the fact that utilising E-learning
resources, students from more than one geographical setting can communicate easily. This functionality can then
motivate students to engage with others irrespective of geography, which can then influence them to use the
interactive affordances of E-learning.
Additionally, this feature could broaden students’ horizons both socially and culturally, through their interactions
with the outside world and when reading for pleasure. According to Yang and Chen (2007), Internet technology
has a global reach and can provide extensive international resources. Similarly, E-learning enables English
7. English Language Teaching Vol. 11, No. 5; 2018
students to access useful language learning resources and communicate directly with native English speakers. In
the former, students are able to practice the application of information, while in the latter case, they can
overcome the decontextualized nature of English language learning. Students can also learn listening, speaking,
reading and writing English in an integrated form via E-learning. Finally, E-learning offers students the
opportunity to broaden their international perspectives, and appreciate different cultures.
3.4 The Role of E-learning in Promoting Interactive Learning
The participants indicated that E-learning is an interactive tool allowing very effective communication between
students or with their teachers. For instance, one teacher mentioned that E-learning can provide a means of
communication between teachers and students outside the classroom, enabling them to augment everyday
learning and teaching of English. The F.T. mentioned:
…, the E-learning environments is different to traditional learning because E-learning can be a complete set of
technology tools, which allow teachers and students to interact in a new style via the internet outside the
classroom, to support daily learning and teaching of English…
The above comment suggests that learning and teaching in English using E-learning can help develop an
interactive relationship among the students themselves and between teachers and students. This could play an
essential role in bolstering students learning English. This opinion was then echoed by other teachers in the same
group, who also perceived E-learning as an interactive teaching tool. The views of the F.S. group on this subject
are captured below:
Our educational system now, it doesn't support interaction with students who come from different regions, while
we in the school come from the same area, I think E-learning will help me to interact somehow with other
students, even from different countries to practice my language.
The implication here is that as a result of the interactive component of E-learning students from different
countries can learn from one another. This was also suggested by Shumin (2002) who argued that, “because of
the lack of opportunity in foreign language settings to interact with native speakers, the need for exposure to
many kinds of scenes, situations, and accents as well as voices is particularly critical” (p. 209). The view
expressed here is in many ways similar to the research outcome by Yang and Chen (2007), discussed above in
the section concerning The role of E-learning in promoting flexible learning. Students appear to have a more
global perspective on English language learning. Indeed, some students in the F.S. group mentioned:
I will then use it [E-learning], because it will add something new to learning English, which interaction with
other students or teacher is more open, I meant, I can interact outside the school.
The male gender group also suggested a similar view:
…, the online interaction aspect that E-learning will provide to students and teachers is one of the most
important advantages of E-learning, such as, marking, sending and receiving the homework. I think in this way,
E-learning will increase the possibility of contact between students and teachers, this may include email,
discussion boards and chat rooms. So, the students will have more time to participate and interact when learning
English outside the classroom.
The above two comments suggested that although they considered interactivity between teachers and students as
something important when learning English, they identified that E-learning facilitates this better outside the
classroom setting. For instance, in an E-learning environment, it seems essential to facilitate students’ and
teachers' proactive involvement for English learning and teaching through various forms of interaction, including
online collaboration and the provision of instant feedback. Thus, effective collaboration between teachers and
students are key to an effective teaching and learning process, both online and offline; a position that echoes
existing research, highlighting the importance of a collaborative approach to E-learning. This is facilitated
through increased contact between student-student and/or student-teacher. This conclusion is supported by
findings in Chen’s (2014) study, which found that, “the nature of interactivity and immediate feedback of a
WBEL environment has a positive effect on the stimulation of students’ interest and proficiency in English
learning” (p. 160). This research outcome demonstrates that knowledge is constructed as a result of constant
negotiation between students and teachers. It also emphasises the belief that learning is a social communication
4. Conclusions
This paper aimed to explore the perception of students and teachers about the role of E-learning in studying EFL
in Saudi Arabia. The research outcome has been quiet revealing in a number of ways. In particular, special
8. English Language Teaching Vol. 11, No. 5; 2018
prominence was given to E-learning benefits in relation to individuals’ speaking and listening skills. It was
suggested by both students and teachers that using E-learning in studying EFL in Saudi Arabia provides
opportunities for the development of students speaking and listening skills which might be lacking in the current
curriculum. Although this was perceived to be a good thing, it was also observed that it might come at a cost of
other skills, such as writing, reading and grammar, neither teachers nor students raised these skills. E-learning
also allows learners to communicate with different people worldwide via chatrooms in a relatively easier,
flexible and interactive manner. These key attributes (e.g. flexibility and interactivity) and consequences (e.g.
usefulness) of using E-learning when applied for learning EFL in Saudi Arabia might result in successful
implementation of such technology. Furthermore, special prominence was given to how E-learning promotes
independent learning with less intrusion from their teachers.
However, it seems that both students and teachers were focusing more on the attributes of E-learning rather than
how it develops their use of EFL and how it can be integrated into the Saudi curriculum in order to augment
results. In the current study, it is also noticeable that comparing the views of students and teachers demonstrated
that the former seemed more informed than the later about such technology. The implication is that teachers
might lack the requisite knowledge to bring together the two pedagogies (traditional and E-learning). This
suggests a clear need to offer training to teachers regarding how to apply such technology to the educational
curriculum. The study therefore prescribes Hampel and Stickler (2005) seminal series of skills, ranging from
technological to pedagogical, that teachers could be encouraged to acquire for effective teaching using
E-learning. This is supported by Hung (2016), who contended that for users to use E-learning effectively they
require skills, such as the ability to identify resources for learning, selecting and implementing learning strategies,
monitoring personal performance, and effectively applying skills and knowledge to reach learning objectives.
More importantly, Lai, Yeung, and Hu (2016) have argued that teachers need to share strategies with their
students about how to comprehend authentic materials and learn from them. They contend that doing so will help
guide students to develop the skills and strategies they require to process authentic materials.
Herein, the research outcomes establish the importance of setting realistic E-learning systems to meet students’
and teachers’ expectations and to promote learning EFL in Saudi Arabia. Such a system is necessary in order to
develop key English learning skills (i.e. reading, writing, speaking and listening) in an easy, interactive and
fixable ways. The system should also be able to facilitate independent learning. In conclusion, this research is
limited in a number of ways. For instance, with a small sample size means that caution must be applied in its
application, as findings might not be transferable to a large population. The study was also conducted in Saudi
Arabia, which is heavily influenced by social norms, meaning the views reported in the study might be both
culture and context dependent.
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