United States Military
Academy at West Point
Six-month Follow-up to West Point Case Study
Since last year's CALICO conference, West Point has been using Byki Online with a growing number of students and instructors. All Russian instructors are using Byki, as well as certain Arabic and Spanish instructors. Byki has become a critical supplement to regular classroom time: instructors create material that pairs with the existing curriculum, and students work through this material on their own. This allows students to study more efficiently and frees up classroom time for dialogue and interaction.
The West Point community has logged over 3,000 hours of language learning with Byki since the fall. Not only has West Point's usage been inspiring, but also, their reactions to the program were overwhelmingly positive. This winter, we heard feedback firsthand from students and instructors who are using Byki Online regularly. One instructor mentioned that Byki Online has been effective with his students because, unlike Rosetta Stone, it can be integrated with existing lesson plans. Additionally, Byki allows teachers to track usage and progress, making it easier to gauge student needs. Students gave the program glowing reviews as well, describing it as "addictive" and "fun". One student mentioned that he believed himself "bad at languages until (he) started using Byki."
As we move forward with new features, direct feedback helps inform our goals. We heard positive reactions to Byki but also gained suggestions on making the program better. Over the next few months, we'll be adding new capabilities, many of which were suggested by users at West Point. Transparent Language is proud to support cadets at West Point, and the larger community of language learners worldwide.
West Point Case Study of Computer-Assisted Language Learning Tools
June, 2010 marked the 27th annual CALICO conference, (Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium). This year's conference was hosted by Amherst College, and like previous CALICO events, it offered a forum for discussion about cutting-edge educational technologies. The three-day conference explored new ways in which educational technology can be leveraged to support effective language teaching and learning.
Researchers and instructors from the United States Military Academy at West Point were in attendance at CALICO 2010. They presented a case study on student attitudes and performance using CALL (Computer-Assisted Language Learning) programs built by Transparent Language and Rosetta Stone. A synopsis of this case study follows below.
This was a semester-long case study, conducted with introductory-level students of Arabic, German, and Spanish. All language classes at West Point are required to integrate a computer-assisted component, so this case study sought to evaluate the merits and drawbacks of two different programs. Roughly half of the students in this study were assigned to work with Transparent Language programs, while the other half worked with Rosetta Stone. The CALL programs were tightly coupled with the existing curriculum when possible, allowing instructors to create a blended-learning experience. Attitudes and outcomes were measured in three ways: student attitude surveys, instructor interviews, and prochievement tests developed by West Point and ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages).
- Learner perceptions: The differences in learner perception were slight. There was no statistically significant difference between the Transparent Language and Rosetta Stone programs in terms of motivation or general attitude. Students displayed a more positive attitude towards the vocabulary learning process than they did towards the grammar material for all three languages and across both brands. Learner perceptions of cultural awareness-raising features and user interface were varied across languages and products, with no statistically significant difference.
- Instructor perceptions: Both programs elicited positive and negative reactions from instructors. Instructors liked the Transparent Language vocabulary-building system but wanted to see a more user-friendly interface. Instructors liked the Rosetta Stone performance tracking but disliked the inability to integrate the program with existing curricula and the lack of grammar material. Both programs left instructors wanting more culture-related material.
- Prochievement tests: Students were given one-hour prochievement tests that cover vocabulary, grammar, and reading comprehension. Of the three language classes used in this case study, only Spanish had an oral proficiency interview and a measurement of the program's impact, (via beginning and end-of-study prochievement testing). Spanish language learners using the Transparent program showed a 1.4 point increase, versus the 1.2 point increase for those using Rosetta Stone. The average oral proficiency score for Transparent Language users was 3.0 versus the average score for those using Rosetta Stone, 2.7. With standard deviations of 1.4 and 1.3, these scores showed no significant difference. Across German and Arabic, there were also no statistically significant differences between the two programs, as measured by the prochievement test.
Overall, the tools built by Transparent Language and Rosetta Stone offered both pros and cons in this academic context. Both programs made instruction time more efficient, since students could demonstrate progress and maintain language skills outside of class. They also put students in greater control of their own learning. On the other hand, both programs showed room for improvement in grammar and cultural skill-building content. Given the importance of integrating the CALL programs with existing curricula, the Rosetta Stone one-size-fits-all approach was insufficiently flexible for instructors' unique needs.
West Point will continue to use both programs and study the effects of CALL program integration with curriculum. They firmly believe that CALL programs are a critical part of the language learning experience. These programs make the classroom experience more effective but are also a key tool for keeping learners engaged with a language beyond the end of the semester or course.