Listening needs of distance learners: a case study of EAP learners at the University of the South Pacific

Distance education Students Learning strategies Fiji Pacific Area

This study focuses on student listening needs in the context of the English for Academic Purposes program taught by distance education at the University of the South Pacific. It explores the relationship between learners' awareness of the learning strategy they use for developing their listening skills and their teachers' knowledge of the strategy use and listening needs of learners.Using an ethnographic case study approach, the study was conducted at various campuses and centres of the University of the South Pacific. Interviews were conducted with five EAP/study skills teachers; five subject/course teachers; 19 past learners and 10 present learners of the EAP/study skills course. Questionnaire data was also obtained from 19 past learners and 153 present learners. In addition, a course material analysis was carried out. The study confirms and adds weight to the conclusions of earlier researchers such as Berne (1998), and Mendelsohn (2001) who explain that discrepancies exist between L2 listening research and practice. The findings of this research indicate that teachers differ from their learners in terms of learners' knowledge and understanding of listening skills and learning strategies in use. The findings also indicate that even though learning had taken place in this distance education context some face-to-face teaching would have been desirable. A combination of distance teaching with longer teacher–learner contact for distance teaching of listening skills is recommended, since regular contact between teachers and learners is seen by learners as very beneficial and more likely to lead to a better development of listening skills. It also helps create an awareness of learners' present and future listening needs. The nature of distance teaching at the University of the South Pacific, and the challenges faced by both teachers and learners are discussed in this study, and the requirement for further needs analysis in regard to distance EAP courses are noted.The study concludes with recommendations for strategy training for distance learners as well as for raising teacher awareness about the importance of strategy teaching. It is also recommended that similar studies be undertaken in other language skills courses offered by distance at universities like USP such as reading, writing and speaking courses.

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