Impacts of an online English learning programme among Japanese high school students

Interesting paper by Yuki Higuchi, Miyuki Sasaki, Makiko Nakamuro.

They evaluate whether Japanese students can learn English using online programmes. They show students do make progress but also procrastinate learning:


By comparing the data on students who were exposed to the programme by December 2015 and the data on those who had not yet done so, we found that the programme positively changed the attitude of the students, especially in terms of their interest in an international vocation and foreign affairs. The students’ attitude was measured using one of the most established measurement scales in applied linguistics (Yashima et al. 2004). In contrast, despite the positive impacts on the students’ attitude, the impacts on their English communication skills, measured using two different standardised tests, were not statistically significant.

These limited impacts on English communicative abilities were mostly likely due to the low utilisation of the Skype programme, which was introduced as an extracurricular activity. Among the 161 students who were exposed to the programme in the period between July and November 2015, only 10 students took 50 or more lessons over the five months, as recommended by the programme provider. Moreover, 31 students did not even take a single lesson. Figure 1 shows the daily changes in the number of students taking a lesson, illustrating that only a small proportion of students continued to use the programme over five months. By analysing the programme usage records and characteristics of the students, which were collected before the programme was introduced, we found that the utilisation rate was particularly low among students with a tendency to procrastinate.

These findings are the reminiscent of behavioural economists’ emphasis on the problem of self-control. An emerging body of recent empirical studies illustrate how the self-control issue arises in education, where a lack of self-control, including procrastination, can result in poor test performance or low grades (for an excellent survey, see Koch et al. 2015). Similarly, our experiment suggests that the self-control problem might have hindered the utilisation of the Skype programme, and, thus, it can significantly intervene when introducing an ICT-assisted education programme.

Self-control is crucial towards offline learning as well. It is just so easy to postpone anything which troubles our brain a little…


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