Investigating the Learning and Cost Effectiveness of a Blended English Language Program Implemented in a Developing Country

PIs:
Di Xu, University of California, Irvine, School of Education
Danny Glick, University of California, Irvine, School of Education, and Edusoft, a subsidiary of ETS

Investigators:
Mark Warschauer, University of California, Irvine, School of Education
Fernando Rodriguez, University of California, Irvine, School of Education
Qiujie Li, University of California, Irvine, School of Education
Bianca Cung, University of California, Irvine, School of Education

Summary:
English language acquisition around the world is increasingly being seen as a skill for personal as well as national development. English language skills are becoming increasingly more closely aligned with employability. A recent report by the British Council (2015) found a direct correlation between household income and previous study of the English language. Consequently, governments are implementing English language policies grounded partly in an economic rationale, propelled by a focus on building the proficiency of the population in part to boost a country’s competitiveness in a globally integrated marketplace. For these reasons, many Latin American countries are united in their efforts to improve the English language levels of their overall populations. These efforts, however, haven’t been free of challenges. Some of the most pressing issues include the high cost of education (British Council, 2015), a shortage of hundreds of thousands of qualified English language teachers (British Council, 2015), and ineffective English language teaching methods (Davies, 2009).
Interestingly, while countries like Mexico where the government spending on education is significant and has been on a sharp upward trend since the 1980s (Brunner et al., 2008), the results of English language programs in the Mexican public education system are generally poor (Davies, 2009).

With the aim to support policy makers and developers of English language programs across Latin America, the purpose of this study is to determine whether students taking blended EFL courses perform better, as good as, or worse than students taking the same course in a face-to-face format. Using a large urban university located in Northwester Mexico as a case study, this study uses quantitative research methods to analyze data of 58,360 unique users taking blended, online and face-to-face English language courses spanning from 2006 through 2016.

This project has three major goals:

  1. To measure the effectiveness of blended English language courses compared to traditional face-to-face instruction
  2. To examine whether the performance gap in favor of either method increases as the English proficiency level of the students increases
  3. To examine whether a blended delivery model of English language courses is more cost effective compared to traditional face-to-face instruction

Preliminary results are summarized as follows. First, after controlling for level and student fixed effects, students taking blended English-language courses outperform students taking the same course in a face-to-face format. This difference in test score in favor of the blended model is statistically significant. Second, the gap in favor of the blended model increases as the English proficiency level of the students increases.

References

British Council. (2015). English in Mexico: an examination of policy, perceptions and influencing factors. Retrieved from https://ei.britishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/latin-america-research/English%20in%20Mexico.pdf

Brunner, J. J., Santiago P., Guadilla, C. G., Gerlach, J., & Velho, L. C. (2008). OECD Reviews of Tertiary Education: Mexico. OECD Publishing. Retrieved https://www.oecd.org/education/skills-beyond-school/37746196.pdf

Davies, P. (2009). Strategic management of ELT in public educational systems: trying to reduce failure, increase success. The Electronic Journal for English as a Second Language, 13
(3), 1-22.