DISPENSING THE MYTH: CAN TECHNOLOGY INFLUENCE NEGATIVELY MOTIVATION IN LEARNING ENGLISH FOR SPECIFIC PURPOSES BY MEDICAL BACHELORS
Keywords:online learning, COVID-19, medical bachelors, technical problems, motivation
The current COVID – 19 pandemic has had a tight grip on Bulgarian society, students and teachers alike for nearly a year and a half, pressing the latter into a complete makeover of chosen methods and approaches in teaching English for Specific Purposes (ESP). Physical attendance was superseded by distance and online learning via Internet platforms such as Moodle, Google Classroom, Teams etc. For students of ESP at the Medical College of the Medical University in Plovdiv, the academic 2020/2021 was completely carried out in distance learning mode. This mode has been given a lot of attention in public, engendering a heated debate on its merits, but scholarly approaches on the issue are yet to gain solid ground. There has appeared though a plethora of research on the various aspects of ESP online learning methodology, but certain more trivial matters relating to some at first glance merely technical points have been neglected as being marginally relative. However, motivation for learning is a very complex case, demanding a multiaspectual perspective. Thus, this article sets itself a novel task in gauging students’ motivation in distance learning mode by analyzing the relation between technical problems reported by students during online classroom activities and motivation in the course of study. The paper makes use of a manual tracking method recording all technical problems reported by the students learning ESP in their second semester of the 2020/2021 academic year. It also correlates these results with the students’ active participation in the classroom activities to measure motivation. The study incorporates all students in their first year at college, taking into account that the average level of foreign language fluency of the first-year students at the Medical College at the Medical University of Plovdiv is A2/B1 measured by a diagnostic test at the start of the first semester. The results of the tracking of reported technical problems and active participation in the classroom activities show, that generally speaking, more motivated students in terms of active work in the classroom come across fewer technical glitches. These outcomes are not immutable but vary through the course of work. There emerged three major types of students – the first type were very active and had next to none problems with their devices and internet connection. The second group had some technical problems at baseline, but gradually smoothed them out and toward the middle and especially the end of the semester were on a reasonable level in terms of participation. The third group, which luckily was not the most numerous one kept reporting technical issues relating to various reasons – faulty devices, poor Internet connection, etc. These students had obviously lacked the motivation to learn in distance mode, as attested by their poor attendance in the online classroom and hence insufficient participation. Although limited in scope the research does show that as a whole motivation does not depend on technical means to a great extent but comes prior to them. Although it is a common fact now that students still prefer and are more at ease with physically attending classes, their switching to a different mode of learning does not change their motivation level.
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