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Computer-Assisted Language Learning Electronic Journal, 21(2), 178-198
Learning from Experience in the Midst of COVID-19: Benefits,
Challenges, and Strategies in Online Teaching
Daniel R. Bailey (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Konkuk University, South Korea
Andrea Rakushin Lee (email@example.com)
Konkuk University, Glocal Campus, South Korea
The onset of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) during the winter of 2020 presented
challenges for education including transferring courses online, which gave experienced
online lecturers an inherent advantage over their less tech-savvy counterparts. Online
teaching poses challenges and affords opportunities for EFL instructors who rely on live
communication for pronunciation and speech lessons. To help newcomers overcome the
steep learning curve associated with computer-assisted language learning (CALL), this
study maps expected benefits, challenges, and strategies of implementing an online EFL
course among teachers with different levels of online teaching experience. A group of 43
EFL university instructors teaching communication courses in South Korea completed a
survey measuring benefits and challenges for teachers, benefits and challenges for
students, communication channels, and activity types. Analysis of variance across no-,
low-, and high-experience groups revealed several findings. Key differences between
experience level included expected challenges for instructors and activity choice. Those
with online teaching experience perceived fewer obstacles and used a wider array of
communication channels and activities when doing so. All groups reported similar levels
of expected benefits for instructors and teachers and challenges for students. The most
popular benefits, challenges and strategies, and differences between the no- and high-
experience groups are discussed and recommendations for future teacher training are
Keywords: English language learners, online teaching, EFL, COVID-19,
computer-assisted language learning, online teaching strategies, teacher training
In March of 2020, the Ministry of Education in South Korea was urgently tasked
with providing guidelines for universities to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus,
COVID-19 (Bahk, 2020c). The most logical response was to implement fully online
classes for at least part of the semester. This led to anxiety and frustration among some
English language instructors unaccustomed to online teaching. Furthermore, university
students complained early on about the lack of school preparation for online instruction
(Bahk, 2020b). Beginning February 27th, 2020, the Association of Students Council
network surveyed 12,213 students (Bahk, 2020a). Results of the survey indicate that 83.8%
of students wanted a tuition reduction or refund from their universities, some mentioning
that online learning was inferior to face-to-face classes (as cited in Bahk, 2020a). At the
time of this writing, a few universities already agreed to implement fully online learning
for the remainder of the semester while other universities have decided to take a more
gradual approach by delaying the start of on-campus classes and not setting a firm date
for returning (Bahk, 2020c).
Several benefits are afforded within an online teaching environment, including
studying anywhere at any time, having more time for thinking and response, and
increased flexibility in learning (Xia, Fielder, & Siragusa, 2013). The benefits of not
having to commute long distances, along with being location-independent, make online
education a popular alternative to brick-and-mortar classrooms. Online learning also
provides numerous benefits to English language learners who can participate in various
asynchronous and synchronous learning activities to improve language proficiency
(Fageeh & Mekheimer, 2013). Furthermore, research (e.g., Lin, 2015; Payne, 2020; Wang,
Hsu, Bonem, Moss, Nelson, & Levesque-Bristol, 2019; Warschauer, Turbee & Roberts,
1996) indicates that motivation and students’ attitudes toward learning can improve
through online education. Nevertheless, many instructors have struggled to quickly
transform their face-to-face classes to solely online courses, especially without
experience in online teaching (Cruickshank, 2020). Language instructors who are new to
online teaching face many challenges in implementing courses and those who have less
favorable views of technology are likely to have more difficulties (Kessler, 2006; Kessler
& Plakans, 2008). For English as a Foreign Language (EFL) courses, newcomers to
online teaching must set realistic online teaching goals, avoid common obstacles in online
teaching, and learn which online assignment types are appropriate. Online learning uses
computer hardware, software, and educational theory and practice to facilitate learning,
be it a course supported with an online component. Language instructors are responsible
for creating, managing, and creating educational resources to help improve their learners’
academic performance (Robinson, 2016), however, some classes are more suitable for
online education than others. Conversation classes, or courses that focus on increasing L2
pronunciation skills, may struggle to transfer as well as writing courses for reasons such
as the asynchronous nature of writing activities and written corrective feedback.
Moving offline conversation classes to a fully online environment poses several
challenges, including finding opportunities for live communication (e.g., video-
conference sessions, conference phone calls, or chatrooms), which is one reason why EFL
has predominantly been taught by native English speakers in an offline setting. An
increasing number of online teaching and learning platforms exist to meet classroom
needs, but it is not clear that inexperienced instructors understand how to best navigate
South Korea is well known for being a technological powerhouse. Technology use
has deeply penetrated South Korean society and the education system. Internationally,
South Korea has the highest rate of smartphone usage, with roughly 94% of the
population owning a smartphone (Sohn, 2018). Additionally, 96% percent of South
Koreans use the Internet daily (Tinmaz & Lee, 2019). Online courses are accessed from
a wide range of devices, including computers, smartphones, and tablets. There are also
many libraries and Internet cafes throughout the country that students can visit if they do
not have personal devices to access the Internet or if they have technical problems.
Student satisfaction, academic performance, and other course outcome measures
are influenced by the expectations and teaching strategies adopted early on in developing
online courses. In this study, teaching strategies refer to the communication channels and
activity choices instructors intend to use when teaching online. Experiential knowledge
concerning benefits, challenges, and teaching strategies in the online learning context
may provide directions for inexperienced instructors to follow, supporting higher chances
for successful online course design and implementation. This study examined benefits,
challenges and teaching strategies in the context of Computer Assisted Language
Learning (CALL). Our first aim was to identify the relationships among the variables of
interest, including online teaching experience and course expectations. Becoming
proficient at online teaching entails substantial training with education technology, but
how many hours, weeks, semesters, or years of training is unclear. Therefore, the second
aim was to determine how levels of online teaching experience influence expectation
beliefs for benefits, challenges, and teaching strategies. Our third aim identified
individual benefits, challenges, and teaching strategies. These expectations were also
compared between EFL instructors with at least two years of online teaching experience
and ones without experience. The following research questions were asked:
1. What is the relationship between online EFL teaching experience and online EFL
2. How do the number of years of teaching online influence teacher expectations?
3. What are the most significant differences in expectations between instructors with at
least two years of online teaching experience and those without online teaching
There are various forms of online learning, including blended (also referred to as
hybrid learning) and entirely online. Although there is some ambiguity in terms of how
blended learning is defined, it generally involves the combination of face-to-face and
computer-based learning (Garrison & Kanuka, 2004; Hrastinski, 2019). Fully online
classes use web-based resources and learning management systems for instruction, and
face-to-face lessons do not take place (Nakayama, Mutsuura, & Yamamoto, 2014).
Flipped learning is usually comprised of instructor-made learning resources, primarily
videos or other forms of multimedia, prior to the face-to-face classes (Lin & Hwang,
2018). During the face-to-face classes, the students engage in constructive activities that
allow them to apply what they learned from the flipped learning resources to the assigned
learning activity (Hwang, Yin, & Chu, 2019). These online learning methods have been
implemented in South Korea (Lee, 2017), Thailand (Tananuraksakul, 2016), Indonesia
(Durriyah & Zuhdi, 2018), and Japan (Caldwell, 2018) and have been researched
extensively (e.g., Bailey & Judd, 2017; Costley, 2019). However, in the English language
learning context in South Korea, fully online classes are not standard, which has led to
some concern among language instructors and students who are not accustomed to online
Online teaching methods, including blended, fully online, and flipped learning, are
regularly used in the Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) field. CALL has
been used for language learning since the 1960s (Warschauer & Healey, 1998). Language
learning technology continues to transform the TESOL field as myriad educational
technology tools and resources are being used across universities and other educational
institutions around the world. With the sudden decision to implement a fully online class
system at universities in South Korea in light of COVID-19, educators and administrators
had to determine which learning management systems, social media platforms,
synchronous and asynchronous tools, and other digital resources would be used to ensure
effective instruction for English language learners.
Numerous benefits of online teaching for teachers and students are well
documented in research. These include improving teaching pedagogy, instruction
methods, curriculum design, and language learning (Wang & Vasquez, 2012). Classroom
engagement, communication skills, and self-confidence can also improve in an online
learning environment; additionally, the learning environment may be convenient for
instructors and students (Halim & Hashim, 2019). Implementing online learning activities
that are fun and engaging can also increase student motivation (Morat, Shaari, & Abidin,
2016). The use of authentic learning materials like videos, television clips, and other
practical sources of multimedia (e.g., YouTube, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, and Spotify), can
also aid in the online learning experience (Pazilah, Hashim, & Yunus, 2019). Through
surveying 235 Chinese students on their preferred online resources/tools, Gavin (2019)
found students practiced listening, reading, writing and speaking through songs, online
TV, audio news, video clips, websites, social media, e-books, text chatting, automatic
writing evaluation software, voice messages, language learning apps, and video chatting,
indicating access and use of information and communication technology.
A primary characteristic of online teaching is that activities can be centered on the
needs of learners and improve language learning (Pourhossein Gilakjani, 2014). Arguably,
online teachers take on the role of facilitators rather than disseminators of information,
which ensures that students are given ample opportunities to participate in class activities
and discussions (Riasati, Allahyar, & Tan, 2012). Moreover, most learners are now digital
natives (Sohn, 2018) and are well adapted to online interactions. Students proficient in
educational technology can benefit from the engagement that online learning provides
(Melor, Salehi, & Chenzi, 2012). Instructors should choose online learning activities,
resources, and tools that ensure that course goals and objectives are being attained.
Although online teaching has a wide range of benefits, there are certainly
challenges that must be considered when implementing online classes or learning
activities. Digital activities may lead to students being distracted by other online content,
which may inhibit their engagement in the class lesson or activity (Melor et al., 2012). In
addition, there is the possibility of having technical issues, including audio and video
problems (Halim & Hashim, 2019). In terms of language learning, potential barriers to
authentic communication opportunities is a limitation (Pazilah et al., 2019). Furthermore,
there are problems when using a one size fits all approach to learning, which could restrict
participation and classroom engagement (Gillett-Swan, 2017). Course design and
planning can be particularly problematic, especially for instructors who are not
knowledgeable about online class delivery. According to Gillett-Swan (2017), “The
online environment also presents challenges for many academic staff who increasingly
require higher levels of technological competency and proficiency on top of their regular
academic workload” (p. 20). Despite the challenges associated with online learning, with
a quickly expanding pandemic wreaking havoc around the world, educators and
administrators will have to develop innovative solutions based on best practices to ensure
that academic learning objectives and goals are being met.
This survey study explored expectations for benefits, challenges, and strategies
held by EFL university lecturers at three levels of online teaching experience, high (HE),
low (LE), and no experience (NE) groups. A snowball sampling technique was used to
recruit instructors. The survey measured expected benefits and challenges for instructors,
expected benefits and challenges for students, online teaching communication channels,
and online assignment choices.
To research the effects of online teaching experience on web-based EFL courses,
43 EFL university instructors were asked to complete the study survey. All instructors
were native English speakers teaching EFL in South Korea. Furthermore, all instructors
were teaching a majority (i.e., 50% or more) of English communication courses during
the spring 2020 semester, when South Korea ordered universities to delay offline courses
and transfer lessons online indefinitely. An English communication course in South
Korea typically entails studying second language speaking, writing, listening, and reading
skills with a native English speaker, requiring English communication throughout lessons.
The survey was administered the week before the first online courses were scheduled to
begin, so instructors already began planning how they would implement their online
No distinction is being made here to separate blended teaching from fully online
teaching. Conceptually, there is a stark contrast between web-supported courses and fully
online courses; however, both involve internet and information technology to replace
elements of face-to-face education.
The online teaching experience was parsed into three groups, instructors without
experience (n = 19), those with one semester to two years of online teaching experience
(n=14), and instructors with more than two years of online teaching experience (n=10).
Teacher training and teaching experience were relatively constant throughout groups.
Table 1 displays age, gender, and education level for participants in the three groups.
Demographic Information for Online Teaching Experience Groups
N = 19
N = 14
Ph.D. / Ed.D.
Teacher Expectations Survey
The survey construction took part in two stages. Initially, a list of benefits,
challenges, and strategies was collected by two EFL instructors with graduate degrees in
educational technology and 10 years of experience teaching university EFL
communication courses. Once the original list was completed, two additional educational
technology specialists reviewed the survey items. Items with ambiguous wording were
discussed and modified to add clarity. For each of the sections (i.e., benefits and
challenges to instructors, benefits, and challenges to students, communication channels,
and activity choices), the main statement was presented from which a list of options could
be chosen. The options for the benefit and challenge sections used a five-point Likert
scale (i.e., strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (5)) and measured the degree to which
the participant felt the option would be a benefit or challenge when teaching online EFL
courses. A five-point Likert scale was chosen to provide a middle non-committal response.
Items for the communication channels and activity type were rated on a four-point Likert
scale and measured how frequently the instructor intended to use the communication
channel or activity type in class. These items ranged from undecided (1), some lessons
(2), most lessons (3) to every lesson (4). A four-point scale range was used instead of a
five-point scale because there was no need for a non-committal response. Instead,
participants skipped communication and activity scale items altogether, leaving the
choice blank, if they did not expect to use them.
Table 2 displays the section titles. The idiosyncratic nature of benefits, challenges,
communication channels, and activity types meant that our list could not fully capture all
possible responses; therefore, an open-ended item was added to each category. The
participant was asked to write any benefit, challenge or strategy they thought was missing.
Each section except for part 6 (online assignments) produced Cronbach alpha scores
above .80, indicating strong reliability that items were appropriately grouped. A
Cronbach alpha of .671 was just under the recommended cut-off of .70 (Cortina, 1993),
but still within more lenient recommendations (Griethuijsen et al., 2014).
Survey Categories and Reliability Coefficients
Benefits and Challenges for the Teacher
For this semester, the expected benefits of teaching online for the instructor.
For this semester, the expected challenges with teaching online for the instructor.
Benefits and Challenges for the Student
For this semester, the expected benefits of online learning for students.
For this semester, the expected challenges with online learning for the students.
Communication Channels and Assignment Choice
What communication channels are you planning to use with your students for the online
classes? Choose all that apply.
What online assignments are you planning to use with your students? Choose all that apply.
The Procedure and Data Analysis
Participants were initially recruited from three sources and then asked to share the
link to the electronic survey with their colleagues. The first source was a Facebook group
dedicated to helping foreigners who teach English at universities in South Korea, a second
was within a special interest group focused on EFL educational research in South Korea.
The third source was members of Korea TESOL (koreatesol.org) that met the research
criteria for participation (i.e., EFL university instructor teaching ECS courses in South
Korea). Participants completed the survey through Google Forms © .
The Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS version 24.0) was used for
survey analysis. Originally 51 surveys were completed but four were removed due to
incomplete answers and four were removed because the survey taker did not meet the
inclusion criteria. Initially, descriptive statistics were conducted on the variables of
interest. For research question one, the mean score comparison for categories provided
details on how participants overall perceived expected benefits, challenges, and teaching
strategies. A Pearson correlation was then carried out to determine the relationships
among online teaching experience and the study variables. For research question two, a
series of one-way sample ANOVAs were conducted on HE, LE, and NE online teaching
groups and the statistically significant relationships identified by the Pearson correlation
analysis. To answer research question three, only responses by the NE and HE groups
were compared. The LE group was omitted to create greater contrast between experience
and inexperience. A series of independent t-tests were carried out to identify statistically
significant differences between category items.
Research question one examines the relationship between online teaching
experience and online course expectations. Research question two determines how the
number of years teaching online influences teacher expectations in an online teaching
environment. Finally, research question three identifies the expectations with the greatest
difference between highly experienced online instructors and ones without any online
4.1 What is the relationship between online EFL teaching experience and online EFL
Table 1 displays the Pearson correlation and mean score results for the study
variables. Mean scores for the expectation categories were first formulated to measure
the magnitude of the study variables. This was followed by Pearson correlation to
measure their correlation coefficients. Communication channels, activity choices, and
challenges for teachers show statistically significant correlations with online teaching
experience. Instructors with more online teaching experience expected to use more
activities and use them more often than teachers in the no- or low- experience groups.
Instructors with online teaching experience intended to use more communication
channels (e.g., LMS discussion forums, email, and direct messaging) and a wider array
of learning activities (e.g., student blogs, online quizzes, and essay-type activities), but
reported to expect fewer challenges when doing so, indicating greater confidence
navigating the online teaching environment.
Mean Score and Pearson Correlation Analysis for Study Variables
Online Teaching Experience
Benefits to Teachers
Challenges for Teachers
Benefits to Students
Challenges for Students
Note. ** = p < .01; * = p < .05 Online teaching experience (none = 1, medium = 2, high = 3); Benefits and Challenge
scales, 5-point Likert (SD to SA); Communication channels and activity types, 4-point scale (not at all (1) to most
Communication channels and assignment choice revealed moderate mean scores
of 2.14 (SD = .63) and 2.05 (SD = 0.67), respectively, which is in part attributed to the
large selection of available communication channels (e.g., LMS, videoconferencing
platforms, social media platforms, and smartphone communication apps) and assignment
types (e.g., online discussion forums, wikis, video blogs, open- or close-ended quizzes).
Overall, challenges for the teacher showed the most significant relationships with
the other study variables. The highest correlation found was shared between benefits for
the instructors and benefits for the students (r = .699, p < .001), indicating teachers who
perceive their online teaching experiences to be advantageous have a stronger expectation
for student satisfaction with online instruction. Contrarily, instructors expecting online
teaching challenges report expected greater challenges for their students (r = .535, p
To answer research question one, we explored the relationship with online teaching
experience and online course expectations and found that the expected challenge for
instructors, communication channels, and activity choice varied with online teaching
experience. We now examine how many years of experience are associated with those
4.2 How does the number of years teaching online influence teacher expectations?
A one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) is a statistical procedure used to
determine whether there are any statistically significant differences between the means
for the three or more groups. Real issues with unequal sample sizes do occur in factorial
ANOVA, if the sample sizes are confounded in two (or more) factors. Since a two-way
ANOVA) was not used here, unequal sample sizes between the HE (n = 10), LE (n = 14),
and NE (n =19) was acceptable.
Table 4 displays separate mean scores for the variables revealing statistically
significant correlations, including communication channels, activity types, and
challenges for teachers according to NE, LE, and HE groups. A series of one-way
ANOVAs were conducted to compare the effect of experience level on communication
choice, activity choice, and challenges for teachers. The analysis of variance showed that
the effect of experience level on communication channels was significant, F (2, 40) =
3.432, p = 042, η2 = .146. The next ANOVA showed the effect of experience level on
activity choice was also significant, F = (2, 40) = 4.050, p = .025, η2 = .172. The final
ANOVA showed that the effect of experience level on challenges for teachers was
significant, F (2, 40) = 5.667, p = .001, η2 = .221.
Bonferroni post-hoc analysis was carried out to identify if the significance from
ANOVA holds true at the pairwise level. For the HE and NE groups and the HE and LE
groups, results approached significance but did not meet the .05 threshold. For the activity
choice category, pairwise analysis found significant differences between the HE and NE
groups (MD = .652, p = .033). ANOVA found the greatest effect size between groups
was within the challenges for the teachers’ category (η2 = .221). Post hoc pairwise analysis
confirmed this by identifying statistically significant differences between both HE and
NE groups (MD = -.767, p = .011) and the HE and LE groups (MD -.777, p = .015),
indicating that challenges for teachers were the greatest area of difference for instructors
with or without online teaching experience.
According to the one-way ANOVA, one semester to two years of online teaching
experience was insufficient for decreasing expected challenges or increasing the expected
number of communication channels or activity choices when teaching online. In fact, for
the participants in this study, at least two years of online teaching experience was needed
to mitigate statistically significant levels of expected challenges.
Mean scores analysis for no, low, and high experience groups
Challenges for Teachers
Note. No Experience (NE), n = 21; Low Experience (LE), n = 14; High Experience, n = 10.
One-Way ANOVA for Communication, Activities and Challenges for Teachers on
Note. ** = p < .01; * = p < .05
Bonferroni Post-hoc Analysis
Challenges for Teachers
Note. ** = p < .01; * = p < .05
4.3 What are the greatest differences in expectations between instructors with at least two
years of online teaching experience and those without online teaching experience?
For research question three, we compared the individual category items between
NE and HE groups. Items for each category and mean scores for the NE and HE groups
are displayed in the Appendix. The LE group was excluded from the Appendix because
they are assumed to be in the learning phase of online teaching, unlike participants in the
HE group, and therefore lack experiential knowledge to best justify their expectations.
We begin by exploring benefits for instructors. A series of independent t-tests were
conducted to determine if the mean difference between HE and NE items were
statistically significant. Table 7 provides the list of category items with the greatest mean
difference between the HE and NE groups. For expected benefits, collecting assignments
had the greatest mean difference between the HE and NE groups. While not statistically
significant, grading online assignments and providing feedback revealed contrast
between experienced and inexperienced groups with a mean difference of 0.83 and 0.68,
respectively. Contrarily, instructors without experience-rated reflecting on teaching
methods and collaborating with other teachers higher than ones with experience, and this
is supported by the open-ended response for this category, which found instructors
without experience were looking forward to learning a new technology (n = 6) and
professional development (n = 5).
Challenges for instructors produced the most significant differences in item choice
between the HE and NE groups. Independent t-tests identified statistically significant
differences for several expected challenges as shown on Table 7. Instructors without
experience reported expecting difficulties creating online lessons, setting up computer
equipment, learning to use online teaching tools, tracking participation, and providing
corrective feedback. In all cases, instructors in the NE group reported heightened
challenge expectations compared to the HE. Both groups agree that organizing online
meetings (HE, M = 3.80, SD = 1.40; LE, M = .16, SD = 0.83) and helping students with
technical problems (HE, M = 3.60, SD = 1.35; LE, M = 4.16, SD = 0.83) would be
challenges, while other challenges were reported in the moderate to low range (M = 3.00
to 1.00) for instructors in the HE group.
Comparison expectations between the HE and NE groups
Expected Benefits for
Expected Challenges for
Creating online lessons
Setting up computer equipment
Learning to use new online
Providing corrective feedback
Online discussion forum
Expected Assignment Type
Closed-ended reading quizzes
Other closed-ended quiz types
Note: ** = p < .01; * = p < .05
No statistically significant difference was found for expected benefits or challenges
to students. Just the opposite, both groups reported similar levels of expected benefits for
students, with the greatest advantage pertaining to extra time to prepare, access to online
writing tools, and opportunity for online writing practice. The highest reported expected
challenges for students related to self-regulated learning. Instructors in both groups felt
that students may have difficulty attending online class meetings, collaborating with peers,
and staying focused.
Instructors in the HE group planned to use more communication channels and use
them more frequently, however, the difference was not found to be statistically significant.
The three channels most widely reported were online discussion forums, email, and video
conferences. The wider variety of communication channels reported by the HE group
allows for a broader range of activity choices. Through independent t-test analyses (see
Table 7), we found that HE group members intend to implement more writing
assignments and closed-ended question style quizzes. Overall, online teaching experience
leads to a greater number of activity types for students that are delivered with more ease
as indicated by lower levels of expected challenges by HE members.
Findings from this research highlight how experience teaching online influences
course expectations. Similarities and differences concerning course expectations between
inexperienced and experienced online teachers were revealed, with expected challenges
producing the greatest contrast across experience level. Parallels, including expected
benefits and challenges for students, were also reported. The findings for research
question 1 (What is the relationship between online EFL teaching experience and online
EFL course expectations?) present clear relationships between online teaching experience
and expectations. Online teaching experience revealed a positive relationship with
expected communication channels and activity choice. Teacher awareness and comfort
in implementing online learning activities play a critical role in the success of online
classes (Kessler, 2006). Novice teachers who are not familiar with online teaching have
expressed frustration with e-learning and other computer-based classroom activities.
Instructors without any online teaching experience lack first-hand knowledge of how
communication occurs, and the types of activities made possible through that
communication when teaching, and this lack of insight contributed to the heightened
levels of expected challenges in the no- and low-experience groups.
Similar expectations for benefits and challenges to students was reported across the
no-, low-, and high-experience groups. While expectations for student-gains exist, they
were not enough to motivate prior CALL training by the no-experience group. Instead,
administration intervention brought on by a pandemic, the novel coronavirus, was the
driving force for instructors in the NE group to begin learning CALL. This was further
evident in the reported degree of expected benefits for instructors. Both groups
recognized similar levels of expected benefits but only the LE and HE groups sought out
CALL training. Technology plays a critical role in modern education, and language
instructors need to take on an increased role in developing knowledge and skills to more
effectively use online learning resources in the classroom (Hegelheimer, 2006; Levy &
Stockwell, 2006; Tinmaz & Lee, 2019; Zonoubi, Rasekh, & Tavakoli, 2017). Through
this hastily devised educational plan to quickly reduce the impact and spread of COVID-
19, educators have been exposed to new online resources and activities that can be
effectively used in future face-to-face classes as blended, flipped or entirely online
The findings from research question 2 (How do the number of years teaching online
influence teacher expectations?) determined the effect actual years teaching have on
expectations. Teachers expand their skills as experience grows and their expectations
consequently change (Hashweh, 2003). Differences in expectations for challenges to
teachers, communication channels, and activity choice were statistically significant after
two years of online teaching experience. These findings of higher levels of expected
challenges align with more perceived obstacles among inexperienced teachers (Parson,
Vaughn, Malloy, & Pierczynski, 2017). Instructors with less online teaching experience
perceive more potential obstacles when teaching, and for online teaching, this heightened
level of expected challenges was evident during the early period of building experience
(i.e., one semester to two years).
The decrease in perceived obstacles is partly attributed to the use of more activity
choices and an increased number of communication channels to deliver those activities.
Successful online EFL instructors are recommended to have skills in planning and
managing collaboration, designing appropriate activities, and choosing the right
environment and appropriate tools. The International Society for Technology in
Education (2020) provides myriad guidelines and standards for instructors in different
fields to more effectively implement technologically-based learning objectives and goals.
These standards center on educator learning, leading, citizenship, collaboration, design,
facilitation, and analysis. EFL instructors should ensure that they are regularly
participating in professional development and increasing their knowledge of educational
technology. Open-ended responses from instructors in the NE group made general
statements concerning educational technology such as, “I am going to gain technology
proficiency,” “I will learn new education tools,” and “I will use technology in the
classroom.” Instructors in the HE group were much more specific in their open-ended
responses with statements such as, “I hope that the students will view the activities
favorably,” “I plan on making worthwhile teaching videos,” and “I will save time by
uploading the same video-lesson for multiple classes which will provide time to look at
homework and assignments.” While anecdotal, statements like these provide some insight
into the divide in conceptual understanding between instructors in the NE and HE groups.
Instructors in the NE group had no first-hand experience with the responsibilities involved
with online teaching, and this may have contributed to misconceived, even naïve,
perceptions held by NE group members before beginning their online courses.
Instructors in the HE group utilized a wider selection of activities, affording them
more opportunities for differentiated instruction. Many of the activities reported by
instructors in the high-experience online teaching group entail student to student
collaboration (e.g., online discussion forums). Learning that occurs through websites that
facilitate collaboration can be partly explained by Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory (1978)
and Bandura’s socio-cognitive theory (1986). Through interactions, learners can solve
problems, model correct language use, and become aware of knowledge-gaps. This
awareness of knowledge-gaps contributes to second language acquisition (Swain, 2001).
Instructors also strove to focus on the diverse learning needs of students by using a wider
selection of activities, which better prepares them to meet different needs. Through
experiential knowledge, instructors have heightened confidence when administering such
types of activities over a wider variety of communication channels.
EFL instructors new to language learning technology are recommended to begin
integrating educational technology into their offline classes. They can begin by exploring
the activities and communication channels described in this study (see Appendix).
Moreover, there are an abundance of language learning apps (www.memrise.com,
www.duolingo.com, and www.babel.com) podcasts (www.eslpod.com,
www.allearsenglish.com, and www.teacherluke.co.uk), YouTube channels
(www.youtube.com/user/rachelsenglish, www.youtube.com/user/dailydictation, and
www.youtube.com/user/MinooAngloLink/), language exchange websites
(www.italki.com, and www.verbling.com), reading practice websites
(www.breakingnewsenglish.com, www.englishpage.com, and www.usingenglish.com)
available online. Resources like these can be used in class and shared with students to
help support the online language learning experience.
Benefits from online teaching confidence were highlighted through Barton and
Haydn’s (2006) survey study that recognized the importance of experience with
information and computer technology on course outcomes. However, instructors reported
that a considerable amount of time and resources spent on preparing CALL resources and
materials were not helpful. According to Ernest et al. (2013), “The correct activity choice
depends on the learning objectives of the task, learners’ proficiency in using the tools,
availability for group work, and learners’ experience” (p. 329). By implementing
collaborative learning activities and creating activities that center on students’ learning
needs, instructors can better ensure that students are achieving course objectives and
improving language proficiency.
The findings from research question 3 (What are the greatest differences in
expectation between instructors with at least two years of online teaching experience and
those without online teaching experience?) describe the individual category items that
showed the greatest difference between teachers with online teaching experience and ones
without experience. The most popular expectations reported by the two groups are also
identified. Direct quotes from the open-ended items are used to help interpret these
Expected Benefits and Challenges for Instructors. The NE group reported benefits
to professional development with statements such as “becoming more familiar with
technology,” “improved knowledge and capabilities,” and “more experience [is] good to
put on our CVs.” The most popular benefits for the instructor are grading, providing
feedback, and collecting assignments, with one teacher reporting, "I think I will be able
to track how students are using the resource a bit better". The most-reported challenges
are online meetings and helping students with technical problems. Some LE group
members felt challenged by having to use online teaching tools, with one teacher stating,
“I don’t look forward to dealing with technology” and another expressing concern about
their university’s learning management system failing to operate. Instructors should be
actively participating in professional development to increase their knowledge of
educational technology. Universities can offer support by providing specific training
programs to help improve technological proficiency for language instructors (Kessler,
2006). Educators also need to be reminded that they are not expected to be technology
experts but rather be knowledgeable about how to effectively use technology in the
classroom (Peters, 2006).
Expected Benefits and Challenges for Students. Expected benefits for students had
time to prepare answers, using online writing tools (e.g., Google Translate and
Grammarly), and practicing writing. However, one instructor reported online translators
an overall challenge because students "become lazy," indicating an emerging topic of
debate in the ESL/EFL teaching community. Machine translation will continue to
improve and this continues to influence writing instruction in EFL classrooms. For
instance, a repeated-measures study of three Chinese university students found that
Google Translate (www.translate.google.com) helped students increase fluency and
decrease writing mistakes (e.g., spelling, grammar, and word choice) at a statistically
significant level (Tsai, 2019). Exactly how these benefits to writing quality impact second
language acquisition is a subject for future research.
Expected challenges for students include collaborating with other students,
attending online meetings, and students becoming distracted. The NE group expects
challenges with organizing online meetings with their students, which was expressed
through statements like, “no student engagement” and “getting students to pay attention.”
To address some of these challenges and to gain more insight into projected benefits,
instructors can engage in online teacher development through various social media
platforms or online learning communities (Ernest, Catasus, Hampel, Heiser, Hopkins,
Murphy, & Stickler, 2013).
Popular Activity Choices. The online discussion forum was the most popular
communication channel reported by the HE group and only point of significant difference
within the activity choice category between the NE and HE groups. While not statistically
significant, HE group members reported to use a wider variety of communication
channels and use them more often. HE group members reported using 12 of the 14 activity
choices at least once in most lessons while the opposite was found for instructors in the
LE group. Online discussion forums, email, and video conferences were the most popular
communication channels instructors expect to use. The most popular assignment choices
were webinar participation, paragraph or essay writing activities, video recording
activities, and closed-ended quizzes, especially reading quizzes. In all four activity types,
LE group members reported in the never (1) to rarely (2) use range. Lack of online
teaching experience is strongly associated with fewer planned online activity types.
Fewer EFL activities may limit communication opportunity and this can negatively
impact course outcomes, leaving inexperienced instructors at disadvantage.
Instructors across South Korea were thrust upon the online teaching stage, allowing
the comparison of expectations between teachers with and without online teaching
experience. Other serious local, regional, national, and international crises may occur in
the future, and educators need to develop online learning contingency plans to mitigate
any anticipated educational challenges. Several key findings were uncovered from this
research due to the unique situation brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. When
returning to the face-to-face classroom, instructors can consider integrating blended
learning activities in the classroom to further support and supplement regular lessons.
Having an online component in a traditional, face-to-face class should make the transition
to fully online learning more successful if needed for another future crisis.
Surfacing from this study was that instructors with experience teaching EFL online
use a wider array of online teaching activities and expect fewer challenges during the
process. Students benefit from having an experienced CALL teacher because “knowledge
is created through the transformation of experience” (Kolb, 1984, p. 38). Teachers with
experience teaching online can act as a guide for the colleagues and a role model for their
students. Online teaching experience transforms instructors. Over time, instructors
develop more CALL teaching strategies for applying teaching knowledge in practice as
system designers and course facilitators (Yang & Kua, 2020).
EFL instructors with no online teaching experience should increase their
knowledge of online teaching communication channels. A more diverse approach to
communication allows for a broader spectrum of activity choices and more types of
activities cater to more language learning styles (Tai, 2013) and strategies (Oxford, 2011).
A combination of asynchronous and synchronous channels was reported by HE group
members. Not only did HE members report to use more communication channels, but
they plan to use them more often in the LE group. This trend was even more evident with
assignment types. Instructors without experience are recommended to begin with LMS
discussion forums and closed-ended quizzes.
Expectations are grounded in experiential knowledge allowing instructors with
online teaching experience to make accurate predictions of how future courses will
manifest based on their past semesters. Teaching and class expectations are less precise
if grounded in supposition, and consequently more likely to lead to misaligned online
curriculum and course design. False expectations may cause negative impressions by
students, resulting in poor learning outcomes and low course satisfaction.
Due to the timely nature of this study during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, it
was essential to conduct the research quickly. It would have been beneficial to obtain
more survey responses from participants teaching at a wider range of universities.
Moreover, it would have been advantageous to conduct additional interviews and online
focus groups with members of the three primary groups based on experience levels.
Future research can expand on this study by examining the attitudes and perceptions of
online ESL instructors regarding online teaching after the commencement of the spring
semester of 2020. Obtaining data on the benefits and challenges of online teaching during
the sudden COVID-19 would also be valuable for teachers and administrators who are
seeking to create mitigation plans for future crises. Additionally, follow-up research could
determine if instructors plan to adapt to any of their future face-to-face classes in light of
their new experiences using online teaching methods.
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Survey Items with Mean Scores and Standard Deviations for HE and NE Groups
Expected Benefits for Instructors
Grading online assignments
Facilitating online discussions
Sharing lecture material
Reflecting on teaching methods
Creating teaching portfolio
Collaborating with other teachers
Expected Challenges for Instructors
Organizing online meetings
Helping students with technical problems
Collaborating with other teachers
Following school guidelines
Creating online lessons
Responding to student messages
Sharing online content with administration
Students complaining about grades
Setting up computer equipment
Learning to use new online teaching tools
Providing corrective feedback
Avoiding copyright infringement
Grading online assignments
Creating online quizzes
Expected Benefits for Students
Having time to prepare answers
Using online translators (e.g., Google Translate)
Online research resources (e.g., Google, Wikipedia, etc.)
Creating English content (e.g., text, audio, video, etc.)
Receiving instructor feedback
Builds confidence sharing English content
Participating in online discussions
Providing peer-to-peer feedback
Using online corrective feedback websites (e.g., Grammarly)
Creating online portfolios
Messaging the instructor
Participating in group projects
Excitement with online teaching
Expected Challenges for Students
Online collaboration with other classmates
Attending online meetings
Lack of self-regulated learning
Students are easily distracted
Learning new software
Creating English content (e.g., text, audio, video, etc.)
Completing online activities on time
Helping peers with technical problems
Setting up computer equipment
Receiving corrective feedback
Responding to messages from the instructor
Increases anxiety sharing English content
Sending messages to the instructor
Expected Communication Channel
Online discussion forums (e.g., LMS discussion forum)
Group video conference
Class Facebook group
One-to-one text messaging
One-to-one video conference
One-to-one voice conversation
Expected Assignment Type Choices
Webinar participation (video-conference)
Paragraph or essay structure writing
Student video recordings
Closed-ended reading quizzes
Closed-ended vocabulary quizzes
Other closed-ended quiz types
Short answer quizzes
Group or one-to-one messaging (e.g., Facebook messenger)
Closed-ended grammar quizzes
Creative writing (prompts, narratives, etc.)
Group writing (e.g., wiki-based writing activities)
Business email/memo/letter writing