Does Using Auditory Computer Files Assist College Level ESL Learners  Research Paper

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Auditory Computer Files Assist College Level ESL Learners

The objective of this study is to examine whether auditory computer files assist college level ESL learners.

Linda Dwyer writes that text-to-speech readers are not generally available "outside of the disability community and may be prohibitively expensive when obtainable." (Dwyer, nd, p.1) In addition, Dwyer reports that ESL instructors are often not aware of the research or the resources that are available. Dwyer states that reading pens that are able to read line-by-line and other assistive devices that can copy and article and then paste it to the computer for text-to-speech support are useful to students who are ESL students. According to Dwyer, "ESL instructors in higher educational settings have worked primarily with high achieving international students. As such, these instructors have occupied a niche treated as short-term remedial support rather than an academic sub-field within the academy. Many positions in both four-year institutions and community colleges have been for part-time adjuncts that are not fully integrated into their institutional communities. Even if this marginal specialization is valued in an institution, it nonetheless may lack the resources to invest in full time instructors, to provide them with ongoing professional development opportunities and the technical resources that enhance learning." (Dwyer, n.d., p. 4) According to Kurzweil Educational Systems in the work entitled "Using Technology as a Solution for English Language Learners in Higher Education" one of the most rapidly growing groups in today's colleges and universities in the United States is that of English Language Learners and while most of these students are reported to be "conversant in English, and/or have passed qualifying tests such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), many experience difficulty when confronted with the more rigorous demands of academic reading and writing." (p.1) It is additionally reported that programs have been instituted in many secondary schools in the United States that have an emphasis on typing, vocabulary and phonics skills which serve to assist these students with their transition however, it is stated that this programs do not make provision of the necessary individualized support that ESL students required in meeting the requirements of multiple courses.

I. Critical Needs of ESL Students

Critical Needs of ESL student are reported to include the following stated needs:

(1) Vocabulary Development;

(2) Improved pronunciation;

(3) Attention to phrasing and punctuation;

(4) Exposure to authentic writing;

(5) multi-sensory learning; and (6) development of independence as a learner. (Kurzweil Educational Systems, 2004, p.3)

II. Use of Technology in Higher Education

The use of technology in the field of education is reported to have "closely mirrored the development of the personal computer. Since their introduction in the late seventies, personal computers have developed in speed, power, and ease of use. Falling prices have made it possible for more students, particularly those in post secondary education to purchase their own computers." (Kurzweil Educational Systems, 2004, p.3) Some of the earlier technological innovations in the field of education arose for the purpose of assisting students with physical and learning disabilities in overcoming barriers to their success in school. However, there is now available software programs designed to assist English Language Learners at the college level. Included in these programs are text-to-speech software, which makes provision of almost any material that is printed through use of scanning as well as being used with digital files and the web providing individual support that English Language Learners need. Text-to-speech software can be loaded onto the student's computer or they can download files to MP3 players, which automatically convert word processing documents to text-to-speech format. This enables student to read any type of text at any time and the English Language Learner to "take charge of their own learning and gain true independence." (Kurzweil Educational Systems, 2004, p.3) Kurzweil 3000 is one such software, which is reported to offer English Language Learners the "multi-sensory reinforcement so critical to learning." (Kurzweil Educational Systems, 2004, p.4) With Kurzweil 3000, it is reported that students are able to:

(1) Simultaneously listen to and read scanned text, image text (such as PDF files), digital files and Internet pages;

(2) Visually track words and phrases on screen as they are read aloud;

(3) Make text notes or listen to recorded notes;

(4) Hear their own writing read aloud to them;

(5) Use colored highlighters and other visual prompts to identify important information; and (6) Create audio files for listening to text anywhere. (Kurzweil Educational Systems, 2004, p.5)

It is additionally reported that students are able to "scan, text or access digital files, then simultaneously listen to and read any printed material while retaining the document's original formatting" as well as to read articles from Internet resources. Students can additionally "add notations or questions to discuss with the instructor" and they also can "highlight features critical to different conventions." (Kurzweil Educational Systems, 2004, p. 5) This type of software also enables students in accessing various audible dictionaries in English and other languages and assist students in fluency training. The work of Kleinmann (1987) reports that studies of the reading achievement of ESL students in a college reading course demonstrated that students who receive computer-assisted instruction scored higher and made greater gains in reading achievement than students who did not receive computer-assisted instruction. The Post-Secondary ESL Reading Program entitled 'ESL ReadingSmart' is reported to provide university students with "intensive English programs leveled reading materials that are suitable for adults." (ESL Reading Smart, 2013, p.1) The program is reported to be inclusive of 126 reading selections that are at all levels of reading ability. The online activities are reported to be such that "reinforce the reading skills taught in the classroom." (ESL Reading Smart, 2013, p.1) It is reported that Leloup and Ponterio (2003), Casidy (1996) and Kleinman (1987) and Chisholm and Beckett (2003) report that using computers provides ESL students with "higher levels of motivation, engagement, and low anxiety learning" as well as improving academic achievement, English Language proficiency, motivation and fostering thinking skills development." (Kurzweil Educational Systems,, p.6) Stated to be included in the Kurzweil 3000 applications are the following:

(1) access to the text under review while answering sample questions on a separate document;

(2) Electronic practice with fill-in-the-blank, multiple choice, true/false, short answer, and essay questions;

(3) Auditory reading of the instructions as many times as needed;

(4) Auditory reading of the question and answer to check answers;

(5) Access to supports such as dictionary and thesaurus as the testing situation allows; and (6) Teachers' insertion of notes, reminders, or instructions into a document to remind ELL students of the test-taking strategy they need to practice;

(7) Creation of study guides and fact flash cards to review information and move it into long-term memory. (Kurzweil Educational Systems, 2005, p.4)

Summary and Conclusion

While there is a lack of literature in the area of the use of text-to-speech auditory software for use in assisting ESL student in the college-learning environment, the information reviewed in this study has demonstrated clearly that text-to-speech auditory software can enhance and enable the learning of ESL college students. The literature reviewed published by Kurzweil Educational Systems has informed this study that such software has been found to be effective for use with college level ESL students in that the provisions of such software effectively supports the learning of ESL college students in various areas of language learning including phonics, pronunciation, and reading and comprehension ability. The student is able to follow the text line-by-line while hearing the text pronounced which enables the student to see and hear the correct words and enables them to learn the English language more quickly than before the availability of such programs. This enhances the learner's ability in that they can learn anytime and anywhere by downloading the program onto…

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