Using vlogs and veedback to help improve English-language communication

For students studying in English-speaking universities, having a firm grasp of English is essential to their success. However, international ESL students can experience difficulties when asked to participate in spoken activities – such as discussions, presentations, or when asking questions in class.

Luckily, digital tools are increasingly available in English for Academic Purposes (EAP) programs to support students in improving their oral communication. One such support is video feedback (or “veedback”). Instructors Soroush Sabbaghan, Murray Peglar, and Greg Tweedie investigated the effectiveness of student and instructor veedback responses to develop students’ competencies.

Previous students in the EAP program indicated that the classroom setting often does not have enough opportunities to practice using their language knowledge, or to receive enough individualized feedback to improve. Thus, the vlogs needed to offer students more opportunities for communication practice, and allow for more direct feedback on oral performance and progress.

In an EAP class focused on academic speaking and listening, students responded to audio or video recordings in real-time throughout the course. The students used the video and audio capture tools included in D2L – a software the students were already familiar with – which were then uploaded. This allowed the instructor to develop rubrics and provide both written and recorded feedback on each student’s assignments. The students produced three videos per week.

The data collected included the instructors’ assessment of the assignments, two speaking confidence surveys, and student interviews. This allowed the research team to consider both the effectiveness of the strategy in improving students’ oral communication, as well as what the students felt about their vlogging experience.

The researchers found significant differences when comparing the overall scores of the students’ responses from the beginning and the end of the course. The students’ scores were higher, and the number of references the instructors’ made to grammatical and pronunciation errors were significantly lower. This highlights that the vlogs helped advance accuracy and intelligible pronunciation.

The students appreciated that the instructor’s feedback on pronunciation was targeted, and could refer to specific moments that the students could replay. In most real-time classwork, instructors face challenges in providing timely and specific feedback, but this was remedied by the vlog format. Several students noted that they looked forward to their recorded feedback, and that the personalized approached motivated them to practice more. The instructor frequently modeled solutions to student challenges, which the students found particularly helpful.

The vlogs did not seem to influence the length of the recording, the number of pauses, or students’ speaking confidence over time. Because students could rehearse and re-record their assignments before submission, students were likely able to overcome fluency challenges when completing their assignments. While the students did not feel more confident in their speaking overall, they felt more confident in asking questions, and noted that they were now more likely to raise questions during class.

The effectiveness of the vlogs was seen in both the overall gains of students’ academic competencies, speaking and listening skills, as well as the students’ positive response to the project. Building on this initial study, the researchers see applications of similar approaches to support the teaching and learning of other content in EAP oral communication. Understanding the ups and downs of these tools can instructors incorporate them more effectively into their classrooms.

See more from Dr. Soroush Sabbaghan on his profile

See more from Murray Peglar on his profile

See more from Dr. Greg Tweedie on his profile