The Impact of Podcasts on English Vocabulary Development in a Blended Educational Model

Document Type : Research Article


1 PhD Candidate of Applied Linguistics, Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz, Ahvaz, Iran

2 Professor of Linguistics, Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz, Ahvaz, Iran

3 Professor of Applied Linguistics, Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz, Ahvaz, Iran


This experimental study attempts to see whether incorporating supplemental podcasts into the blended module of second language (L2) vocabulary teaching and learning leads to better learning outcomes in comparison with other common teaching and learning methods as self-study and conventional. To that end, undergraduate students from Ahvaz Jundishapur University of Medical Sciences were summoned up via an announcement to take part in the study. Volunteers were homogenized via Vocabulary Levels Test (VLT) and were then randomly divided into three groups to learn English vocabulary items via three different scenarios during 32 sessions. The collected data from the participants’ answers to the attitude questionnaire and interview as well as the data from assessing their performance throughout the course were analyzed both descriptively and inferentially. The analysis of the data revealed that the podcast-mediated blended L2 learning scenario appeared as the most successful scenario in L2 vocabulary learning. Consequently, it could be concluded that providing miscellaneous practicing opportunities for students would facilitate learning process and contribute to learning improvement.

Persian Abstract:
در این پژوهش تجربی، با پیوند پادپخش‌های آموزشی به شیوه‌ی یادگیری ترکیبی واژگان انگلیسی، تأثیر این شیوه با سایر شیوه‌های رایج آموزشی همچون سنتی و خود‌خوان مورد قیاس قرار گرفت. به این منظور، دانشجویان کارشناسی دانشگاه علوم پزشکی جندی‌شاپور اهواز طی یک فراخوان جهت شرکت در آزمون تعیین سطح واژگان و همگون‌سازی دعوت شدند. در نتیجه 132 دانشجو به‌عنوان شرکت کننده انتخاب شدند تا واژگان انگلیسی را طی 32 جلسه و به شیوه‌های خودخوان، سنتی و ترکیبی مبتنی بر پادپخش فراگیرند. داده‌های گردآوری شده از پاسخ شرکت کنندگان به پرسشنامه‌ی نگرش، عمل‌کرد و نیز پاسخ‌های آن‌ها به مصاحبه پایانی، به شیوه‌های توصیفی و استنباطی مورد تحلیل قرار گرفت. نتایج حاکی از اثر‌بخش بودن شیوه‌ی یادگیری ترکیبی مبتنی بر پادپخش در ارتقای دانش واژگان انگلیسی شرکت کنندگان بود. از این‌رو، می‌توان گفت شیوه‌های یادگیری به‌کمک فناوری از جمله یادگیری ترکیبی مبتنی بر پادپخش با فراهم نمودن محیط‌های متنوع یادگیری و تمرین نقش به‌سزایی در ارتقای دانش واژگان انگلیسی فراگیران ایفا می‌کند.
واژگان کلیدی: شیوه‌ ی یادگیری، واژگان انگلیسی، سامانه مدیریت یادگیری الکترونیکی، پادپخش


Main Subjects

1. Introduction
The  widespread  availability  of  mobile  wireless  technologies  and  associated  infrastructure
across  nearly  all  sectors  of  education  has  led  to  a  fertile  proliferation  of  views  and
perspectives  for  the  implementation  of  these  innovations  to  continuously  revaluate  the
approaches  to  pedagogy,  both  in  the  physical  and  virtual  classroom  settings  (Cobcroft,
Towers, Smith, & Bruns, 2006). This trend has actually provided a unique platform to design
learning differently and to enhance students’ learning experience, allowing  a flexible access
to  education  on  a  ubiquitous  basis  (Sharples,  2006).  This  shift  in  learning  locations  and
student access to information has thus enabled educators to incorporate the  Information and
Communication Technology (ICT) in their syllabi to enhance learning adapted to the needs of
learners of the 21st century  or digital natives  as Prensky (2001) defines.  In recent  years, we
have  witnessed  a  rapid  increase  in  the  number  of  educational  institutions  turning  to  ICT-mediated instruction to offer courses using ICT tools as supplementary or alternative teaching
and  learning  aids.  (e.g.,  Crompton  &  Traxler,  2015;  Hayati,  Jalilifar,  &  Mashhadi,  2013,
Hegelheimer & Lee, 2012; McCrea, 2011; Pellerin, 2012; Taylor, 2013; Traxler & Kukulska-Hulme, 2016; Viana, 2015).
Among  various  forms  of  ICT  tools,  podcast-  a  portmanteau  of  the  words  iPod  and
broadcast-  as  a  series  of  multimedia  files  that  allow  broadcasting  of  multimedia  files  in
digital format in time with text (O’Bryan & Hegelheimer, 2007), in turn, vies for a place in
ICT  undertakings  in  the  field  of  teaching  and  learning. As  one  of  the  distinctive  features  of
podcasts  containing  a  Real  Simple  Syndication  (RSS)  feeds,  podcast  episodes  containing
content  materials,  among  others,  may  be  automatically  pushed  or  downloaded  (rather  than
streamed)  to  subscribers’  personal  computers or  any  other  (mobile) digital  audio  players,
freeing users from the need to check and manually download newly available content. 
With their unique features of convenience, simplicity, and accessibility combined with
their affordances to deliver audio as well as text, images, and video files, regardless of their
usual  applications  as  entertainment  tools,  podcasts  have  been  exploited  in  several
administrative  as  well  as  pedagogical  practices  (e.g.,  Kennedy  et  al,  2014;  Lazzari,  2009;
Long  &  Fabry,  2011;  Malushko,  2015;  Popova &  Edirisingha,  2010; Taylor  &  Clark,  2010;
Viana, 2015; Zelin & Baird, 2012)
For language learning and teaching, among other disciplines, this realization also holds
true.  Language  educators  now  have  more  options  for  teaching  language  to  L2  learners.
Concrete examples show the globalized tendencies of the educators and practitioners around 
the world and the power they exercise in utilizing new (mobile) technology in the framework
of  L2  teaching  (e.g.,  Daccord,  2013;  Driscoll,  2011;  Gawlik-Kobylińska & Poczekalewicz,
2011).  Meanwhile,  the  use  of  podcasts,  among  other  ICT-tools,  to  disseminate  instructional
language  materials  has  elicited  considerable  attention  among  colleges  and  universities,  too
(e.g.,  Duke  University,  Middlebury  College,  &  the  University  of  Wisconsin).  Among
different language skills and components, podcasting has been mainly exploited by a number
of  scholars  in  training  specific  language  skills,  such  as  pronunciation  (Knight,  2010;  Lord,
2008;  Powell,  2006),  oral  and  aural  skills  (Abdous,  Camarena,  &  Facer,  2009;  Chan,  Chi,
Chin,  &  Lin,  2011;  Hawke,  2010;  Hoven  &  Palalas,  2011),  speaking  and  listening  strategy
training (Ashton-Hay & Brookes, 2011; Cross, 2014;  Li, 2012; Rahimi & Katal, 2012), and
reinforcing  students’  vocabulary  learning  (Borgia,  2010;  Putman  &  Kingsley,  2009).
Moreover,  diverse  affordances  of  podcasting  have  paved  the  way  for  its  application  for  the
purpose  of  increasing  students’ motivation (Bolliger, Supanakorn, & Boggs, 2010; Stanley,
2006), promoting intercultural exchanges and listening comprehension (Lee, 2009; McBride,
2009),  developing  pragmatic  competence/awareness  (Guikema,  2009),  and  supporting
learners  with  learning  disabilities,  and  non-native  learners  in  distance  learning  or  blended
programs (Sloan, 2005; Walls, et al., 2010). 
Other studies have probed into the flexibility and ubiquity aspects of learning language
via  podcasts  to  integrate  formal  and  extramural  language  resources  providing  learners  with
samples  of  real  speech  and  other  authentic  materials  (Chinnery,  2006;  Thorne  &  Payne,
2005).  In  the  same  way,  podcast-mediated  teaching  and  learning  has  been  employed  to
support  course  materials  with  supplemental  podcasts  to  develop  students’  proficiency  in
English (Istanto, 2011; Lee & Chan, 2007; Stanley, 2006). 
Such  studies  have  mainly  acknowledged  podcasts  potentiality  to  develop  students’
language skills, especially in developing students’ speaking and listening skills.  They  have
also  documented  much  evidence  suggesting  students’  positive  perceptions  and  attitudes
towards  using  podcasts  for  language  learning  on  desktop  computers  or  portable  mobile
devices in intra- or extramural settings. 
However, further research seems indispensable to ensure a viable model or conceptual
framework for using ICT tools in teaching and learning practices on a large scale. In reality,
the success of ICT devices as educational tools in the learning process is highly dependent on
the  extent  to  which  it  is  incorporated  into  a  pedagogically  grounded  theoretical  framework.
This  study,  thus,  intended  to  investigate  how  didactic  digital  multimedia  platform,  namely 
 supplementary podcasts, among other ICT tools, is grounded in the theoretical  underpinning
of teaching and learning and how it comes into interaction with the learning of L2 skills and
subskills, in general, and vocabulary development, in particular.
2. Theoretical Underpinnings of the Study
Any relevant theory of teaching and learning needs to embrace contemporary accounts of the
practices and ontogeny of learning and also capture the dynamics of learning, especially the
considerable  learning  that  is  personally  directed  and  happens  outside  the  classroom,  under
ICT-mediated environments. The efficacy of podcasting, among other ICT tools, in language
education has been acknowledged in both theory and practice (Rosell-Aguilar, 2007). A range
of theoretical perspectives addressing the use of educational podcasts as one of several digital
multimedia formats in language education is elaborated below.
2.1. Cognitive Theory of Multimodal Learning (CTML)
According to the Mayer’s (2005) Cognitive Theory of Multimodal Learning (CTML) which
examines how students manage different routes for processing multimodal didactic contents,
namely dual-channels assumption, each channel can deal with only a small amount of content
materials  at  a  time;  that  is,  limited  capacity  assumption,  and  meaning  learning  in  turn
involves engaging in relevant cognitive processing. 
Despite  the  narrow  capacity  of  each  channel,  Clark  and  Mayer  (2008)  believe  that
through providing diversified modalities, it is possible to establish new conditions for lodging
more didactic routes; in  this fashion, the likelihood of learning materials  can be boosted.  In
addition, the cognitive theory of multimedia learning can explain how podcasts may serve as
a better study aid than other learning resources. The use of podcasts is deemed to cater better
to  the  needs  of  auditory  learners,  and  also  expose  students  with  other  learning  style
preferences  (visual,  tactile,  and/or  kinesthetic)  to  learning  through  the  auditory  mode.  More
precisely,  the  use  of  other  sensory  channels  can  avoid  overloading  of  the  visual  channel
(Engelkamp  &  Zimmer,  1994)  and  help  students  better  process  and  understand  complex
materials (Paechter, 1993). 
2.2. Cognitive Load Theory
Cognitive Load Theory (CLT) (Sweller, 1994) focuses on the interaction between information
structure and Psychological  Learning Process or  PLP (Alavi &  Leidner, 2001) in relation to
learning. It suggests that an individual’s information processing system consists of distinct
cognitive  channels  to  process  visual  and  verbal  stimuli.  In  this  respect,  learning  is  achieved 
 by  integrating  information  between  such  channels  (Mayer,  2001).  In  effect,  CLT  proposes
that  due  to  the  narrow  capacity  of  humans’  PLP,  students  may  be  inundated  by  the
information  and,  if  the  bulk  of  materials  is  not  accurately  managed,  this  will  lead  into
conditions where students are so encumbered by extra cognitive load. This cognitive overload
accordingly  hinders  the  schema  acquisition,  later  leading  to  underperformance  (Sweller,
1988).  Podcasting,  however,  could  provide  a  solution  to  this  limitation. Through  exploiting
the potential didactic force of podcasts to provide opportunities to students so as to repeatedly
access content and directly control the speed and pace of the verbal and visual stimuli being
offered, students can adequately  process content  before subsequent information is presented
and  lost,  and  thereby,  decrease  cognitive  overload.  This  way,  the  change  in  performance
occurs  because  the  content  materials  become  gradually  more  familiar  to  students  and  the
cognitive properties of the materials are adjusted to the effect that it can be dealt with more
successfully by PLP. 
An  additional  supporting  point  is  the  effect  of  repetitive  situation  feasible  in  podcast
lessons  in  which  students  have  the  opportunity  to  review  the  learning  materials,  not  only
through  written  form  (textbook),  but  via  supplementary  multimedia-based  materials  besides
audio-visual  basic  materials  either  in  class  or  at  home.  In  practice,  the  high  frequency  of
exposure can enhance the input and therefore facilitate learning (Richards, 2002).
2.3. Blended Teaching and Learning Method 
The  blended  L2  teaching  and  learning  method  allows  students  to  alternate  between  ICT-enhanced  and  printed  experiences  on  the  basis  of  their  accessibility  to  make  optimal  use  of
the  media  (Neuman,  2005). This  method,  however,  is  not  just  about  tossing  any  technology
into  the  learning  assortment,  but  about  deciding  on  the  preeminent  learning  supplying
alternatives,  both  technology-enhanced  and  more  conventional  (Kitchenham,  2011).  In
practice,  the  blended  method  of  teaching  and  learning  is  not  an  either-or  conundrum,  but  a
proper  portion  of  various  teaching  modes  for  purpose  issue.  This  way,  it  moves  the  debate
away  from  false  the  dichotomy,  that  is,  conventional  versus  ICT-enhanced  learning  method
and classroom-based versus nonclassroom-based modes of delivery which are not beneficial.
To  be  precise,  in  the  blended  teaching  and  learning  the  learning  process  is  fueled  by  both
classroom- and nonclassroom-based teaching and learning. In view of that, "blended learning
promises to enhance student learning and provide teachers with unprecedented resources and
support"  (Germain  &  McIsaac,  2014,  p.  1).  "With  blended  learning,  the  [technology]  may
provide much of the learning fundamentals and students must be more self-regulated than in 
a traditional model classroom, but the teacher still plays a vital [albeit different] role" (West,
2015, p. 1). 
In  essence,  the  blended  method  of  L2  teaching  and  learning  goes  beyond  the
assumption  of  complementarity  of  the  nonformal  manner  of  practicing  and  learning.  The
activities that take place after the learning has been blended should be linked deeply with the
content  materials  that  the  students  have  been  taught  in  the  classroom,  and  success  in  these
activities should build upon and reinforce the learning that students have done in classroom.
Considering the distinctive features of formal and nonformal training, this method of teaching
and learning suggests that each medium’s physical characteristics, structures, and method of
representing content may add a new aspect to students’ knowledge and the means they use to
achieve knowledge (Neuman, 2005).
Meanwhile,  as  far  as  the  podcast-mediated  instruction  is  concerned,  despite  the
potential  benefits  and  positive  reactions  supporting  the  use  of  multimodal  podcasts  for
(language) teaching and learning, the majority of such studies, however, were mainly small-scale  descriptive  undertakings  focusing  on  technical  issues  of  creating  and  distributing
podcasts,  rather  than  adopting  a  methodical  approach  to  understanding  how  the  medium
affects  the  teaching  and  learning  (Rosell-Aguilar,  2007).  As  with  any  novel  technology,
including  podcasts,  educators  need  to  evaluate  the  reasoning  behind  the  use  of  it  (Maag,
2006). The use of theoretical foundations will not only provide a rationale for using podcasts,
but also helps inform the pedagogy of using them. 
The  study  is,  thus,  motivated  by  the  issue  that  this  recent  technologically-supported
trend  using  educational  podcasts,  among  other  ICT  affordances,  can  be  adapted  and
integrated  in  a  pedagogically  sound  theoretical  model  or  conceptual  framework  to  support
teaching  and  learning  English,  in  general,  and  teaching  English  vocabulary  items,  in
More  precisely,  this  study  capitalizes  on  the  variegated  flexible  modalities  (vs.
unimodality)  and  ubiquity  aspects  of  podcasts  to  support  language  learning  in  tertiary
education  and  supplement  in-class  language  resources  and  activities  with  outdoor  review
podcasts providing students with supplementary and alternative perspectives on the contents
previously taught which, in turn, may broaden or deepen the student’s understanding and
exploration  of  topics  and  also  further  encourage  students  to  develop  autonomy  or
independent learning outside the classroom. The three scenarios considered to investigate the
objectives of the present study are thus set as follows:  
  Self-study learning approach (Scenario I),
 Conventional learning approach (Scenario II), and
 Podcast-mediated blended learning approach (Scenario III). 
Employing  triangulation,  the  following  research  questions  are  accordingly  formulated
to address the issue at hand:
1. What are the participants' general attitudes, experiences, and readiness towards ICT-based and blended L2 learning?
2.  Are  there  any  significant  difference  in  students’  learning  of  vocabulary  via  the
podcast-mediated  blended  learning  approach  vis-à-vis  the  two  other  methods  of
delivery, namely, conventional learning, and self-study learning approaches? 
3. How do the participants perceive the learning scenarios for L2 vocabulary learning? 
3. Method
3.1. Participants
Four hundred and forty seven undergraduate male and female students at Ahvaz Jundishapour
University  of  Medical  Sciences  were  taken  as  population  of  the  study. All  the  students  had
already  taken  English  for  Students  of  Medicine  as  an  obligatory  reading  course  at  that
juncture. To select the participants for the study, they were notified through an announcement
issued  by  the  researchers  inviting  them  to  participate  in  the  study.  After  registering  the
volunteers, to account for their L2 vocabulary homogeneity, a Vocabulary Levels Test (VLT)
was  administered  to  select  the  participants  through  their  performance  on  the  test  (See
instrumentation, VLT). After scoring the test papers, 132 students who scored less than others
were  singled  out  as  those  needing  special  treatment.  Indeed,  their  performance  on  the
vocabulary test items which were sampled out from the collection of the teaching resources
showed  that  they  required  further  education  on  the  subject  materials  given  than  those  who
outscored  them.  They  were  then  randomly  assigned  to  three  groups  to  learn  the  intended
materials  containing  the  same  vocabulary  items  and  expressions  through  three  different
scenarios,  namely  the  self-study,  the  conventional  learning,  and  the  podcast-mediated
learning  during  the  hours  the  researchers  announced.  Formal  arrangements  regarding  the
research locations and the regulation of the University’s Research Ethics Committee in terms
of  ethical  considerations  of  researching  with  the  human  participants  were  also  carefully
sought for before embarking on the study. 
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3.2. Instrumentation
Vocabulary Levels Test (VLT): To set the seal on the homogeneity of the participants and to
discern  their  current  L2  vocabulary  proficiency,  a  researcher-made  VLT  (see  Appendix  A)
was  developed  via  utilizing  a  frequency-based  corpus  assembled  from  the  most  frequent
23947  L2  vocabulary  items  which  were  sampled  out  by  submitting  the  collection  of  the
teaching resources, namely englishpod (©2008, Praxis Language Ltd.), intended to be taught
in the major study to a frequency analysis via Text Fixer Software (2014). In doing so, a 40-minute  paper-based  VLT  consisting  of  100  randomly  selected  word  items  from  the  corpus
with a total score of 100; that is, one score for each item, was prepared to be conducted in a
pilot phase before running the major study. After piloting the test items on 60 students from
the  same  population  other  than  the  major  participants,  item  difficulty  (ID)  of  each  test  item
was  calculated  and  those  items  whose  difficulty  levels  were  between  0.3  and  0.8  were
considered  appropriate  as  the  ultimate  VLT  test  items  intended  for  the  major  phase  of  the
study. Thus,  the  items  whose  difficulty  levels  were  too  low  or  too  high  were  removed  from
the  test. As  far  as  content  validity  of  the  VLT  was  concerned,  it  was  authenticated  by  four
TEFL  experts. The experts were  asked to rate the items on  a  five-point rating scale ranging
from  1-not  important  to  5-very  important;  to  internally  validate  and  examine  the  selected
items  and  its  relevance  to  the  research  literature.  The  criterion  for  keeping  the  items  in  the
final questionnaire was based on the experts’ rating; that is, those items which were rated
below scale three by 50% of the experts were excluded. Criterion–related validity of the test
was also investigated by calculating the correlation coefficient between the researcher-made
VLT and a standardized VLT (α = 0.82) and it was found to be r = 0.65.
Attitude Questionnaire: To ascertain the best comparability of the three groups of the
participants  in  terms  of  their  attitudes,  experiences,  and  readiness  towards  taking  part  in  an
ICT-based  L2  learning  study,  they  were  invited  to  complete  an  attitude  and  readiness
questionnaire  before  conducting  the  major  phase  of  the  study.  The  survey  consisted  of  16
carefully prepared questions that were categorized into four sections. The first three sections,
namely,  section  A  (ICT-based  L2  learning),  section  B  (Podcast-based  L2  learning),  and
section C (L2 learning in a blended scenario) included 14 items which were designed using
the 5-point Likert scales ranging from 5 (strongly agree) to 1 (strongly disagree). In the forth
section,  another  line  of  follow-up  questioning  (2  items)  asked  the  participants  in  the  third
group about the descriptive aspects such as the participants’ usage patterns of ICT tools, their
preferences  regarding  the  frequency  of  the  podcasts  and  also  their  practicing  time.  The 
reliability  of  the  questionnaire  was  calculated  via  piloting  the  questionnaire  items  on  60
students  from  the  same population  other  than  the  major  participants  using  Cronbach's  alpha
and it was found to be 0.75. Its face validity was confirmed by four TEFL experts, as well.
Assessment  (vocabulary  tests):  To  see  if  the  participants’  learning  under  different
treatments had improved, their achievements were formatively assessed through utilizing two
20-scale  vocabulary  tests  on  a  weekly  basis.  In  practice,  the  data  for  the  assessment  were
aggregated  through  ―studies  of  students’  performance  over  time  and  across  settings,  in
response  to  experimental  treatments  and  manipulations,  [and]  didactic  content  relevance"
(Gipps, 1994, p. 61). Overall, 32 formative assessments, namely, two rounds of assessment in
each week were made from each group of participants’ performance. The reliability of  the
tests,  though  they  were  professionally  designed  by  (©2008,  Praxis
Language Ltd), was computed through Cronbach's alpha and it was 0.78. 
Interview  Prompts:  Finally,  to  answer  the  third  research  question  regarding  the
participants’  views  on  and  perspectives  about  different  scenarios  of  vocabulary  learning,
participants  from  each  group  were  invited  via  text  messages  to  participate  in  an  interview
session  which  was  conducted  by  one  of  the  researchers.  This  bimodal  interview,  including
face-to-face  contact  and  multimedia  messaging  via  WhatsApp  social  networking,  was
conducted in Persian. Below are the interview prompts in English:
1.  What  are  your  greatest  strengths/weaknesses  in  learning  L2  vocabulary  via  the
particular learning scenario taken? 
2. If you could alter one thing about the way the materials are taught, what would it be? 
3. What instructional activities did you find useful?
4.  Is  there  anything  else  educators  need  to  do  that  would  enrich  the  L2  learning
Also,  to  observe  and  judge  how  well  podcast-mediated  learning  scenario  fitted  in  the
L2  learning  processes,  an  extra  item  was  merged  into  the  interview  items  to  debrief  the
participants in the third group (i.e., podcast-mediated scenario).
5. How will the podcast-mediated learning platform improve your L2 proficiency?
3.3. Materials
Podcast  Lessons  Package:  The  sample  podcasts  intended  to  be  taught  were  selected  from
englishpod  (©2008,  Praxis  Language  Ltd),  professionally  designed  to  teach  English  lessons
to  language  learners.  It  provided  about  400  practical  lessons  which  were  organized
thematically  with  mini-stories  and  dialogs  contextualizing  the  vocabulary  items  in  realistic
154   Applied Research on English Language
and  interesting  situations  such  as  business  meetings,  travel,  daily  life,  social  relations  and
lifestyles, and so forth providing learners with cultural exposure to the target language. Each
lesson  consisted  of  a  short  dialog  accompanied  by  key  and  supplemental  vocabulary  items
along  with  their  English  definitions  and  sample  sentences.  Learning  supports  such  as
podcasts’ transcripts and different exercises (Rosell-Aguilar, 2007) were also incorporated in
the  podcast  lesson  package  to  enable  learners  to  carry  out  different  vocabulary  activities  in
various task types that were not easily reproducible in a spoken form, as diverse as matching
a  list  of  words  with  their  English  definitions,  sentence  reordering,  dictation  as  well  as
multiple  choice  items.  The  variety  of  task  types  and  exercises  were  expected  to  provide
students with elaborative rehearsal, probably leading to deeper processing. As an integral part
of  each  podcast  lesson  package,  three  audio  files  which  read  and  expanded  on  the  written
parts  of  the  dialogues  were  also  made  available  to  students  encouraging  a  multimodal
elaboration of the lessons. In keeping with the length of the research and limited coverage of
vocabularies  in  the  specified  time,  namely,  thirty-two  90-mintue  sessions  in  an  academic
semester, a total number of 32 podcast lessons among others were selected for the study on
the grounds of such factors as their relevance and appropriacy to the educational settings and
teachability  criteria.  Indeed,  attempt  was  made  to  accommodate  those  lessons  including
vocabulary items which were quite common in modern English, particularly in conversation
and  also  included  those  vocabulary  items  which  dealt  with  a  particular  theme  or  were  in
related functional areas.
Learning Management  System (LMS): This system was commercially  developed to
host and distribute course materials to the participants in the third scenario and also managed
what  actually  took  place  during  the  nonclassroom  part  of  the  blended  module.  More
specifically, through application of the LMS, the participants in the podcast-mediated blended
module  were  enabled  to  have  access  to  the  supplementary  part  of  the  teaching  resources,
namely,  the  Pdf  version  of  the  lessons  along  with  the  elaborative  audio  files,  seamlessly
integrated  with  the  printed  handouts  of  32  English  lessons  in  which  vocabulary  items  were
contextualized  in  different  short  passages  and  dialogues  including  their  definitions  and
various sample sentences with a variety of exercises and task types. This management system
was  indeed  based  upon  nonhierarchical,  networked  ways  of  managing  the  learning  sessions
enabling the students to access and download each podcast lesson at timed intervals, namely,
two lessons each week (on Saturdays and Wednesdays for sixteen consecutive weeks) using
the Real Simple Syndication (RSS) feed for its automatic downloading on their desired  ICT
V. 5 N. 2  2016      155
tools as diverse as their PCs or mobile devices such as cell phones or multimedia players like
3.4. Research Design and Procedure
3.4.1. Opening 
In this step, the paper-based attitude and readiness questionnaire was given to the participants
to  complete  as  instructed.  This  survey  approach  has  often  been  exploited  in  ICT-based
projects  by  asking  learners  to  provide  information  about  how  they  know,  like  or  use  the
learning platforms (e.g., Thornton & Houser, 2004, 2005; Fozar & Kumar, 2007; Stockwell,
3.4.2. Treatment 
After  32  podcast  lessons  were  selected  from  englishpod,  three  different  learning  scenarios
were  considered  to  teach  L2  English  vocabulary  items  to  the  participants  in  three  different
groups throughout the first semester of academic years of 2015-2016. The scenarios used are
described as follows:
A. Scenario one (the self-study learning approach): As to the manner of teaching and
practicing in the first scenario, a printed handout  of intended educational  materials for  each
lesson, including mini-stories and dialogs which was accompanied by key and supplemental
vocabulary  items  along  with  their  English  definitions,  sample  sentences,  and  different
vocabulary  activities  in  various  task  types,  was  delivered  to  the  participants  urging  them  to
study lesson by lesson and practice at their own pace without attending classroom. It is worth
mentioning that the participants in this group attended two exam sessions weekly where they
could  also  receive  the  intended  materials  of  each  next  lesson.  In  doing  so,  their  vocabulary
learning progress was formatively assessed on two 20-scale tests in each week. 
B. Scenario two (the conventional learning approach): In this scenario, teaching and
learning process was mostly limited to the classroom lectures as the major mode of teaching,
that is to say, the teaching sessions were conducted face-to-face, with the instructor teaching
the  printed  handouts  of  the  same  instructional  contents  and  exercises,  given  to  other  two
groups of students, via lectures and facilitating  the students’ work in class by  asking the
participants to practice and complete the exercises and task types.
In  essence,  available  dialogues  and  various  exercises  in  each  lesson  were  skillfully
exploited in order to encourage contextual learning of the vocabulary items. Throughout the
contextual  learning  of  vocabularies,  vocabulary  learning  strategies  of  using  context  clues  to
define words, defining words using synonyms or antonyms, examining shades of meaning of
156   Applied Research on English Language
words, creating a visual representation of a word, using affixes or roots to define word items,
and making connections to new items allow the reader to repeatedly practice and retain new
vocabulary (Cecil & Gipe, 2009). 
To  provide  the  participants  with  elaborative  rehearsal,  they  were  encouraged  to
complete  various  task  types  such  as  role  play,  matching  a  list  of  words  with  their  English
definitions,  sentence  re-ordering,  dictation,  and  multiple-choice  items.  In  addition,  to
nonformally  assess  the  understanding  of  definitions  and  vocabulary-related  content
introduced  in  class  and  to  supplement  the  contextual  learning  of  definitions,  each  week  the
students  were  also  expected  to  write  vocabulary  cards,  which  included  definitions  of
vocabulary items in their own words and sentences that featured the word in context (Juel &
Deffes,  2004).  These  vocabulary  cards  were  maintained  in  individual  student  binders  and
used for review and reference within demonstrations and formative evaluations. Throughout
the  week,  the  students  viewed  and  performed  role  play  demonstrations  of  the  ideas  and
concepts associated with the vocabulary items or with visual aids to provide interconnections
between  the  concepts  and  vocabulary  items.  The  ordering  of  these  activities  as  well  as  the
detail of each operation varied from one passage to another, both to avoid monotony and to
facilitate assimilation of the word items (Hayati, Jalilifar & Mashhadi, 2013). 
As far as assessment for this group is concerned, its participants took part in two exam
sessions  weekly  which  were  administered  at  the  beginning  of  each  new  teaching  session
typically held after finishing each previous lesson.
C. Scenario three (the podcast-mediated blended leaning approach) 
In this blended scenario, each session was developed to have up to two rounds, namely
classroom and nonclassroom. In other words, the blended scenario was partly classroom- and
partly  nonclassroom-based,  partly  a  matter  of  teaching  and  practicing  in  the  classroom  and
partly of conducting nonformal practicing and review outside of the classroom. For the first
round  in  the  classroom,  the  teacher  taught  participants  the  printed  handouts  of  the
instructional materials, similar to those of other two groups of students, lesson by lesson via
face-to-face lecturing and then asked participants to practice the exercises and task types. In
this  round,  using  handouts  in  classroom  along  with  the  podcasts  designed  for  outside
classroom practice and review was actually intended to provide some form of scaffolding and
differentiation  for  learners  with  other  principal  perceptual  styles,  particularly  those  with  a
preference  for  visual  and  text-based  learning  materials  such  as  textbooks  and  worksheets
(Chan, Chen, & Döpel, 2011). 
V. 5 N. 2  2016      157
On  the  other  hand,  the  podcast-based  practicing,  as  complementary  to  mainstream  L2
English vocabulary instruction and practice in the classroom, was commonly employed at the
second round of the blended course. In this round, which was implemented in the extramural
situation,  the  students  were  indeed  expected  to  register  and  log  in  to  the  LMS,  where
automatic  download  of  each  podcast  lesson  was  provided  in  spaced  intervals  through  RSS
feed  on  their  desired  ICT-based  tools,  urging  them  to  regular  interval  study  (Thornton  &
Houser, 2001) of the supplementary part of the teaching resources closely integrated with the
course  content.  That  is,  to  supplement  the  limited  input  students  typically  receive  in
classroom  hours,  such  listening  activities  via  podcasts  encouraged  students  not  only  to
recapitulate  the  intended  instructional  contents,  but  also  to  commit  them  to  memory  by
recurring  exposure  to  the  sound  files  intra-  or  extramurally  in  a  more  self-directed  manner
(O’Bryan & Hegelheimer, 2009).
More precisely, students who have the technology at their disposal could independently
study and review podcasts and supplementary materials to build on their classroom learning
or catch up if they missed a lecture, whether at home, on the move, or in intramural settings.
It is also worth mentioning that the LMS created a profile of each learner and automatically
gathers  all  the  students'  login  information  and  podcast  access  in  the  second  round  of  the
blended  module  to  the  very  final  stage  for  later  analysis.  Assessment  for  this  group  was
similar  to  that  of  the  other  two  groups  of  learners  (i.e.,  one  20-scale  assessment  for  each
lesson  which  was  carried  out  at  the  beginning  of  the  next  session  for  teaching  the  new
In the end of the course, nine high-scoring as well as low- and medium-scoring students
from the three groups were selected to be interviewed. This interview was conducted by one
of  the  researchers  in  20  minutes  for  each  respondent  (see  Appendix  B  for  the  gist  of  the
selected respondents' answers). 
4. Results 
Data  collected  from  the  participants’  performance  in  the  formative  assessments  over  the
course period as well as their responses to the items of the attitude questionnaire and focus-group interview were analyzed as follows:
4.1 The analysis of the results from the attitude questionnaire
To  answer  the  first  research  question,  the  participants'  general  attitudes,  experience,  and
readiness  towards  taking  part  in  an  ICT-based  L2  learning  study  were  investigated  before
158   Applied Research on English Language
embarking  on  the  major  phase  of  the  study.  The  majority  of  the  participants  generally
believed  that  diverse  ICT  affordances  would  help  them  learn  L2  better  (q.  1).  In  a  similar
vein,  as  regards  the  use  of  ICT  technology  for  L2  learning,  more  than  half  (67%)  of  the
participants  gave the  green light to its integration into the mainstream  education (q. 2). Just
the  same  number  of  participants  (67%)  reported  that  they  are  interested  in  using  ICT-mediated instruction for  the purpose of  L2 vocabulary  learning regularly  (q. 3).  However,  a
few participants (20.6%) were inclined to learn L2 only in the ICT-based scenario (q. 4). 
Seventy  six  participants  were  in  agreement  when  it  came  to  items  5  and  6  which  inquired
about using supplemental podcast for the purpose of L2 vocabulary learning, namely podcast-mediated  learning,  and  its  motivational  aspects  (q.  5  &  q.  6).  Sixty  two  percent  of  the
favorable  answers  was  observed  for  utilizing  podcast-mediated  practicing  as  a  medium  for
reviewing  instructional  contents  instead  of  employing  conventional  medium  (e.g.,  paper  &
pencil) for this purpose (q. 7).
About 58 percent of the participants believed that integrating podcasts into the process
of practicing L2 vocabulary items can encourage them to do more practice extramurally and
help  a  better  retrieval  of  already  learned  vocabulary  (q.  8). As  to  the  ninth  question,  more
than half (61%) of the participants believed that podcast-mediated practicing can offer great
potential to address a broader range of students’ L2 learning problems. Sixty six percent of
the  participants’  answers  were  positive  to  the  tenth  question  (q.  10)  that  probed  their
perception  of  the  extent  multimodal  materials  help  them  apply  the  learned  contents  to  the
real-world situation.
In  items  11  and  12  where  the  participants  were  asked  about  using  blended  method  of
vocabulary  teaching  and  learning,  they  were  in  the  opinion  that  in  the  blended  language
learning  scenarios,  opportunities  for  language  learning  are  supplemented  with  nonformal
practices in extramural settings (q. 11 & q. 12). As to their answers to the thirteenth question
(q. 13), they thought that the blended method of teaching and learning would endow students
with more active role in different didactic circumstances carefully developed to support face-to-face instruction with nonformal practices. The participants who believed that establishing
multimodal  practicing  and  learning  situations  prevents  the  abrupt  substitution  of  teachers
with  ICT-based  instruction  were  in  the  majority;  that  is  supplementary  as  well  as
complementary role of ICT in the blended module (q. 14). They maintained that blended L2
learning can provide a broader range of details about the instructional contents. Details about 
the participants’ attitude towards the items of the attitude questionnaire are displayed in the
first part of Table 1.

Table 1. Overall Analysis of the Participants’ Attitudes towards the Items of the Questionnaire (continued)

To specify the time lag for practicing the extramural learning activities (q. 15 & q. 16)
and integrating the pull mode of content delivery along with the push mode of delivery, there 
was an approval among 87 percent of the participants on receiving the materials following a
predefined  time  schedule.  As  to  the  (probable)  practice  of  the  materials  in  the  extramural
situations on the prespecified time lags, it was found that the number of the participants who
gave consent for practicing the learning contents  in the late  afternoon was in great majority
(i.e., 73.6) (Table 1, Continued).

Table 1. (Continued)


4.2  The  analysis  of  the  difference  between the participants’ performance in the
instructional scenarios
To  address  the  second  research  question  regarding  the  comparative  impact  of  employing
different scenarios of teaching and learning on the participants’ L2 vocabulary learning, the
second  stage  of  data  analysis  was  performed.  For  the  analysis  of  the  garnered  data  over  32
assessment  sessions  for  each  group  of  learners,  the  descriptive  statistics  (mean  scores,  and
standard deviations), Analysis of Variance (ANOVA), and Scheffe Post-Hoc test were used.
Table  2  demonstrates  the  descriptive  statistics,  the  mean  scores,  and  the  standard
deviations  of  all  three  groups  of  learners.  As  Table  2  indicates,  the  mean  score  of  the
participants in the third group who received podcast-mediated blended instruction was higher
than those of the other two groups.


Table 2. Descriptive Statistics of the Participants' Performance in all three Groups


Note. 1 = Self-study group; 2 = Conventional group; 3 = Blended group. N = Number of the participants; SD =
Standard Deviation.
To determine whether or not there were significant differences between the mean scores
obtained from different instruction modes, which in turn can reveal if one type of instruction 
resulted in different degrees of learning, analysis of variance was administered. As is shown
in Table 3, the mean scores of three groups differed significantly from each other and, thus,
the learning outcome was accordingly different in each group.

Table 3. The Analysis of Variance Results of the Three Instruction Modes in the Groups

Note. df = degree of freedom.
Subsequently, a Scheffe test followed to make multiple comparisons between the three
instructional  modes  offered  so  as  to  determine  which  of  them  appeared  more  effective. As
depicted  in  Table  4,  significant  differences  were  identified  between  the  mean  scores  of  the
podcast-mediated  blended  group  and  those  of  the  conventional  learning  group  (p  =  0.017,
mean  difference  =  2.27). When  compared,  the  mean  score  of  the  podcast-mediated  blended
group also differed significantly from that of the self-study group (p = 0.001, mean difference
=  4.45).  Furthermore,  significant  differences  were  located  between  the  mean  score  of  the
conventional  learning  group  relative  to  that  of  the  self-study  group  (p  =  0.023,  mean
difference = 2.18). Thus, we reasonably decided that significant differences existed between
the three instructional modes in terms of their efficacy for teaching English vocabulary items,
i.e.,  the  podcast-mediated  blended  platform  was  the  most  effective  instruction  mode.  In  the
same way, the self-study group acquired the lowest degree of significance compared with the
other two groups. 
The  results  of  the  multiple  comparisons  of  all  the  three  groups  in  the  Scheffe  test  are
illustrated in Table 4.

Table 4. The Multiple Comparisons between the Strategies in the Scheffe Test

5. Discussion and Conclusion
This  study  attempted  to  discern  how  different  instruction  modes  came  into  interaction  with
learning  the  L2  English  vocabulary  items  in  tertiary  education  for  undergraduate  students
majoring  in  Medical  Sciences  at  Ahvaz  Joundishapour  University  of  Medical  Sciences. The
results acknowledged podcasts potentiality to develop learners’ language skills, especially L2
English vocabulary learning. They have also documented much evidence suggesting learners’
positive  attitudes  towards  using  podcast,  as  a  feasible  and  promising  medium,  in  language
teaching  and  learning  practices  on  desktop  computers  or  mobile  devices  in  intra-  or
extramural  settings,  as  it  opened  up  possibilities  of  accessing  the  material  on  a  ubiquitous
basis. For the most part, comparison of the participants’ performance in the initial sessions of
the  course  and  their  performance  towards  the  end  of  the  course  as  well  as  across  the  triple
scenarios indicated that the participants in the third group outscored their counterparts in the
other two groups after practicing the contents via blended method of L2 vocabulary learning,
which, in turn, implies the facilitative role of extramural practicing in the blended module of
L2 learning using the supplemental podcasts. Podcasting, as a multimodal delivery platform,
provided  learners  in  the  third  group  simultaneously  with  audio  stimuli  (e.g.,  narration)  and
visual content. Based on Mayer’s (2005) Cognitive Theory of Multimodal Learning (CTML)
and  supporting  evidence,  the  added  interactive  multimodal  dimension  of  podcasts  in  the
blended  module  allowed  for  a  diverse  range  of  learning  skills  and  opportunities  giving  the
students more contextual and linguistic information than common classroom practicing could
provide.  Therefore,  it  is  deemed  that  it  could  improve  student  learning  over  other  learning
resources, such as textbooks, notes taken from class lectures, or even PowerPoint slides. This
finding has already been affirmed by Dziuban, Hartman and Moskal (2004). They concluded
that  "blended  learning  should  be  viewed  as  a  pedagogical  approach  that  combines  the
effectiveness  opportunities  of  the  classroom  with  the  technologically  enhanced  active
learning possibilities of the [virtual] environment" (p. 3).
Along  these  lines,  the  gathered  data  corroborated  the  roles  that  the  supplemental
podcasts played in the blended module of  L2 vocabulary learning  as they  enhanced the rate
and  ease  of  L2  vocabulary  learning.  The  findings  revealed  that  those  students  who  were
receiving  the  podcasts  on  spaced  intervals  were  prodded  to  study  the  materials  more  often
than their counterparts on the other two groups. Such multimodal activities via supplemental
podcasts encouraged students not only to recapitulate the intended instructional contents, but 
also  to  commit  them  to  memory  by  recurring  exposure  to  the  sound  files  intra-  or
extramurally in a more self-directed manner (O’Bryan & Hegelheimer, 2009).
This  is,  in  turn,  a  testimony  to  the  fact  that  positive  relationships  can  be  identified
between  the  uses  of  instructional  technology  and  the  participants'  engagement  and  learning
outcomes  as  it  forged  close  bond  between  the  classroom  and  nonclassroom  activities.  The
result is congruent with the Ellis' (2008) opinion regarding application of ICT for the purpose
of teaching and learning L2. Ellis (2008) gives special importance to the need for employing
variegated tools to motivate learners in the learning process. He emphasized that "providing
learners  with  incentive  may  aid  learning  by  increasing  the  time  learners  spend  [practicing]"
(p.  628). Moreover, the results may account for the participants’ underperformance in the
self-study and conventional groups, where practicing was done through only one medium. In
fact,  in  such  unimodal  learning  situations,  students  are  often  inundated  by  large  amount  of
information to the effect that they are often overwhelmed by the presence of a huge bulk of
new information. This result is also in line with the Dual Coding Theory (DCT) proposed by
Paivio  (1986). According  to  this  theory,  employing  diversified  modalities  blended  together
presents  a  situation  for  housing  more  routes  of  learning  concurrently,  thus  increasing  the
chance  of  learning  multimodal  instructional  materials.  In  turn,  the  blended  teaching  and
learning  method  emerged  as  a  suitable  platform  for  using  podcasts  for  the  purpose  of  L2
pedagogy. Along these lines, the most important findings in this study bear similarity to the
researchers’  proposition  that  outdoor  context  of  practicing,  namely  extramural  practicing,
should be intimately related to instructional contents taught in classroom settings.
In conclusion, the findings also revealed that the favorable effect of podcasting on the
participants’  performance  is  not  just  due  to  the  influence  of podcast  per se;  for  instance,
examining  the  questionnaire  and  interview  disclosed  that  the  participants’  virtual  world
expertise,  in  turn,    made  their  engagement  easier.  In  other  words,  the  results  disclosed  that
manner  of  practicing,  types  of  practices,  and  the  participants’  perception  of  the  learning
condition  bear  directly  on  the  participants’  performance.  On  the  whole,  the  idea  of  ICT-mediated  instruction  is  a  multidimensional  issue  and  despite  the  growing  interest  in  the
application  of  digital  technology  and  its  affordances  in  education,  there  are  still  some
technical  as  well  as  administrative  difficulties  for  their  true  integration  into  educational
mainstream. More qualitative studies would not only verify the themes noted in this research
but also could reveal emerging themes not present or not adequately touched in our study. It
would  be  also  advisable  to  devote  more  research  and  study  to  such  issues  as  individual 
differences  like  gender,  class  standing  and  prior  experience  with  blended  courses  so  as  to
establish  a  purposeful  match  of  strategy  and  technology  and  also  to  ensure  more  viable
research-based strategies across different types of instruction in blended models.



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Volume 5, Issue 2
July 2016
Pages 145-172
  • Receive Date: 05 February 2016
  • Revise Date: 10 June 2016
  • Accept Date: 04 July 2016
  • First Publish Date: 04 July 2016