1.1. Theoretical Background
The digital era in which we live presents challenges for education systems. It offers
opportunities for teaching, learning, and pedagogy (Battro & Fischer, 2012). The digital term
is more associated with technologies such as multimedia environments and devices which
can present information in the real time and at high speed (Gallardo-Echenique, Bullen &
The rapid growth in the application of digital technologies, especially the computerized
mediated instruction devices such as Internet and computers, has a significant impact on
education, society and many aspects of daily life (Jelfs & Richardson, 2012; McGlinn &
Parrish, 2002). It seems that multimedia has the ability to change the ways that people learn
and communicate; it can let them communicate with family and friends and, extend their
social networks. It enables rapid synchronous as asynchronous communication (Jelfs &
Advances in network technologies led to the emergence of virtual worlds to facilitate
asynchronous (offline), synchronous (online), and communication between users. Of the
many network technologies which are now being employed in CALL, immersive virtual
environments seem to hold great potential as learning tools. The impact of the use of
technology in general and computer in particular in the educational area is increasingly
evident and teachers are fully aware of the terms such as education technology, science and
technology, internet, multimedia, satellites, simulation, educational games, electronic
networks, etc. The application of the above mentioned jargons shows the ongoing nature of
the educational setting which turns out to be an important part of the new world order. Such
an application of technology started to modernize the teaching/ learning process and therefore
started to modify the way the educational system works (Son, 2008).
Abrams (2008) holds that computer-mediated instruction helps learners negotiate and
interact with their peers actively to develop their communicative competence. She points out,
"computer-mediated learner-to learner interaction offers L2 learners unique opportunities for
active control of topic selection and management and provides rich opportunities for learners
to recognize and adapt to diverse interactional patterns through collaboration among the
interactants" (p. 1). The main focus of the present study is to investigate the effects of
synchronous and asynchronous multimedia components: text and text with added graphics on
EFL learners’ learning of collocations.
1.2. Asynchronous and Synchronous modes
There are two main CMC modes: asynchronous and synchronous which seems to have
different functions and they can be used for different pedagogical purposes. Also, they can be
used to significantly promote linguistic interaction and negotiation between different groups
of learners, and as a result, lead to producing a large amount of language output. Fitz (2006)
reported that CMC modes influence the quality and quantity of different discourse functions.
As Abrams (2003) argues, synchronous and asynchronous modes can provide extensive
learner-to-learner interaction and negotiation, more amount of output than face-to-face
communication, and more talking time per learner (Abrams, 2003). The use of CMC is of
much interest because it has a number of advantages in promoting communication,
negotiation, interaction and socialization as summarized by several researchers (to name just
a few, AbuSeileek, 2012; AbuSeileek & Qatawneh, 2013; Lee, 2011) for learners of foreign /
second languages. Computerized mediated instruction has been reported to have several
advantages and to:
a. produce a large amount of target language output;
b. allow more time to develop comments, which may lead to a greater precision of
c. promote a collaborative spirit;
d. enhance motivation for language practice;
e. promote student-centered atmosphere;
f. focus on content rather than form;
g. reduce students’ anxiety from face-to-face communication in a foreign language class;
h. provide opportunities for students to express their opinions; and
i. develop student’s linguistic performance (AbuSeileek & Qatawneh, 2013).
1.3. Multimedia and language teaching
The variety in media including text, audio, video, and graphics for delivering content has
attracted and encouraged many teachers and learners to use the technology and internet for
distance education (Ali, 2003). These multimedia components increase the learners’
motivation and interest, which many scholars argue is of much significance when teaching to
the internet generation.
Graphics and visual texts are some of the most popular tools in on-line learning. In
some cases, graphics are used to represent important information and to support text (Liles,
2004). Some researchers have discussed the impacts of presenting information through
multimedia components like spoken text, graphics, visual text, and videos on language
learning (Kim & Gilman, 2008). The common finding is that information presented in spoken
words, graphics, text, and video formats can be integrated to create an attractive, authentic,
and multi-sensory language input for EFL learners (Kim & Gilman, 2008, Sun & Dong,
It is also argued that the use of both effective multimedia instruction (Kim & Gilman,
2008) and technology such as mobile, computer, and internet in language learning (Thornton
& Houser, 2005; Tabatabae & Heidari Goojan, 2012) has been an important issue.
1.4. Research Objectives
A number of studies (Son, 2008, Rezai & Zafari, 2010; Tabatabae & Heidari Goojan, 2012)
exploited the impact of multimedia and synchronous approach of CALL on EFL learners’
vocabulary learning. However, it seems that the impact of text, audio and visual aids on
learning collocations has not been given appropriate attention. Moreover, no one has
compared the effect of synchronous and asynchronous text, audio and visual aids on learning
collocations which deals with combining words. The present study aimed at investigating
whether synchronous and asynchronous multimedia components: text and text with added
graphics has any effects on EFL learners’ learning of collocations. The main objectives of the
present study can be stated in the following research questions:
Q1. Does the use of multimedia components have any impact on developing EFL
Q2. Does the use of multimedia, asynchronously and synchronously, have the same
impacts on EFL learners’ learning collocations?
2. Review of Literature
2.1. Related Studies on CALL
Different studies have investigated the role of synchronous computerized mediated
instruction in different components and areas of language: grammar (AbuSeileek, 2012;
Laborda, 2009; Lee, 2011; Liou & Penga, 2009; Shang, 2007; Tabatabae & Heidari Goojan,
2012; Son, 2008; Yanguas, 2010), vocabulary (Fotos, 2004), and pronunciation (Jepson,
2005). Among those, Kern (1995) found that learners produced more language in CMC
contexts than in FTF interaction. Kern (1995) also revealed that grammatical accuracy of
learners dramatically improved in CMC environments.
Among the related studies, Tabatabae and Heidari Goojani (2012) argued that that using
short message service has a significant impact on vocabulary learning of Iranian EFL high
school students. They also argued that both English teachers and students had positive
perceptions about the application of SMS in the students’ vocabulary learning.
In the same vein, Sadeghi and Ahmadi (2012) investigated the impacts of three kinds of
gloss conditions: computer-based audio gloss, traditional non-CALL marginal gloss, and
computer-based extended audio gloss on the reading comprehension of Iranian EFL learners.
They found that extended audio gloss group comprehended online computerized L2 texts
better than other groups. Moreover, all experimental groups performed better than the control
group in comprehending the text. Their study offers clear evidence that utilizing computers
and multimedia glosses can be influential in teaching language in general and online
computerized second language text comprehension in particular.
Similarly, Saffarian and Gorjian (2012) argued that computer-based video games can
vividly facilitate students’ learning performance. They also concluded that EFL teachers can
make use computer-based video games as an instructional approach in order to improve
students’ higher-order thinking. Moreover, they claimed that computer-based video games
can improve students’ achievement in higher-level cognitive thinking processes and problem-solving strategies.
Al-Masri (2011) investigated the effect of web-based curricula on Jordanian students'
achievement in English language. The participants of the study were distributed into four
groups (female experimental control group, male experimental, and control groups). The
experimental groups were taught through web-based curricula while the control groups were
provided with the traditional curricula. The results indicated that there was significant
difference between the experimental groups and the control groups in favor of the
experimental group. However, there was no significant interaction between gender and group.
Moreover, Kim and Gilman (2008) investigated the impacts of multimedia components
such as spoken text, visual text, and graphics in a self-instruction program on increasing EFL
learners’ English vocabulary learning at Myungin Middle School in Seoul, South Korea.
Their finding verifies the idea that the application of visual media supports vocabulary
acquisition and helps EFL learners increase achievement scores. They also concluded that
offering graphics to illustrate the definition seems to be an effective way to improve the
learning of English vocabulary. Students were likely to be motivated when visual text was
presented with graphics because text alone was not usually translated in a manner that was
meaningful to the learners, while graphics allowed them to visualize the definition in a more
Kost (2004) examined the effects of synchronous computer mediated communication
(S-CMC) on the development of oral proficiency and writing. He compared the mean scores
between the pre- and post-tests among three groups: two treatment groups (face to face and
S-CMC) and one control group. The treatment included a two-stage activity: participants
conducted a web search activity followed by a role-play. Unlike the control group, in the
experimental group, the role-play was carried out in the classroom face to face and in the
chartroom. His study did not find a significant difference in the development of oral
proficiency among the three groups.
Abrams (2003) examined the effects of two types of computer-mediated
communication (CMC) on oral performance to investigate whether or not these activities
could be a good preparation for oral discussions. He compared the performance of three
groups: synchronous and asynchronous CMC (S-CMC and A-CMC) groups, experimental
groups, and FTF group. The participants had three discussion classes. In the first one, each
group was given a reading assignment one week before each oral discussion session. In the
other discussion class, the S-CMC group had a discussion on the Web-CT chat the day before
the oral discussion, whereas the A-CMC group was given one week to discuss personal
experiences and the assigned readings on the Web-CT bulletin board. The control group had
regular classroom exercises, such as pair and group work activities. Findings from this study
indicated that S-CMC is a more effective preparatory activity for the whole-class discussion
than either A-CMC or small-group or pair work activities.
Moreover, Tozcu and Coady (2004) conducted a case study which examined the
outcomes in vocabulary acquisition when using traditional materials as opposed to interactive
computer-based texts. The goal was to determine the effect of traditional vocabulary training
via print texts as opposed to direct vocabulary instruction via computer assisted learning.
Moreover, the effect of this direct instruction on word recognition speed, reading
comprehension, and reading rate were also analyzed. The findings suggested that the
experimental group (who used a tutorial computer assisted courseware) outperformed the
control group in all the analyzed areas: reading comprehension, vocabulary knowledge, and
reading speed. The findings verify positive implications of integrating technology in foreign
language classrooms for vocabulary development.
AbuSeileek (2009) explored the effect of a CALL program on students' writing
performance in English by teaching the program collectively and cooperatively. The findings
of the study showed that there was a statistically significant difference between the
experimental group, who studied through computer, and the control group, who used the
traditional method. That is, the experimental group who studied via computer outperformed
the control group.
Al-Qomoul (2005) conducted a study to investigate the effect of an instructional
software program of English language functions on tenth graders' achievement. The results
showed that the students who studied the English language functions through CAI lessons
performed better than those who learnt by the traditional method. Shang (2007) examined the
overall effect of using e-mails on the writing performance of Taiwanese students in English.
Findings showed that students made improvements on syntactic complexity and grammatical
accuracy. The results also revealed that the e-mail writing was a positive strategy that helped
improve their foreign language learning and attitudes towards English.
2.2. Review of Collocation Studies
Probably, in the first systematic attempt to categorize English collocations, Benson, Benson
and Ilson (1997) in their BBI Combinatory Dictionary of English categorized collocations
into two major groups: grammatical collocations and lexical collocations. Grammatical
collocations consist of a noun, an adjective, or a verb plus a preposition or a grammatical
structure (e.g. need to, to be afraid that). Lexical collocations consist of various combinations
of nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs. There are several structural types of lexical
collocations: verb+noun (e.g., inflict a wound), adjective+noun (e.g., heavy drinker),
noun+verb (e.g., water freezes), noun+noun (e.g., a world capital), adverb+adjective (e.g.,
closely related), verb+adverb (e.g., affect deeply).
Hassanabadi (2003) used a multiple-choice test of collocation in order to evaluate the
performance of Iranian EFL learners on lexical and grammatical collocations. Findings
suggested that there was a significant difference between the participants performance on
different subcategories of lexical collocations which was slightly in favor of verb+noun
collocations. Among grammatical collocations, participle+adjective+preposition was the
easiest and preposition+noun was the most difficult.
Zughoul and Abdul-Fattah (2003) investigated the collocational competence of Arab
learners of English using receptive and productive tests of collocation. They found that
although the participants of their study were advanced language learners, they still had
difficulties with collocational sequences. The learners' performance in the receptive task
(multiple-choice test) was significantly better than their performance in the productive task
(translation test). Faghih and Sharafi (2006) also used a multiple choice test of lexical
collocations. The multiple choice test included verb+noun, adjective+noun, and other
collocations. The results indicated that adjective+noun was the most difficult and collective
noun+count noun was the easiest types of collocations.
Shehata (2008) studied the collocational competence of ESL and EFL learners of
English. The ESL group had different non-English majors. The EFL students were studying
English. They were given productive and receptive collocation tests. She found a moderate
positive correlation between learners’ knowledge of collocations and their amount of
exposure to the language. In addition, verb+noun collocations were found to be easier than
adjective+noun collocations and knowledge in receptive test was broader than knowledge in
Chen (2008) investigated the collocational competence of non-English major students.
The participants' scores on English subject of College Entrance Examination were compared
with their performance on a multiple-choice test of collocation including both grammatical
and lexical collocations. The findings showed that verb+noun collocations were the most
difficult lexical collocations, whereas noun + preposition collocations were the most
demanding of grammatical collocations.
Shokouhi and Mirsalari (2010) used a multiple-choice collocation test including
grammatical and lexical collocations. This collocation test was divided into six parts each
devoted to one type of collocations. The results showed that grammatical collocations were
more difficult than lexical collocations for learners to acquire. Among the subcategories of
lexical collocations, noun+verb was the easiest and noun+proposition was the most difficult
to acquire. Noun +proposition collocations were more difficult than preposition+noun
In order to accomplish the objectives of the study, 150 male EFL learners at pre-intermediate
proficiency level were selected through convenience sampling. They were all within the age
range of 20-24. They were learning English at language institutes (Zabansara and Oxford) in
Ahwaz, Iran. The participants were randomly assigned to six classes: asynchronous simple
text (Group A), synchronous simple text (Group B), synchronous simple text with added
graphics (Group C), asynchronous simple text with added graphics (Group D), paper text
(Group E) , and paper text with added graphics (Group F). In order to make sure that the
participants were from the same level of language proficiency, an adopted version of Oxford
Solution Test was utilized. Placement results confirmed that there was no initial difference
between the participants’ receptive knowledge of grammar, vocabulary, and collocations. The
groups which received instructional materials synchronously received the collocations either
through short messages or through chatting online with the teacher. Each group received 30
collocations each week through short messages and spent one hour a week chatting with
teacher online receiving the collocations and responding to the teacher messages. However,
the groups which received the materials asynchronously received 30 e-mails from the teacher
every week. Each mail contained one collocation and the students were required to respond to
each mail. The paper and pencil groups received collocations through pamphlets, each week
30 collocations were given to the students. The instructional sessions lasted 10 weeks.
To carry out the study, three different instruments were used, which are detailed below.
a. Placement test
To explore the homogeneity of the group, a modified version of Oxford Solution Test (OST)
was administered, which constitutes two sections. The first section, adapted from OST,
entailed 50 multiple choice items on grammar and vocabulary. The second section, consisting
of 30 multiple choice items, aimed to test collocations. Of note is that the second part was
adapted from sample TOEFL preparation textbooks. Taken together, the placement test
intended to measure receptive knowledge of collocations, vocabulary, and grammar. It is
noteworthy that some measures were taken to explore the reliability and validity of the
placement test. For example, the content validity of it was examined through expert
judgment. The panel was asked to comment on the appropriacy of the test in terms of
language, content, and level of difficulty. Afterwards, the test was piloted with a group of
students (n = 30) who were at the same level of language proficiency with the participants.
The reliability of the instrument, estimated through KR-21, was acceptably high (85).
The post test was adapted from test preparation textbooks. It consisted of 50 multiple choice
recognition items delineating with the participants’ receptive knowledge of collocation. The
content of the test covered the materials taught during the course. Different types of
collocations including noun+noun, adjective+preposition, verb+ preposition, verb+adverb, and
adjective+noun were tested. Each item consisted of a stem and four options. The participants
were required to select the best choice to fill in the blanks. The reliability of the instrument was
estimated through KR-21 approach. The reliability index was 0.78 which is acceptable.
After selecting the participants, they were assigned to six homogenous groups at random.
Afterwards, each of the groups received a specific treatment on the basis of the procedures
Group A and B were instructed by means of simple texts synchronously and
asynchronously, respectively. That is, Group A received each collocation in different simple
sentences through e-mails (synchronously), but Group B was instructed via short messages
and on-line chatting (asynchronously). Put it differently, they received the same number of
sentences for each of the target collocations through either short messages or on-line chatting.
It should be noted that after each instruction setting, both groups received the same
completion exercises through pertinent instructional tools.
For Groups C and D, the instructional materials were accompanied with relevant
supporting graphics. Group C was instructed synchronously, while it was presented
asynchronously for Group D. Like Group A and B, these two groups received the same
completion exercises after each instructional setting.
The other two groups were instructed through textbooks. Precisely put, Group E was
instructed through text books (Group E received the materials only through simple text)
whereas Group F received the same texts in the same textbook which were accompanied with
pertinent graphics. Furthermore, it should be noted that the same competition exercises used
for the previous groups was given to these two groups but in printed form. Once the
instructional sessions were over, the same posttest consisting of the collocations covered in
the course of the instruction was administered to all groups.
Afterwards, the collected data were entered into SPSS (version 20) and analyzed via
different statistical procedures. Descriptive statistics such as mean, median, and standard
deviations were estimated to summarize the data. Additionally, a Univariate Analysis of
Variances (ANOVA) was run to compare all groups' means on the posttest. Then, through a
post-hoc Scheffe test, the place of differences among different levels of the two factors
(Computer and Multimedia) were detected.
4. Results and Discussion
Results of Placement Test
To compare the mean scores of the participants on the placement test, a one way ANOVA was
run. The results are shown in Tables 1 and 2.
In order to check the homogeneity of variances, the significance value is checked and since it
was 0.1, which exceeds 0.05, the assumption is not violated (Table 1). As the assumption of
the homogeneity of variances was not violated, in the next step, it was checked whether there
was any significant difference between the groups or not. As it is demonstrated in Table 2,
there was no significant difference at the p < .05 level in proficiency test scores for the six
intact classes[ (F 5, 144) = .4, p = .84. This result demonstrates that groups were of the same
level of language proficiency at the beginning of the study (See Table 2).
As shown in Table 3, the mean of the group who received non-computerized instruction
through text (23.1) was the lowest and the mean of the group who received synchronous
computerized text with graphics (44.8) was the highest. Also, the mean score of the group
who received synchronous computerized text (35.8) was different from the mean of the group
who received the same instruction asynchronously (28.9). The results also show that the
mean score of the group who received synchronous computerized text with added graphics
(44.8) was different from the mean of the group who received the same instruction
As there were two factors (computer with three levels, and multimedia with three
levels) and one dependent variable (the participants’ score on the posttest), a Univariate
analysis of the variances (ANOVA) was run. The results are shown in Table 4.
The results in Table 4 show that there was a significant difference between the means of
the participants [F (331), df (5), p=0.001/ p< 0.05]. The results also show that there was a
significant difference between the means of the groups who received instruction through
different multimedia (text and text with added graphics) [F (451), df (2), p=0.001/ p< 0.05].
Results also reveal that there was a significant difference between the groups which received
computerized- mediated instruction and the group which received non-computerized
instruction (paper and book) [F (238), df (2), p=0.001/ p< 0.05]. Moreover, the interaction
between computer and multimedia was significant [F (7.8), df (1), p=0.001/ p< 0.05]. The
results of follow-up post hoc tests (i.e. Tuckey), run to locate the sources of the differences
between the two factors, are portrayed in Tables 5 and 6.
As demonstrated in Table 5, the difference between synchronous and asynchronous
computerized instruction was significant in favor of synchronous computerized instruction
[mean difference = (4.5) p=0.000/ p< 0.05]. The results also show that the difference
between groups which received synchronous computerized instruction and the groups which
received non-computerized instruction was significant [mean difference = (15.8) p=0.000/ p<
0.05]. Moreover, the difference between the groups which received asynchronous
computerized instruction and the groups receiving non-computerized instruction was
significant in favor of asynchronous-computerized instruction [mean difference = (11.3)
p=0.000/ p< 0.05].
As shown in the above table, the difference between the groups who received
instruction through simple text and the groups who received through instruction through text
with added graphics was significant in favor of the group receiving instruction through text
with added graphics (p=0.001/p<0.05).
The main objective of the study was to investigate whether synchronous and asynchronous
multimedia components, text and text with added graphics, had any effects on EFL learners’
learning of collocations. The results of the study indicated that the participants who received
instructional materials through computer had a better performance than the participants who
were not provided with computerized instruction. This finding is compatible with the results
of several scholars (Abraham, 2008; Abrams, 2003; Al-Qumoul, 2005; Liles, 2004; McGlinn
& Parrish, 2002; Safarian & Gorjian 2012; Shang, 2007; Son, 2008) who argued for the use
of technology in teaching. The superiority of computerized instruction can be ascribed to the
fact that CALL can enhance students’ motivation to read (Gallardo-Echenique, et al. 2016).
In fact, due to the raise in motivation, the students were more motivated to read the
instructional materials with a more careful noticing and attention. As Schmidt (2010)
underscored, the level of attention can affect the quality of attention. That is, the higher the
level of motivation, the more profound the quality of attention, and consequently, the learners
have a better opportunity to turn input into intake.
The results also showed that sync-computerized instruction had a more significant
impact on EFL learners’ learning of collocation than asynchronous computerized instruction.
The results of this study are compatible with previous studies (Son, 2008, Rezaei & Zafari,
2010; Tabatabae & Heidari Goojan, 2012) as they pointed out that S-CMC can develop
language learners’ oral proficiency. One possible explanation for the outperformance of sync-CMC
lies in the fact that sync-computerized instruction opened up opportunities for the
participants to negotiate and remove initial ambiguities. In fact, the participants had the time
to ask questions and to co-construct the meaning and use of collocations.
The results also showed that the media of the text with added graphics had more a more
significant impact on the participants’ performance than simple media. The results are in line
with numerous related studies (e.g., Al-Seghayer, 2001; Kim & Gilman, 2008). Therefore, it
could be argued that instructional materials presented in graphics and text can be integrated to
create an authentic and attractive language input for EFL learners (Kim & Gilman, 2008; Sun
& Dong, 2004).
Moreover, in keeping with the findings of the present study and the review of the
literature, it could be concluded that the use of both effective multimedia instruction (Kim &
Gilman, 2008) and technology such as mobile, computer, and internet in language learning
(Traxler, 2006; Tabatabae & Heidari Goojan, 2012) can be very effective in EFL classroom
and it can provide faster and more effective access to instructional materials.
In light of the findings, EFL teachers are recommended to provide their language
learners with opportunities to benefit from different media in their instructional programs;
moreover, they can enrich their instruction by making use of graphics along with text rather
than working on texts without any graphics.