The impact of medium of instruction on the learning of computer applications technology in tertiary education
This study investigated the impact of medium of instruction (MOI) on the learning of computer technology, and took place in two second-language contexts where this was being taught. The first context was that of Computer Applications Technology (CAT) lectures given to isiZulu-speaking students, mainly female, in KwaZulu-Natal. The second context was that of teaching Instructional Technology (IT) to Arabic speaking students in the Middle East. The goal of this research was to understand how students overcame any language barriers which they might face in the teaching and learning of computer technology through the medium of English. It was hoped that the insights gained might be used to support English second language (ESL) learners in acquiring the language skills necessary for effective learning of computer technology. The research approach used was action research for both the groups, using the data collected to construct two case studies, as local customs resulted in differences in both course delivery and measures to assist ESL learners to gain fluency in the MOI. Data were collected in two case studies, comprising notes of personal reflections, field notes, researcher-developed questionnaires and comparisons of translated assessments to second language learners. The finding from two groups could then be compared and contrasted with each other to see which language barriers experienced in learning computer technology were common to both ESL groups and which were context-specific, as well as which context-specific factors might be involved. The study of different cultural groups in the setting of a different continent provided the opportunity to triangulate the data, and thus achieve more reliability and validity than would be achieved with one cultural group in a common context. This study discusses the findings of the above-mentioned investigation in two main areas: how the MOI affected the academic results obtained by students and how it impacted on their learning capacity. The findings confirm the fact that, the earlier children attend an English medium school, the easier it is for them to achieve better results, and therefore there is less need for translation or interpretation at tertiary level. Further research is required to determine what Higher Education institutions could do to develop second language learning competences so as to facilitate the learning of technical subjects such as computer technology.