Hughes, Jane and McAvinia, Claire and King, Terry
What really makes students like a web site?
What are the implications for designing
web-based language learning sites?
ReCALL, 16 (1).
Faced with reduced numbers choosing to study foreign languages (as in England and Wales), strategies
to create and maintain student interest need to be explored. One such strategy is to create
âtasterâ courses in languages, for potential university applicants. The findings presented arise from
exploratory research, undertaken to inform the design of a selection of web-based taster courses for
less widely taught languages. 687 school students, aged 14-18, were asked to identify a web site that
they liked and to state their main reason for liking it. They were invited to include recreational sites
and told that their answers could help with web design for the taster courses. To explore the reasons,
two focus groups were conducted and student feedback on the developing taster course site was collected.
Students nominated search engines and academic sites, sites dedicated to hobbies, enthusiasms,
youth culture and shopping. They liked them for their visual attributes, usability, interactivity,
support for schoolwork and for their cultural and heritage associations, as well as their content
and functionality. They emerged as sensitive readers of web content, visually aware and with clear
views on how text should be presented. These findings informed design of the taster course site.
They are broadly in line with existing design guidelines but add to our knowledge about school studentsâ
use of the web and about designing web-based learning materials. They may also be relevant
to web design at other levels, for example for undergraduates.
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