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Medical students' perception of mobile learning content for their autonomous English study

In this globally connected world, English has become increasingly important for Japanese students to prepare for their future career. This is especially true of medical students because of growing demand for them to understand and use English at conferences and/or workshops and increasing opportunities for them to communicate with other medical staff and patients in English. However, the curricula at medical schools in Japan are so extensive that the time allocated for English classes is usually very limited. This means those classes often do not have the depth or scope to improve medical students’ English communication skills to the level necessary for their future careers. Therefore, language teachers are expected to not only improve their English classes, but also offer effective and attractive self-study courses which enhance students' independent and autonomous study.
The authors of this paper conducted a needs analysis in July 2013 to investigate their medical students’ needs and preference for their independent English study with mobile devices. It showed the students’ expectations towards mobile learning were very high and two-thirds of them were interested in building English vocabulary through mobile learning. Then the authors created mobile learning content according to the survey results and started to deliver the content designed mainly for helping their students review medical terminology. The content was delivered to 242 subscribers twice a week during the period from July 2013 to January 2014. The authors conveyed a survey on their students’ perceptions of the content delivered and it revealed that about half of the students found the content useful for their English study and a majority of them found the difficulty level of the content appropriate. In spite of this positive feedback, the survey results left authors some challenges, one of which was how to keep readers motivated and responsive to mobile learning content. Among 242 subscribers, only 9.5 % of them took medical vocabulary quizzes on average. This may suggest that achieving a high degree of student involvement is very difficult no matter how well mobile learning content is designed. Another challenge for mobile learning content creation is how to meet the need of students with various levels of English.
The authors are conscious that further investigation on how their mobile learning content actually helps learners become motivated to study autonomously is required. However, the authors believe further practice of creating and delivering content and development of measures for evaluating these practices would be valuable in monitoring the effectiveness of their mobile learning content, enhancing learner autonomy and then finally helping them improve their English skills required for their future professions.


Jun Iwata    
Faculty of Medicine
Shimane University

Jun Iwata is a professor of English Language Teaching at School of Medicine, Shimane University, Japan. He teaches English for medical purposes. His research interests include effective use of ICT in English teaching and ESP.

Shudong Wang    
Center for Foreign Language Education
Shimane University

Wang Shudong is an associate professor at The Center for Foreign Language Education, Shimane University, Japan. His research interests include mobile learning and Moodle-based learning.

John Telloyan    
Faculty of Medicine
Shimane University

John Telloyan is a lecturer of English Language Teaching at School of Medicine, Shimane University, Japan. He teaches English for medical purposes. His research interests include EAP and ESP.

John Clayton    
Emerging Technologies Centre
Waikato Institute of Technology
New Zealand

John Clayton is the manager of Emerging Technologies Centre at Waikato Institute of Technology, New Zealand. He is an e-learning educator and researcher with an in-depth knowledge of deploying, using and evaluating e-learning technologies, as well as authoring, describing and storing digitally created materials.


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