Digital, Self-Regulated Vocabulary Learning and Device Control In Out-Of-Class, Higher Education Settings

Author First name, Last name, Institution

Michael Bowles, Zayed University

Document Type


Source of Publication

Electronic Journal of e-Learning

Publication Date



Self-regulation of learning behaviour is particularly important when it comes to vocabulary learning for academic purposes in a second language because it often needs to be done on a regular and consistent basis and mostly in out-of-class, self-directed settings to be successful. Self-regulation is also vital when this learning takes place using digital activities on smartphones because these are now ubiquitous devices and deeply embedded in both daily life and higher education settings. Features such as notifications from social media applications can end up distracting students from their academic tasks unless they have the capacity to manage and control their behaviour. This naturalistic, mixed methods study conducted with students on an academic English foundation course in a higher education context aimed to measure their capacity for self-regulated vocabulary learning through technology before and after 10 weeks of intentional digital vocabulary learning in out-of-class settings and to see if there was any difference between learning on a laptop and a smartphone. The purpose of this study was to find out if device control was a relevant dimension of self-regulation, which is an under-researched area. The study collected quantitative data through a recently developed self-report survey tool, and differences in scores were measured using Wilcoxon signed-rank tests. Qualitative data was also collected from students through paired-depth interviews, and this was analysed using typological analysis. The results revealed that the students’ self-reported capacity for self-regulated vocabulary learning through laptops was significantly higher than their capacity for self-regulated vocabulary learning through smartphones. In addition, commitment regulation when using a smartphone decreased significantly over the 10-week period primarily due to distractions from social media notifications. At the same time, students were aware of when to use each device for different types of learning activities and under different temporal and spatial conditions. Overall, this study showed that device control should be considered an additional dimension of a model of digital, self-regulated vocabulary learning and should also be incorporated into future research in the field of e-learning. In addition, students in higher education need to be given more guidance about the benefits and drawbacks of different devices and how to develop their capacity and strategies for greater device self-regulation.




Academic Conferences International Ltd





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Digital devices, Digital vocabulary learning, Laptops, Self-regulated e-Learning, Smartphones

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Indexed in Scopus


Open Access


Open Access Type

Gold: This publication is openly available in an open access journal/series