Comparing the efficacy of digital flashcards versus paper flashcards to improve receptive and productive L2 vocabulary

Gilbert Dizon, Daniel Tang


Several researchers have compared the efficacy of digital flashcards (DFs) versus paper flashcards (PFs) to improve L2 vocabulary and have concluded that using DFs is more effective (Azabdaftari & Mozaheb, 2012; Başoğlu & Akdemir, 2010; Kiliçkaya & Krajka, 2010). However, these studies did not utilize vocabulary learning strategies (VLSs) as a way to support the vocabulary development of those using PFs. This is significant because DFs often offer a range of features to promote vocabulary development, whereas PFs are much more basic; thus, learners who study via paper materials are at a disadvantage compared with those who use DFs. Given the success that VLSs have had in fostering L2 vocabulary enhancement (e.g., Mizumoto & Takeuchi, 2009), their incorporation could have influenced the previous studies. Therefore, one of the primary aims of this study was to find if there were significant differences in receptive and productive L2 vocabulary improvements between students who used PFs in conjunction with 3 VLSs – dropping, association, and oral rehearsal – and those who used the DF tools Quizlet and Cram. Additionally, the researchers examined the learners’ opinions to see if there was a preference for either study method. A total of 52 EFL students at two Japanese universities participated in the 12-week study. Pre- and post-tests were administered to measure the vocabulary gains in the PF group (n = 26) and the DF group (n = 26). Results from a paired t-test revealed that both groups made significant improvements in receptive and productive vocabulary. However, the difference between the gains was not significant, which contrasts with past comparison studies of DFs and PFs and highlights the importance of VLSs. A 10-item survey with closed and Likert-scale questions was also administered to determine the participants’ opinions towards the study methods. Higher levels of agreement were found in the experimental group, indicating that the students viewed DFs more favorably than PFs.


L2 vocabulary; flashcards; computer-assisted language learning; EFL

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