When “Blended” Becomes “Online”

A Data-Driven Study on the Change of Self-Directed Engagement During COVID-19


  • Dennis Foung The University of British Columbia
  • Julia Chen The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
  • Linda Lin The Hong Kong Polytechnic University




English for Academic Purposes, Learning Analytics, Self-regulated learning, Blended learning, Multimodal Online Activities


With the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, many universities shifted to online teaching. However, some online instruction had already been implemented well before the pandemic. This study investigates (1) how engagement in blended CALL activities differed during the pandemic, and (2) in what ways the assessment outcomes were associated with student engagement during the pandemic. The study was conducted in an English for academic purposes (EAP) course at a Hong Kong university that had already implemented blended learning for several years. Adopting an analytics-based approach, 469,286 data logs in a learning management system were analyzed to measure students’ engagement and their respective self-directed behavior. The retrieved student data covered the time both before and during the pandemic. Our findings reveal that students were primarily engaged for assessment purposes; however, those in the pandemic cohort demonstrated better self-directed behavior, such as early and regular engagement. Although the results indicated a relatively strong association between student engagement and course outcomes, the students during the pandemic seem to have managed their learning more effectively.

Author Biographies

  • Dennis Foung, The University of British Columbia

    Dennis Foung is a research writing teacher at the University of British Columbia, Canada. He holds a doctorate in language education and a Cambridge Delta (Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). He has a keen interest in computer-assisted language learning and learning analytics.

  • Julia Chen, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

    Julia Chen is the Director of the Educational Development Centre at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. She has overseen the development of numerous EAP/ESP courses and coordinated a thorough quality review that included the EAP courses reported in this article. Her research interests include curriculum review and English across the curriculum.

  • Linda Lin, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

    Linda Lin holds a PhD in applied linguistics. She works for the English Language Centre of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. She has been involved in a number of large-scale research projects. Her research interests include vocabulary studies, corpus analysis, and applications of concordancing in teaching and learning.


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How to Cite

Foung, D., Chen, J., & Lin, L. (2022). When “Blended” Becomes “Online”: A Data-Driven Study on the Change of Self-Directed Engagement During COVID-19. CALICO Journal, 39(1), 1-25. https://doi.org/10.1558/cj.19666