The COVID-19 pandemic demanded pedagogical transformation that could engage Chinese English learners in a technology-mediated authentic language learning environment, which in turn challenged learners to develop both self-directed and collaborative learning skills in order to achieve meaningful learning. To understand students’ meaningful online English learning, this study surveyed 529 Chinese university students on their perceptions of authentic language learning (AULL), self-directed learning (SDL), collaborative learning (CL), and their English self-efficacy (ESE) during the online learning period of the COVID-19 pandemic. The validation findings indicated that the survey possessed satisfactory validity and internal consistency. Survey results revealed Chinese university students’ meaningful language learning with technology in an online English course during the COVID-19 pandemic. Structural equation modelling (SEM) unveiled the interconnected relationships among AULL, SDL, CL, and students’ ESE. More importantly, the mediating effects of SDL and CL offered a deeper understanding of language learners’ meaningful online learning process. Results can inform educators about the importance of structuring authentic language learning with SDL and CL for both online and face-to-face learning beyond the pandemic.
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