What will the language education of the future look like? Forced at home because of COVID-19, we have already seen a sneak peek.
According to UNESCO data, school closure in March 2020 affected about 80% of the student population in the world. The only tool to allow the continuation of education has been online teaching, both in compulsory and informal education (private lessons, professional updating courses and so on).
Although a vaccine against COVID-19 will allow us to regain many of the habits of the old normality, it is equally true that the pandemic has accelerated deep transformations in teaching, and in particular with regard to language teaching.
Online learning will not replace educational institutions as we have come to know them, but it is destined to increasingly shape the future of the education industry.
A long-term transformation
The shift towards online education, however, it is not recent. Nor is it only a consequence of the unprecedented conditions imposed by the pandemic.
In fact, already in 2019 the mobile learning market was worth USD 20 billion. As far as the language learning industry is concerned, online language learning market growth is poised to be USD 5.13 worth by 2024.
This data suggest that the root causes for the growth of online education are profound and must be sought beyond the current health emergency. Among the long-term phenomena that drive the development of online language learning, there are:
- The widespread digital adoption.
- The socio-economic need for cross border connectivity which multilingualism can serve.
- The increasing combination of immersive technology and e-learning which is making remote education more engaging by the day.
In addressing the question of the transformation of language education, a central aspect is the relationship between the human and the technological-digital component.
Language learning is a valuable component of modern cultural and professional skill sets. In this context, the element of human interaction will not disappear. On the contrary, it will remain the foundation and ultimate cause of language learning and education in general.
Technology, no matter how immersive, cannot replace people, let alone a good teacher.
On the other hand, one of the characteristics of future language teaching is the interpenetration between human and technological elements.
Three technology trends to look out for in language education
Language education software and mobile learning
Ubiquity, personalization and user-friendly interactions are the features that make language education softwares the winning tools in future language education. They allow for practicing foreign languages using content that best suits individual learning style. Moreover, they are always at the user’s disposal.
Language softwares benefit both the student’s learning experience and the practical management of the class by the teacher. Creating a learning environment that is effective for students as well as easily manageable by the teacher is, for example, one of the key features of Reactored.
Another important “brick” of the virtual classroom are apps. Although less complex than language learning software, apps are contributing in introducing innovative forms of interaction between teachers and students.
It is interesting to note the effort made by some manufacturers of language learning apps to make their products more dynamic and interactive, for example by exploiting virtual reality or augmented reality.
Which brings us to the second trend to keep an eye on.
Let’s get used to seeing more and more language learning platforms leveraging a blend of real and digital. Immersive technology is a particularly powerful language learning support tool in that it combines virtual immersion and personal interaction. The result of this combination is the creation of stimulating and safe learning environments. As noted by Ben Davies, project management for English at Babbel:
Immersive technology allows students to practice their language skills online, in an environment that provides them with space to make mistakes, without embarrassment, as many times as they want.
One of the big assets of virtual reality in language education is the opportunity to engage students in real-life contexts that draws on a plurality of media: images, sounds and writing.
A particularly promising example in this sense are language virtual tours, which allow to practice foreign languages in realistic virtual settings. These scenarios can be more or less exotic – ranging from interactions with locals in a European capital to real tours of world-famous cultural heritage sites.
The use of Big Data is an established reality in higher education, where the analysis of high-volume data streams is supporting universities’ management and decision-making. For instance, in several US universities enrollment and recruiting are largely based on data-driven management. But the insight provided by Big Data can go into even more detail, for example by analyzing the composition of the student population, allowing to design academic programs based on its needs.
Supervising the students that are on track with their studies and those that are at risk instead is another fundamental application of Big Data analytics into the educational field.
In this regard, data analytics provides a powerful instrument to “measure, monitor and respond” to students’ performance, allowing teachers to reassess the teaching methods on the basis of students’ learning style.
When it comes to language learning, analytics might be the right source of information to look at in order to identify those factors which support language acquisition and those which hinder it instead. The teacher thus has a substantial amount of information to develop study materials optimized for the student’s characteristics and needs.
Big Data could hence become the basis on which to build increasingly sophisticated personalized language learning strategies.
These trends are of course only a small portion of the technological innovations that have an impact in the language education sector. Moreover, they are set to transform not only the toolkit of language teaching, but also its spaces and delivery methods.
Therefore, we can also expect an increase in the diffusion of blended learning offers. In blended learning, student-teacher interaction is enhanced by the possibility of accessing online study resources. If well designed, blended learning will be one of the best opportunities to enrich the educational offer.
Sanako: at the forefront of language learning evolution
Since 1961 Sanako has developed a pioneering approach to language teaching software. The cornerstone of the vision behind Sanako’s products has always been the combination of technological innovation and pedagogical rigor.
Guided by the globally renowned Finnish learning model, Sanako’s philosophy has been translated into a process of testing and improving a cutting-edge language learning technology built on a solid teaching methodology.
The result are products that are accessible, guarantee educational freedom and customized approaches to language learning. On top of that, Sanako’s solutions promote the interaction between the teacher and the students.
Sanako develops instruments that exploit technology in order to strengthen teachers’ didactic efforts and enhance their ability to monitor each students’ progress.
At Sanako we believe that technology should be at the service of human interaction. After all, the goal is to bring people closer together by overcoming communication barriers.
Therefore, it is part of our daily mission to study solutions that use education technology to support the cultural and social development of human communities. The Sanako Language Ambassadors program plays an important role in this respect.
The aim of the Language Ambassadors project is to support language teachers in developing countries by providing them with a free trial of Reactored, in the belief that this software will help teachers to better manage the classroom and provide new content to students.
Check out the video below to get an idea of what are the aims of the program and reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you think you are eligible for applying!
C. Rogers, Is immersive tech the future of language learning?, Education Technology
E. Zimmerman, What Can Real-Time Data Analytics Do for Higher Education?, EdTech Magazine
G. Mariani, 10 ways colleges use analytics to increase student success, eCampusNews
J. Kim, Learning Analytics and Campus Instructional Design Teams, Inside Higher Ed
J. Yamisha, Using VR and AR to Learn a Foreign Language, Optilingo
S. Hubackova, I. Semradova, B. Frydrychova Klimova, Blended Learning In A Foreign Language Teaching, Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 28/2011, pp. 281-285
U. M. Koivula, Virtual Tours in Language Learning: Three reasons why they make sense, Medium
Are you a language teacher dedicated to inspiring others? Check out the rest of the Language Ambassadors blog!