2013 College Explorer: What Does it Mean for Language Learning

Diverse College Student on TabletMarketing agency re:fuel recently released highlights from its 2013 College Explorer report that looks into both student spending and technology use. Was there any information that language instructors and institutions planning language programs should know about? We think so.

Most relevant highlights for language learning:

  1. The number of students taking at least one online course has increased 96% in the past five years — and jumped from 23% to 45% in the past year alone. The report didn’t cover blended learning, so the exposure of students to online learning tools is likely even higher. Students in language courses may come to expect digital platforms as part of the offering.
  2. While more than half (59%) of students bought printed textbooks, 19% purchased digital books to be read on tablets and e-book readers. The comfort level students have with electronic textbooks — which increasingly offer far more than a simple digital version of their printed counterparts — indicate an overall openness or demand for increasing technology.
  3. 85% of students brought laptops to campus; the average student arrived with 6.9 electronic devices. Gaming consoles, MP3 players, and printers were the next most common, but smartphones (at 69% already) are the device students indicated they would be most likely to buy in the coming year. Desktops were not even mentioned in this survey, revealing the shift towards mobile devices of all kinds — and the technologies and learning tools that work on them.

Online solutions such as Rosetta Stone language learning are well-suited to meet the learning needs and styles of this multitasking, multi-device generation.

These students are increasingly used to doing everything digitally (47% use laptops for taking notes in class and 13% report using smartphones for this purpose), as well as receiving rich media in manageable, bite-sized pieces.

They have been — and are likely to increasingly be — eager adopters of online tools that support classroom learning with speech-recognition technology, engaging coursework, and opportunities for social learning.

How do you think the rapid movement towards online learning and mobile technology will impact language learning and instruction in the next five years?

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