Is Online Software the Next-Generation Textbook in Language Programs?

Girl looking at stack of booksA recent survey by the Babson Survey Research Group showed that over six million students took at least one online course in 2012, and that number seems set to rise. Since courses in this study were defined as those in which at least 80 percent of the course content is delivered online, this six million figure likely only captures a fraction of overall online learning activity.

Before we get too far, let’s first define what blended learning is. Blended learning is any balance of traditional classroom instruction and the use of digital tools to deliver coursework online, and it has the potential to reshape how we think about language learning, not to mention education as a whole. Far from replacing classroom instruction, online tools can be seen as the “next-generation textbook,” supplementing the important work done by language instructors on a daily basis.

At first, this idea seems dubious. It would be difficult to compare online language solutions, like Rosetta Stone language learning, with a traditional language textbook. However, when you consider the role a language textbook serves, a resource used by faculty to support both core instruction and supplementary reinforcement, the idea is not as farfetched as it seems.

Yes, online language-learning solutions have much more functionality than a textbook, with learning tools that incorporate video, audio, and speech-recognition technology, as well as interactive mobile applications, live conversation sessions, and ongoing feedback for the student and their language instructor. But in today’s evolving classroom, it still serves the same role of being a resource that language faculty can use to support both core instruction and supplementary reinforcement.

Utilizing these kinds of technology solutions for language instruction can significantly improve the learning experience as students gain access to more and richer multimedia content, as well as individualized learning options. This corresponds with the preferred learning styles of many current students (who are digital natives), and allows language instructors to focus their time where they are most needed.

Do you think that online learning software is the “next-generation textbook”? How are you using technology to improve the teaching and learning experience in your language courses?

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