Director of Studies at ILS International Language School in Milan, Italy.
Introduced education tool Voxy and EdTech in ELT in Milan.
The way we learn and communicate in the 21st century has changed. Therefore, digital competencies have become the norm in many life and work settings.
Looking back, we see that writing implements, the printing press, computers and the telephone revolutionized how we communicate and how we learn. Tools often start as a way to accomplish as task, but then they can then create a new way of communicating once they establish a point of no return. Obviously, teaching methods that do not take digital learning into account will risk becoming obsolete. They may even alienate students, especially younger learners, who come into educational settings with a new set of expectations.
Technology shaping the modern classroom
Technology must give added value, otherwise it is just smoke and mirrors. It is always a means to an end, not the end itself. Technology can cater for different learning styles. Providing information in various formats allows students who are visual, auditory, experiential, or reflective to interact with resources at their own pace. When used in Blended learning approaches it allows students to have a group classroom moment and also individual moments online or on electronic resources that allow for increased individualization of the learning experience.
Using technology to improve communication in the classroom
Technological innovations like online learning platforms allow for certain communications to happen outside the classroom (asynchronous communication). This has the advantage of permitting student-teacher and student-student exchanges that would be impossible in the classroom. This could allow teachers to extend discussion beyond the time constraints of the classroom. It also allows students who are less likely to speak up in the classroom the chance to speak out online.
New education technologies on the market: Artificial Intelligence
Trends like MOOCs and Moodle have allowed mass access to education resources at a reduced cost.
One of the top trends currently is the use of artificial intelligence in online learning resources. AI allows for extreme personalization of resources. It also allows providers to create a variety of learning resources that would be nearly impossible for humans to create in a reasonably short timeframe.
In fact, when online learning came out, the dream was to provide more standardized learning at a scale. This meant that the same resources were shared by electronic means to a large group of people. This had the result of “deleting” the personalization that a teacher could provide real-time in the classroom by reacting to student needs.
The new generation of learning tools based on AI provides learning “at a scale” but with the added value of true personalization. So what is AI? AI is technology in computer software based on complex algorithms that can make decisions independently. In other words, the algorithms can gather information on the user, elaborate it and then decide which resources to offer the learner.
Already existing solutions
A great example of this technology in the field of language learning is Voxy. Voxy is the only online learning platform that uses AI to truly personalize the learning experience. As a result, students who need to learn English get an individualized instruction online through authentic resources tailored around their needs. No two students will have the same learner journey.
They can get real-time interaction and feedback through live online lessons with teachers, or combine the platform with face to face lessons in blended learning programs.
Voxy provides unlimited resources to increase exposure to the language. It also uses Micro Learning trends to provide short communicative tasks that can be completed on mobile devices.
Students need to improve their English, not repeat formulas in books.
ILS Milan is the first provider of Voxy in Italy, and official partner of this New York-based platform. We have pioneered its introduction into modern English learning programs.
Learning analytics currently available
Online learning platforms provide a host of analytics. All activity online can be traced and later analyzed. The more fine-grained the analytics are, the more information teachers and administrators will have access to. Voxy, for example, provides detailed analytics on each language skill, periodic testing results, final testing data and feedback from human teachers from online lessons.
Digital Learning can be measured by choosing a variety of metrics. It is best to establish the desired outcome of the online learning path. Once the outcome has been established, a learning designer can establish milestones, checkpoints and KPI parameters. They will allow evaluating the progress at the end of the path.
In the case of online language learning using a platform, the metrics often focus on learning objectives in terms of improving or maintaining a language level. So an initial online assessment sets the baseline. Then regular assessments track progress and a final assessment can determine whether or not the objective was reached.
How to evaluate the progress
The best assessment tools are computer adaptive, which means they react to the learner. Standard tests that are the same for each student are less effective and more time-consuming. In addition, adaptive assessment allows the testing tool to hone in on a student’s level of knowledge more quickly and accurately.
Voxy offers a completely adaptive online level assessment tool. It measures overall English level and also sub levels for each language skill (listening, speaking, reading and writing). The test is taken at the beginning, at check points and at the end of the study period. This revised objective measurement of improvement.
Another KPI parameter can be “time on task”. In this case, the system analytics provide time-based data on platform usage. So if it is determined that optimal platform usage should be 2 hours per week, then this parameter can be tracked. It can also be split up into smaller units. For example, 30 one to one live video lesson, 1 hour self-study on listening and reading tasks, 15 minutes on grammar guide and 15 minutes on Word Bank.
Any successful digital learning resource must have detailed metrics on the learner’s usage of the resource. And the metrics must contain parameters that are meaningful for a final evaluation of the learner’s progress.
Online tracking that provides aggregate data can be very useful for getting an overall view of a certain learner population.
The teachers can access detailed information that can reduce bias in classroom evaluations. We see a reduction in bias due to more objective results compared to student progress.
Self-learning is an important trend that students need to develop. The world of corporate training is moving away from directly learning paths. It is moving towards digital learning tools that allow for knowledge sharing. Co-workers are encouraged to make their accumulated knowledge available to others. The approach ensures that the wealth of knowledge each person possesses does not go to waste. Knowledge sharing requires new skills however. These skills include the ability to navigate more complex systems and choose the information required. AI technology can help through the specifics of machine learning. The tool gets to know the user and can start proposing the information the user needs, when they need it.