Filter by tag

  • A woman on her phone travelling outdoors
    • Technology and the future

    The future of remote learning & its role in preparing students for future careers

    By Pearson Languages
    Reading time: 5 minutes

    The future of remote learning still holds significant potential in preparing students for future careers by leveraging advanced technologies, fostering flexibility and accessibility, promoting lifelong learning, facilitating global collaboration, emphasizing soft skills, personalizing learning experiences, integrating industry partnerships, and ensuring ethical and responsible use of technology. A significant number of students are enrolled in online courses, and many institutions continue to expand their online offerings with many institutions at least offering some part of their learning online. 

    By embracing these opportunities and addressing challenges proactively, remote learning can play a vital role in equipping students with the knowledge, skills and mindset needed to thrive in a rapidly evolving job market. With jobs moving away from the bricks-and-mortar workplace, tomorrow's job opportunities will have fewer physical and geographical restrictions, so if you can work from anywhere in the world, you can also learn anywhere in the world.

    Here's how remote learning integrates into this evolution, by enforcing these things: 

    Flexibility and accessibility

    Remote learning provides flexibility in scheduling and accessibility to educational resources, allowing students to balance learning with other commitments such as work or family responsibilities. This flexibility mirrors the dynamic nature of many future careers, where adaptability and time management are essential skills. It also allows people who may otherwise not be able to attend a traditional institution in person the same opportunity to learn. 

    Digital literacy and technological proficiency

    Remote learning requires students to navigate various digital platforms, tools and resources, fostering digital literacy and technological proficiency. These skills are increasingly vital in virtually every industry, as technology continues to transform the way we work and communicate. 

    Self-directed learning and autonomy

    Remote learning often encourages self-directed learning, where students take greater responsibility for their education, set learning goals, and manage their progress independently. This cultivates autonomy and self-motivation, qualities highly valued in the modern workplace, where employees are expected to take initiative and drive their own professional development. 

    Global perspective and cultural competence

    Remote learning platforms facilitate collaboration and interaction among students from diverse cultural backgrounds and geographical locations. Engaging with peers from around the world fosters a global perspective, cultural competence, and cross-cultural communication skills, essential for success in an increasingly interconnected and globalized workforce. 

    Collaboration and teamwork skills

    While remote, students often participate in group projects, discussions and virtual teamwork exercises, honing their collaboration and communication skills in digital environments. These skills are invaluable in many careers, where collaboration across distributed teams and effective virtual communication are becoming increasingly common. 

    Problem-solving and critical thinking

    Remote learning activities often emphasize problem-solving, critical thinking and analytical skills as students engage with complex challenges and real-world scenarios. These cognitive skills are essential for navigating uncertainty and innovation in future careers, where the ability to analyze information, think critically and propose creative solutions is highly prized.

    Adaptability to changing technologies and industries

    Remote learning exposes students to a variety of digital tools, software and online platforms, helping them adapt to rapidly changing technologies and industries. By staying abreast of emerging trends and mastering new tools, students develop a mindset of lifelong learning and adaptability, crucial for success in careers that continually evolve. 

    Professional networking and career development

    Remote learning platforms often provide opportunities for students to connect with industry professionals, mentors and alumni networks, expanding their professional network and gaining insights into potential career paths. Building relationships with professionals in their field of interest can open doors to internships, job opportunities and career guidance, facilitating a smoother transition from education to employment. 

    The future of remote learning is poised to undergo significant transformations driven by technological advancements, evolving educational paradigms and societal shifts. Here are just some key trends that may shape the future of remote learning…

    Hybrid learning models

    As we move forward, we're likely to see a blend of traditional classroom instruction and remote learning, known as hybrid learning. This model offers flexibility for both students and educators, allowing them to leverage the benefits of in-person interaction while also harnessing the advantages of remote technologies for convenience, accessibility and personalized learning experiences. 

    Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)

    VR and AR technologies are expected to play a more prominent role in remote learning, offering immersive and interactive experiences that simulate real-world environments. These technologies can transport students to historical sites, enable hands-on experiments in science labs, and facilitate collaborative problem-solving activities, enhancing engagement and understanding. 

    Artificial intelligence (AI) and adaptive learning

    AI-powered tools can analyze vast amounts of data to personalize learning experiences, identify individual strengths and weaknesses, and offer targeted interventions. Adaptive learning platforms can adjust the pace, content and instructional methods based on each student's learning preferences and performance, optimizing learning outcomes and promoting mastery of concepts. 

    Microlearning and bite-sized content

    With attention spans decreasing and the demand for just-in-time learning increasing, microlearning—delivering content in small, digestible chunks—is gaining popularity. Microlearning modules, delivered through mobile devices and online platforms, enable learners to access relevant information quickly, retain knowledge more effectively, and apply it immediately in real-world contexts. 

    Gamification and interactive content

    Gamification elements such as badges, leaderboards and rewards can enhance motivation, engagement and retention in remote learning environments. Interactive content, such as simulations, quizzes and branching scenarios, not only makes learning more enjoyable but also facilitates active participation, critical thinking and skill development. 

    Social learning and collaboration tools

    Remote learning platforms will continue to integrate social learning features such as discussion forums, group projects and peer feedback mechanisms. Collaboration tools like video conferencing, instant messaging and shared document editing enable synchronous and asynchronous communication, fostering interaction, teamwork and community building among students and educators. 

    Data-driven decision making

    The collection and analysis of learning analytics data will enable educators and administrators to gain insights into student progress, engagement levels and learning preferences. By leveraging data-driven decision-making processes, institutions can identify areas for improvement, personalize interventions and optimize instructional strategies to enhance student success and retention rates. 

    Continued emphasis on equity and inclusion

    As remote learning becomes more prevalent, it's crucial to address issues of access, digital literacy, and socioeconomic disparities. Efforts to bridge the digital divide, provide equitable access to technology and resources, and create inclusive learning environments for diverse populations will be essential in shaping the future of remote learning. 

    In summary, by leveraging the opportunities provided by remote learning, students, job seekers and career changers can develop the skills and competencies needed to thrive in a dynamic and rapidly changing job market.

  • A teacher stood by two young students looking at a computer monitor
    • Language teaching
    • Technology and the future

    The potential of AI in English language teaching

    By Pearson Languages
    Reading time: 6 minutes

    The integration of Artificial Intelligence systems (AI) into English language teaching represents a significant shift in educational methodologies. This emerging technology offers English teachers a myriad of opportunities to enhance their teaching strategies, making the learning process more engaging, personalized and effective. In this blog post, we will explore practical tips on how AI can aid English language teaching and empower both educators and learners.

    One noteworthy reference highlighting AI's impact on education is the report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 'Digital Education Outlook 2023'.  This comprehensive study outlines how AI technologies, assists administrative and assessment aspects of teaching but also revolutionizes the way students learn. AI tools are paving the way for a more adaptable and learner-centric approach in English language teaching by offering bespoke, adaptive learning pathways and instant feedback.

    How is AI currently being used in schools?

    Currently, schools are just beginning to harness the power of AI to enhance English language learning in several innovative ways. One notable application of educational technology is the use of intelligent tutoring systems, which provide students with personalized feedback and learning paths tailored to their individual needs and proficiency levels.

    Additionally, AI-driven language learning apps and platforms have become increasingly popular, offering interactive and immersive learning experiences through natural language processing and machine learning technologies.

    These platforms can simulate conversation practice, offer pronunciation correction, and even adapt the content in real-time to challenge students appropriately.

    Furthermore, AI is also being used for administrative tasks, such as grading and assessing students' work, allowing teachers more time to focus on curriculum development and one-on-one student interaction. This integration of AI into English language teaching is enhancing the efficiency of learning processes and actively contributing to a more engaging and dynamic educational environment.

    How AI can enhance English language teaching

    Personalization at scale

    AI systems can analyze individual student learning styles and preferences, allowing for personalized lesson plans that cater to the unique needs of every student. By customizing content, pacing and learning activities, AI ensures that students remain engaged and receive targeted support, significantly improving learning outcomes.

    Interactive learning experiences

    AI-powered applications, educational games and tools can create immersive and interactive language learning experiences. From chatbots that simulate conversation, to platforms that offer real-time feedback on pronunciation, these tools can help students to practice speaking and listening skills in a controlled and safe environment outside the traditional classroom setting.

    Autonomous learning support

    With the assistance of AI, students can self-study more effectively. AI tutoring systems can provide instant feedback on written work, ensuring learners can progress even when a teacher isn't immediately available to teach. These systems offer consistent, unbiased support, which is invaluable for building students' confidence.

    Enhanced assessment capabilities

    Assessment is a crucial part of the learning process. AI can take on the laborious task of grading and provide detailed insights into a student's performance. Teachers can then use this data to identify areas where students struggle and tailor future instruction to address these gaps.

    Expanding the creative horizons

    AI's applications extend into creative writing, offering students prompts and suggestions to overcome writer's block and develop storylines. This enhances creativity and motivation in students by providing them with a springboard for their writing skills.

    Utilizing ChatGPT in language teaching

    ChatGPT, an AI language model, can aid and save time on the way language lessons are conducted by creating a highly interactive and responsive environment for students. Teachers can harness this technology to simulate real-life conversations, enabling students to practice their language skills in a dynamic setting. Students can also be encouraged to use it to start first drafts and use their critical thinking.

    By inputting specific scenarios or topics, ChatGPT can generate dialogues that challenge and teach students how to use new vocabulary and grammar structures in context, bridging the gap between theoretical learning and practical application. Furthermore, its capacity to provide immediate feedback allows learners to correct their mistakes in real time, fostering a learning atmosphere that is both efficient and encouraging.

    The versatility of these kinds of AI chatbots means they can be tailored to suit learners at different proficiency levels, making them an invaluable tool for language teachers aiming to enhance engagement and facilitate deeper learning.

    Tips for teachers integrating AI in English lessons

    1. Start with a clear goal: define what you aim to achieve by incorporating AI into your lessons.
    2. Combine traditional and AI methods: use AI as a complement, not a substitute, for human interaction.
    3. Prioritize privacy and ethics: ensure any AI tools used are compliant with privacy laws and ethical standards.
    4. Stay updated: AI is a fast-evolving field. Attend professional development webinars and workshops to stay current.
    5. Foster a growth mindset: encourage students to view AI as a tool to aid their own effort and perseverance.
    6. Demystify technology: explain how AI works, alleviating any concerns or misapprehensions about its use.
    7. Experiment and iterate: not every AI application will suit your classroom – be prepared to try different tools and approaches.

    What about cheating and plagiarism with AI?

    The issue of cheating and plagiarism is a significant concern in our higher education institutions and is becoming more pronounced with the advent of AI technologies. However, AI itself can be a formidable ally in combating these challenges. AI-powered tools can analyze student submissions to detect plagiarism effectively, providing educators with robust mechanisms to ensure the integrity of academic work. Additionally, AI systems can be programmed to recognize students' unique writing styles, making it easier to identify discrepancies that suggest dishonesty.

    It's important for educators to discuss these topics openly with students, emphasizing the value of originality and the serious consequences of academic misconduct. By leveraging AI not just for educational enhancement but also as a means of maintaining academic standards, educators can foster a culture of honesty and integrity within the classroom.

    The AI webinar series for English teachers

    To fully unlock the potential of AI in the world of English language teaching, continuous learning is a must. We're excited to introduce an upcoming webinar series that will guide English teachers through the nuances of AI:

    Featured webinar series: Unlocking the potential of AI in English language learning

    From March 11 to March 15, 2024, join us for a series of engaging webinars designed for English teachers. Delve into various topics including generative AI, speaking practice, ethics and storytelling.

    Benefit from insights shared by experts like Ken Beatty, Kacper Łodzikowski, Magdalena Kania, Billie Jago and Ilya Gogin. Plus, earn a professional development certificate for your participation.

    Webinar sessions:

    • Artificial Intelligence: Shining Light in the Language Classroom – get an overview of AI in language learning and best practices for integration.
    • A Teachers' Guide to Safe and Ethical AI Usage for Learners – gain insights into safe and ethical AI integration in the classroom.
    • Practice English Speaking with AI – learn how to use AI to build learners' confidence in speaking.
    • AI and Storytelling – harness AI's power to inspire creativity and improve narrative skills.
    • Teaching in the Age of AI – prepare for the educational evolution with actionable tips.

    Join us as we explore the frontiers of AI in education and discuss how to prepare for the evolving educational landscape. It's time to equip yourself with the knowledge and tools required to thrive in an AI-influenced educational environment.

  • Students sat outdoors writing in notepads smiling
    • Technology and the future
    • Linguistics and culture

    Why learning a language is better than using machine translation

    By Pearson Languages

    Reading time: 7 minutes

    As technology and AI translation tools continue to advance, it's becoming increasingly tempting to rely on them for language-related tasks. However, this can potentially undermine motivation to learn a new language when technology seems to offer a shortcut. While machine translation can be helpful, it also has its limitations. 

    Learning a language goes beyond just communication; it opens the door to different cultures, mindsets, and perspectives of the world. Machine translation, despite its efficiency, cannot replicate the cultural immersion that comes with learning a language. Spoken language nuances, idiomatic expressions, cultural references, and implicit rules that are second nature to native speakers are often lost in translation. Let's delve deeper into why learning a language is better than solely relying on machine translation.

  • People sat in a office, one with a VR headset on smiling and gesturing with the other two watching
    • Technology and the future

    The impact of AI on language learning

    By Pearson Languages

    Recently, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has shown itself to be a useful and breakthrough tool for many things, including language learning. Educators, learners and businesses are constantly seeking effective methods to impart language skills and AI-powered solutions have proved to be invaluable assets in this regard.

    The impact of AI on language learning is multifaceted, presenting opportunities as well as challenges for educators, learners and corporate entities. According to a Microsoft survey, many institutions say that AI will be instrumental to improving their competitiveness, funding, and innovation.

    It is a widely discussed topic nowadays. While it has its advantages, there are also some drawbacks to consider.

  • A man and woman sat in a meeting room smiling
    • Technology and the future

    The ultimate guide to learning management systems

    By Pearson Languages

    You may have heard the term learning management system (LMS) at work or perhaps during your time in education. For many, this throws out images of clunky, outdated systems that clumsily distribute course materials and are tough to use. But that is no longer the case. Modern LMS's are far more user-friendly, and it's time to relearn what you thought you knew about these tools. 

    In this ultimate guide, we will look at everything you need to know about learning management systems and why they are so beneficial. 

    What is a learning management system?

    A learning management system is a digital platform or software as a service (SaaS) solution that is used to create, organize and distribute online courses. 

    The idea is that these LMS platforms offer one central place for users to manage and access courses and learning materials. Depending on the user, this could be anything from self-paced e-courses to classroom training. 

    This can help facilitate a range of training, studying and skills development, as well as assessments, exams and certification management. 

    Who uses LMS's and why? 

    There are many great uses for learning management systems but these are used primarily by businesses and educational establishments. Here are some of the most common use cases for these platforms: 

    • HR and management - The HR and management team might implement these across the business to help with learning and development and make sure that organizational goals are being hit

    • Employee onboarding - Those starting a new job may be given training via an LMS; this can make the onboarding process much quicker and simpler 

    • Compliance training - Lots of roles require compliance training, for example health and safety training, and this is a great way for businesses to stay up to date and ensure everyone complies with regulations 

    • Customer support - Some businesses use learning management systems to onboard customers or clients. This might include sharing user manuals and product guides. Plus, sales professionals might also use them to train new partners or clients in using their services or platforms. 

    • Classroom learning - Lecturers and teachers can create and share course materials and align content and tests from one place. These can also be used to put a twist on traditional classroom learning. 

    • Blended learning - Schools, colleges and universities may use these for online lessons and blended learning, particularly for remote students 

    • Volunteer training - Charities and non-profits may also use an LMS to educate volunteers and keep them motivated about the cause 

    Of course, these platforms can and will be used in other ways, but these are some of the most common and beneficial uses for LMS's. 

    Who has access to LMS's?

    In most cases, learning management systems will have two primary user groups: administrators and learners.  

    Administrators are the people who create, manage and deliver e-learning. They may use these platforms to upload their own learning materials, or they may select courses and materials from an existing list given by the provider.

    On the other hand, learners are the professionals or students who will use these platforms to train, study and gain new skills. Many modern LMS's allow multiple learners to train or access materials at the same time.

    However, there is a third and final group that we have yet to mention: the parents of students using LMS's, particularly outside of school hours. In some cases, parents may have access to these systems to support students, track their progress or look at feedback from the teacher. 

    Key features in modern LMS's

    There are a variety of learning management systems out there and some are more advanced than others. That being said, many modern platforms will share similar features to ensure they stay competitive. Some of these key features may include: 

    • Authoring tools that allow administrators to upload or build their own courses

    • Access to subject matter experts who can contribute to learning and development activities 

    • Automated workflows that allow for the creation of personalized learning journeys

    • A resources library that holds all relevant learning materials, such as guides, video clips and courses

    • Quizzes and surveys for a more fun and engaging way to assess learners 

    • Compliance features, such as automatic reminders that notify learners when it is time to retrain 

    • Certificates and diplomas that give learners recognition as they study and meet their targets 

    • Insights and analysis for individual progress and results, allowing administrators to identify gaps or areas where support is needed

    • Compatibility with mobile devices for studying on the go 

    • Integrations with other internal systems and software 

    This is by no means a complete list and different platforms will have different functionality. However, these are some of the most common and beneficial features of many modern LMSs.

    The benefits of using learning management systems

    Saving time and money

    First and foremost, an LMS can be an excellent way for businesses to save time and money on training. 

    Of course there is an initial investment in the platform, but training can be expensive and time-consuming, particularly if it must take place in a location outside of the workplace. Therefore, this can be the more cost-effective solution. Not to mention, the materials are quick to access and can save time and effort. 

    Ensuring compliance training is completed

    These platforms are an excellent way to ensure that all mandatory training is completed on time and to the highest standard. For example, industry-specific training such as fire safety or cybersecurity training. 

    Provide accurate data

    Administrators can access data and insights into their employee's learning. This can be a great way to see where more support is needed and to identify any skills gaps that need to be filled. Similarly, teachers can get to grips with how well their students are doing and if they need extra help in any subjects or areas.

    Improves the learning experience

    Whether in school or the workplace, LMS's can be a great way to improve the learning process. It allows users to study and access learning materials from one accessible location. Plus, through a multimedia approach, they can use guides, videos and more to help them learn. This can ensure they engage with the materials and stay motivated. 

    Simplifying communication

    Finally, an LMS can make communication between students, teachers, employees and employers far simpler. For example, automated reminders keep everyone in the loop and ensure all training is completed on time. But more than that, there is one central place to communicate, review feedback and access the same materials. 

  • A woman holding a tablet stood in a server room
    • Technology and the future
    • English language testing

    The role of AI in English assessment

    By Pearson Languages

    Digital assessment is becoming more and more widespread in recent years. But what’s the role of digital assessment in teaching today? We’d like to give you some insight into digital assessment and automated scoring.

    Just a few years ago, there may have been doubts about the role of AI in English assessment and the ability of a computer to score language tests accurately. But today, thousands of teachers worldwide use automated language tests to assess their students’ language proficiency.

    For example, Pearson’s suite of Versant tests have been delivering automated language assessments for nearly 25 years. And since its launch in 1996, over 350 million tests have been scored. The same technology is used in Pearson’s Benchmark and Level tests.

    So what makes automated scoring systems so reliable?

    Huge data sets of exam answers and results are used to train artificial intelligence machine learning technology to score English tests the same way that human markers do. This way, we’re not replacing human judgment; we’re just teaching computers to replicate it.

    Of course, computers are much more efficient than humans. They don’t mind monotonous work and don’t make mistakes (the standard marking error of an AI-scored test is lower than that of a human-scored test). So we can get unbiased, accurate, and consistent scores.

    The top benefits of automated scoring are speed, reliability, flexibility, and free from bias.

    Speed

    The main advantage computers have over humans is that they can quickly process complex information. Digital assessments can often provide an instant score turnaround. We can get accurate, reliable results within minutes. And that’s not just for multiple-choice answers but complex responses, too.

    The benefit for teachers and institutions is that they can have hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of learners taking a test simultaneously and instantly receive a score.

    The sooner you have scores, the sooner you can make decisions about placement and students’ language level or benchmark a learner’s strengths and weaknesses and make adjustments to learning that drive improvement and progress.

    Flexibility

    The next biggest benefit of digital assessment is flexible delivery models. This has become increasingly more important since online learning has become more prominent.

    Accessibility became key: how can your institution provide access to assessment for your learners, if you can’t deliver tests on school premises?

    The answer is digital assessment.

    For example, Versant, our web-based test can be delivered online or offline, on-site or off-site. All test-takers need is a computer and a headset with a microphone. They can take the test anywhere, any time of day, any day of the week, making it very flexible to fit into someone's schedule or situation. 

    Free from bias

    Impartiality is another important benefit of AI-based scoring. The AI engine used to score digital proficiency tests is completely free from bias. It doesn’t get tired, and it doesn’t have good and bad days like human markers do. And it doesn’t have a personality.

    While some human markers are more generous and others are more strict, AI is always equally fair. Thanks to this, automated scoring provides consistent, standardized scores, no matter who’s taking the test.

    If you’re testing students from around the world, with different backgrounds, they will be scored solely on their level of English, in a perfectly objective way.

    Additional benefits of automated scoring are security and cost.

    Security

    Digital assessments are more difficult to monitor than in-person tests, so security is a valid concern. One way to deal with this is remote monitoring.

    Remote proctoring adds an extra layer of security, so test administrators can be confident that learners taking the test from home don’t cheat.

    For example, our software captures a video of test takers, and the AI detection system automatically flags suspicious test-taker behavior. Test administrators can access the video anytime for audits and reviews, and easily find suspicious segments highlighted by our AI.

    Here are a few examples of suspicious behavior that our system might flag:

    Image monitoring:

    • A different face or multiple faces appearing in the frame
    • Camera blocked

    Browser monitoring:

    • Navigating away from the test window or changing tabs multiple times

    Video monitoring:

    • Test taker moving out of camera view
    • More than one person in the camera view
    • Looking away from the camera multiple times

    Cost

    Last but not least, the cost of automated English certifications are a benefit. Indeed, automated scoring can be a more cost-effective way of monitoring tests, primarily because it saves time and resources.

    Pearson English proficiency assessments are highly scalable and don’t require extra time from human scorers, no matter how many test-takers you have.

    Plus, there’s no need to spend time and money on training markers or purchasing equipment.

    AI is helping to lead the way with efficient, accessible, fair and cost-effective English test marking/management. Given time it should develop even further, becoming even more advanced and being of even more help within the world of English language learning and assessments. 

  • A number of students sat at computers in a library
    • Technology and the future

    What's the most effective way to learn English?

    By Mike Mayor

    "What’s the most effective way to learn English?" It’s a question that has perplexed linguists for years. I see room for plenty of innovation in where it all starts - 'Ed'.

    The evolution of edtech

    In the seventies, reel to reel tape recorders were the latest technology. They enabled us school kids in the north of England to hear French sentences spoken by a first language speaker, rather than by an English teacher.

    We looked at pictures projected onto the wall, listened to the sentences and repeated them over and over again. Not only did the audio-lingual methodology use the latest technology – but the pedagogy was also based on the 'sound' learning science of behaviorism. In a nutshell: if you repeat something often enough, it becomes automatic.

    This 'drill and kill' approach to language learning has since been discredited and replaced by the communicative approach. Nevertheless, it lasted long enough to inform all of my secondary school French education.

    I was considered a linguist and a grade A student. I went on to study for a French degree. But when I finally landed in France, I was unable to participate in even the most basic conversations. How effective had my language learning been?

    A focus on outcomes is needed

    So what is the takeaway? Publishers, entrepreneurs and edtech companies must think carefully about their products and courses. What problems are they trying to address? What outcomes are they trying to target?

    It’s not enough to be innovative or novel. The shiny new toy will only engage learners for a short time if they don’t feel like they are making progress. We need to measure the impact on actual learning.

    However, it is great to see so many exciting things happening in the world of edtech. For the first time, I believe we are on the cusp of delivering truly personalized learning journeys to all students –not just those who can afford individual tuition.

    Many of us are developing AI that makes the learning journey adaptive, that monitors learner progress and surfaces that progress to the learner, that offers feedback on pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, speaking and writing.

    We know that feedback has a significant impact on learning. We also know that it is challenging to give feedback on spontaneous language. But this is where AI is heading and soon the vision of learners interacting with virtual tutors on various topics will be a reality.

    The role of teachers in the edtech landscape

    Will technology replace teachers? Unlikely. Language is a social construct. We learn languages to communicate with others – and an increasing number of language apps are partnering with online tutors and creating language communities to address this need for human interaction. But technology can supplement what the teacher does – and will be able to do so more meaningfully thanks to AI.

    It can extend language learning outside of the classroom, driving faster progress. It is available 24/7.It provides learners with a safe space to practice and fail – a way to build confidence. It does not replace the teacher. Instead, it enables the teacher to be replaced in the classroom, focusing on the communicative elements of language learning that are still a challenge for apps.

  • A man sat at a laptop with headphones on
    • Language teaching
    • Technology and the future

    The advantages of online distance learning

    By Pearson Languages

    The technological component of learning is constantly growing. More and more classes are taking place online – yet rather than simply being a substitute for classroom courses, they can be blended with a classroom-based approach. This often offers students a more engaging and motivating experience. This post talks about the advantages of online learning, why teachers find it useful and why students enjoy it.

    Distance learning versus classroom courses

    Typically, there are two sets of teachers interested in experimenting with online teaching:

    • Those who are considering using distance learning courses for students who can’t attend classes.
    • Those who are looking to supplement their classroom teaching with more interactive, or personalized online components.

    Yet regardless of the category they fall into, they’ll often ask: “What can distance learning courses provide that classroom courses can’t?”.

    And this is the right question to ask. Looking at the relative advantages of online courses helps us discern what is the best use of classroom time for learning and what is the best use of online time for learning.

    Knowing this allows us to make better decisions about how and when to use online learning. Instead of simply adopting an online course, adding online components just because they look attractive, or using great technology just because it alleviates scheduling problems, we can choose them for the added value they provide.

    The strengths of classroom-based learning versus online learning

    The strengths of a classroom-based course are:

    1. Easier community building.
    2. Direct access to a live teacher for inspiration, guidance and feedback.
    3. More 'live' opportunities for communicative practice with other students.
    4. Provision of a structured schedule.

    As for the strengths of a distance learning course, the following come to mind. They:

    1. Provide easier access to course resources.
    2. Offer greater convenience for the teacher and learner, and offer flexibility in scheduling.
    3. Can be personalized – that is, teachers can cater to each student’s proficiency level and learning goals by delivering different online resources (including videos, readings, and listenings) to individual students so they can work on them in their own time.

    However, distance learning courses have some less obvious advantages, too. Distance learning courses have shown the following trends, which have completely changed the way to see and use online learning:

    Increased engagement

    Number one is the rise in engagement. A well-designed distance course is aimed directly at the individual learner: there is much more practice time and immediate feedback, particularly for listening and speaking tasks. We often find that shy students and those who feel unable to participate in a classroom environment are more willing to engage with the teacher and other students in online courses.

    Improved concentration

    Secondly, online courses improve concentration, which, as all teachers know, is a continual problem in classrooms. Rather than being directed on what to do, students working online can select what activities to engage in, for how long, and in what sequence, which helps them stay focused.

    Easier assessment

    The third advantage, which is vital for a teacher, is the ease and fluidity of tracking progress. In classrooms, it’s hard to track how students progress over a whole semester, much less in each class. In online distance learning, you get constant monitoring of how well students are doing on individual tasks and progress checks, no matter what learning management system you’re using.

    Why learners choose online courses

    We’ve seen the potential reasons teachers may incorporate distance learning materials. But why do learners choose online courses over classroom ones?

    Choice is an important aspect of engagement and motivation – and the only way that students are going to learn is if they feel engaged. Give them choices in activities, homework, schedules, tests and even grading.

    For example, if teaching a class on human rights, in which students watch a short video and write a text, you could give students a choice of two videos, rather than directing them to watch a particular video. And in an exam, maybe offer a choice of different reading materials or essay topics to write on.

    What’s more, giving students a choice of a distance learning course over a classroom course, a blended classroom online course, or even a choice of activities can improve motivation and increase engagement. Just make sure not to overwhelm them with too many choices!

  • A blonde woman sat at a computer with headphones on in a room with more computers and desks in background
    • English certification and assessment
    • Technology and the future

    Computer-based language assessment: the future is here

    By David Booth

    Many people are surprised at the idea of a computer program marking an exam paper. However, computer-based testing already exists in many different formats and many different areas. Many tests or exams that form part of our daily life are taken on computers. If you’ve ever learned to drive, sat a citizenship test, done a training course at work, or completed a placement test for a language course, the odds are that you’ve already taken an automated test.

    Yet despite it being so common, there is still a lack of understanding when it comes to computer-based language assessment and how a computer can evaluate productive skills like speaking and writing.

    Computer-based testing: a closer look

    A common issue is that people have different ideas of what these tests entail. Computers can fulfill several essential roles in the testing process, but these often go unacknowledged. For example, a variety of test questions are needed to administer an exam, along with relevant data, and computers are used to store both the questions and the data. When it comes to creating randomized exams, computer software is used to select the exam questions, based on this data.

    Computers can make complex calculations far more quickly and accurately than humans. This means that processes that previously took a long time are completed in days, rather than weeks.

    Artificial intelligence (AI) technology is now capable of grading exam papers, for example. This means a shorter wait for exam results. In PTE Academic, candidates receive their results in an average of two days rather than waiting weeks for an examiner to mark their paper by hand.

    The benefits for students and teachers

    People take exams to prove their skills and abilities. Depending on their goals, the right result can open the door to many new opportunities, whether that is simply moving on to the next stage of a course, or something as life-changing as allowing you to take up your place on a university course in another country.

    A qualification can act as a passport to a better career or an enhanced education, and for that reason, it’s important that both students and teachers can have faith in their results.

    Computer programs have no inherent bias, which means that candidates can be confident that they will all be treated the same, regardless of their background, appearance or accent. PTE Academic, just one of Pearson’s computer-based exams, offers students the chance to score additional points on the exam with innovative integrated test items.

    This integration means that the results are a far more accurate depiction of the candidate’s abilities and provide a truer reflection of their linguistic prowess.

    More than questions on a screen

    It’s not as easy as simply transferring the questions onto a computer screen. All that does is remove the need for pen and paper; this is a missed opportunity to harness the precision and speed of a computer, as well as its learning potential.

    Tests that have been fully digitized, such as PTE Academic, benefit from that automation; eliminating examiner bias, making the test fairer and calculating the results more quickly. Automated testing builds on the technological tradition of opening doors for the future – not closing them.

    How technology enhances language testing

    The development of automated testing technologies doesn’t merely make the examination process quicker and more accurate – it also gives us the chance to innovate. Speaking assessments are an excellent example of this.

    Previously, this part of a language exam involved an interview, led by an examiner, who asked questions and elicited answers. But now that we have the technological capability, using a computer offers students the chance to be tested on a much wider range of speaking skills, without worrying about the inherent bias of the examiner.

    Indeed, the use of a computer-based system facilitates integrated skills testing. Traditionally, language exams had separate papers focusing on the four skills of reading, listening, speaking and writing. But the more modern concept of language testing aims to assess these linguistic skills used together, just as they are in real-life situations.

    Afterwards, the various scores are categorized to allow learners an insight into their strengths and weaknesses, which helps both students and teachers identify areas which need improvement. This useful feedback is only possible because of the accuracy and detail of automated exam grading.

    The space race on paper

    Back in the 1960s, during the space race, computers were still a relatively new concept. Kathleen Johnson, one of the first African-American women to work for NASA as a scientist, was a mathematician with a reputation for doing incredibly complex manual calculations. Although computers had made the orbital calculations, the astronauts on the first space flight refused to fly until Kathleen had checked those calculations three times.

    This anecdote reminds us that - although computer technology is an inherent part of everyday life - now and then, we still need to check that their systems are working as they should. Human error still comes into play – after all, humans program these systems.

    PTE Academic – a fully digitized exam

    Every stage of PTE Academic, from registration to practice tests to results (both receiving and sharing them with institutions) happens online. It may come as a surprise to learn that the test itself is not taken online. Instead, students attend one of over 295 test centers to take the exam, which comes with the highest levels of data security.

    This means that each student can sit the exam in an environment designed for that purpose. It also allows the receiving institutions, such as universities and colleges, to be assured of the validity of the PTE Academic result.

    The future is here

    We created computers, but they have surpassed us in many areas – exam grading being a case in point. Computers can score more accurately and consistently than humans, and they don’t get tired late in the day, or become distracted by a candidate’s accent.

    The use of AI technology to grade student responses represents a giant leap forward in language testing, leading to fairer and more accurate student results. It also means more consistency in grading which benefits the institutions, such as universities, which rely on these scores to accurately reflect ability.

    And here at Pearson, we are invested in staying at the cutting edge of assessment. Our test developers are incorporating AI solutions now, using its learning capacity to create algorithms and build programs that can assess speaking and writing skills accurately and quickly. We’re expanding the horizons of English language assessment for students, teachers and all the other professionals involved in each stage of the language learning journey.