Empower Students and Faculty with Tech

College students leveraging technology to study in groupIt’s no secret that empowering students is key to successful instruction. But what, exactly, is “empowerment” in the higher education context?

As noted by Faculty Focus, empowered students understand the importance of what they’re learning, believe they can succeed, and feel they have a choice in both the goals and methods of learning. But students starting out in a required language course may feel insecure and dependent on their language instructor. How can language instructors prevail in fostering the attitudes of empowerment, in spite of the challenges of large class sizes or limited classroom time?

Technology-based solutions can boost what Faculty Focus lists as the “four dimensions of empowerment”:

Technology allows instructors and students to personalize course material and assignments, establishing relevance for students right away—regardless of class size.

Students develop more autonomy when they use technological self-study resources. A study in Language Learning & Technology (LLT) focusing on student use of recording tools notes that “using self-study resources enables learners to develop speaking skills and build considerable self-confidence.” Here, technology lets students practice, assess, and self-correct their oral language, giving them recorded proof of their improvement and tools for moving forward. That’s confidence in a nutshell.

Courses taught in the context of globalization can drive home the importance of language ability. With tools that allow virtual exchange and anytime access, the potential for international collaboration is limitless, and students see how a foreign language can enable them to connect with individuals across the globe.

Adaptability is the word. Language-learning software allows students to focus on their individual learning needs, both in content and style, within a structured system that provides instructors with valuable assessment tools. And the class time it frees up also gives instructors more choice in how to utilize face-to-face time.

Of course there’s no holy grail for student empowerment, but it may be helpful to keep these four dimensions in mind when deciding how to structure a course or program. As LLT points out, an instructor can act as “facilitator or guide when [technological] self-study resources are used in autonomous learning.” The outcome? Integrating technology into the curriculum strategically—whether as an online-learning supplement, blended-learning solution, or language lab option—can empower everyone.

What student empowerment strategies have you or your institution implemented? Has technology been involved? Share success stories and struggles here, and pass this article along to colleagues interested in how technology can affect student attitudes.

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