The CCBC language department
isn’t alone in its support of technology. Across the country, an increasing
number of community colleges are
embracing digital tools in language
programs. Educators say the resources
complement traditional in-class instruction, expand the ways students can
access learning, and help teachers and
students focus on individual outcomes.
That’s certainly been the case at
Central Texas College (CTC), where
administrators recently launched a
24-7 online learning center with access
to interactive content for language
instruction. Lisa Volle, a CTC anthropology and Spanish faculty member
and a consultant who has helped other
colleges implement language-learning
technologies, says it didn’t take long to
see students’ final grades rise at CTC.
Volle says the online learning center
has also helped increase retention rates
for advanced students.
The Global Imperative
The results could not have come at
a better time, especially as pressure
mounts on colleges to prepare students
for success in a global, and increasingly
A recent U.S. News & World Report
survey found that knowing more than
one language can significantly improve
young peoples’ career and earnings
prospects. Job seekers who speak both
English and Spanish typically make
more money than monolingual peers in
the same positions.
Despite such evidence, not everyone
is convinced that technology is the best
option for honing students’ language
skills. Some skeptics say the increasing
role of technology inside and outside of
the classroom is a distraction—one that
could potentially undermine the work
But supporters of technology have
5 Keys to Using Technology Effectively
There’s a lot to like about technology as a tool for community college language
instruction. But success isn’t guaranteed. To get the most out of your blended
language courses, consider these five best practices.
1.Balance class time and online learning. Soumaya Long, assistant professor and co-coordinator of world languages at the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC), records each class lecture and posts it online, often with additional resources like
PowerPoint presentations. “Anything I do in my face-to-face class,
I make available online,” she says.
2.Tap into available online tools. CCBC uses an online community for the higher education industry for its course rubrics and peer-based reviews of new classes. All lectures, lesson plans, assignments, and materials for an online course are critiqued by
community members before they go live at the college.
3.Don’t overlook technology instruction for students. Not all students have sophisticated computer skills, and even those who have grown up with technology may not be adept at navigating online language courses. That means schools must provide training
to help students effectively use online courses and communicate
with instructors. Another way to help students is to keep the look and
menus of courses consistent across all classes and program levels.
This ensures students won’t have to relearn how to use the online
system every time they progress to a new course.
5.Steer students to the right delivery models. Online learning isn’t effective for all students, so some advisers prescreen new enrollees to see if they’re ready to handle the dual challenges of learning a new language and navigating online classes. “I’ll ask if they
are the type of person who does not need much direction and if they
are self-motivated. Can they follow the instructions and create time for
studying every day without anybody telling them to work?” Long says.
“Some of the students say online works better for them because of their
job.” But others may decide to enroll in a traditional class, especially in
an introductory course, to compensate for any gaps in self-discipline,
4.Teach your teachers. Training and professional development in online and blended learning is also essential for instructors. Faculty members need to become adept enough with the core technologies to understand and embrace using them in their courses. “If a faculty
member is against technology, you will not have success,” says Lisa
Volle, anthropology and Spanish faculty member at Central Texas