2017 saw enormous changes in the way language is taught and the tools we use to teach it. Advanced technology has become cheaper, easier to deploy and easier to use and in the broad tech industry we’ve seen all sorts – Google Glass, the Oculus Rift, Pokemon Go – a whole host of new and exciting technologies have marched into day to day life and more than ever before, they’re sticking.

Utilising this technology for learning purposes is nothing new for 2018, but the scenario will be one where VR takes centre stage with machine-learning and AI optimising learning experiences to the max.

This has awesome potential for those learning languages, who will be able to simulate conversations and practice alongside AI. Advanced AIs will guide users through learning experiences that are optimized to their unique learning criterias, whether that’s ability, learning style or goals. Organisations and businesses are already better grasping technologically enhanced learning methods, and it seems that language learning trends will follow suit in classrooms and living rooms worldwide.

1. Virtual/Augmented Reality

Many VR/AR products have been refined huge this year, most notably the HTC Jive and Oculus Rift headsets with Samsung’s VR headset leading the cheaper offerings, and now, we’re seeing a new breed of highly usable, intuitive and flexible software that can assist in learning activities of all kinds. Fantastic learning uses have emerged for VR and now, organisations can use VR to help train individuals in situations where video simulation was formerly used, like in the US military, where VR equipment is being used to simulate parachute insertions. Organisations can observe learners as they progress through a virtual training scenario, applying their abilities in real-time to virtual high-risk situations, complex procedures or other technical tasks.

The horizons of advanced VR and AR learning are drawing in, and going into 2018, it looks like they’re going to play pivotal roles in education, learning and development. For teaching language, VR enables users to practice in virtual scenarios which mimic real life whilst incorporating tried and tested learning techniques.

Top rated app Mondly has recently released VR software which utilizes their language learning platform, using 3D graphics which simulate real-life situations. Numerous scenarios are available in 28 languages. Meanwhile, ImmerseMe has taken a more detailed approach to virtual situational learning, with a choice of over 500 scenarios across 9 languages. In 2018, these scenarios are going to get more and more life-like and it’s possible we’ll see immersive worlds where users can practice whenever and wherever to their hearts content.

2. Personalised learning

Personalised learning has a few interchangeable definitions, but broadly, it’s the name given to the concept whereby individuals are taught based on their specific needs. This has been difficult in traditional teaching settings as in most situations, it’s impractical for teachers to cater to multiple student’s finer needs, no matter how hard they try.

Now, well into 2018, we will be seeing a new approach to personalised learning where tutors and teachers can tap into technology which adapts to data calculated from learner’s inputs. Apps like Classkick can link up student’s iPads to the teacher’s, who can distribute private and specific feedback in real time with the assistance of the app.

Students will be able select unique criteria to help guide their learning experience in a way that flexes to their interests, preferred learning methods and abilities. As AI begins to understands the finer nuances of the human learning experience, it can be used to partially guide us towards more efficient learning. Apps which integrate this form of AI to personalise learning experiences, like Bilingua, will show their true colours in 2018.

Also read: How can AI help improve learning? Some trends in edtech and education

3. Microlearning

Microlearning is the practice of breaking down info into smaller particles. It’s a modern refinement of bite-size learning, which has been a much respected method of learning for decades. Microlearning tasks may be viewing a flash card, solving a small puzzle or memorising a sentence. Microlearning recruits the learning centres of the brain efficiently, focussing on just a small amount of info each time in a way which efficiently captures the attention span of an individual.

Research suggests that highly broken down, granular info is the brain’s preferred format for learning. Microlearning concentrates on a narrow, specific but consistent stream of info and in 2018, we can expect to see its methodologies researched and refined further. Many apps use forms of microlearning right now, much notably Duolingo, which uses a variety of microlearning tasks allotted in a 5 to 20 minute session per day as set by the user.

The takeaway

Still, whilst the future is now, it’s easy to get carried away with the swathes of new devices and tech which are landing in stores worldwide and there are still many gimmicks left to sort through, whether it’s overly complicated bits of kit that aren’t easy to function or are just plainly ineffective, or things that don’t offer benefits over their traditional counterparts. For language learning in particular, there has been a fine balance to strike. Fusing new, exciting technologically enhanced learning with irreplaceable organic learning alongside native speakers has been a challenge.

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