The changing face of learning English

Language learning is going through tremendous evolutionary shifts, with the advent of technology tools and devices that empower and promote learning at the individual user end. The mobile internet and the ecosystem supported by smart phones are redefining the language learning landscape. English language learning is by far the largest segment globally, when compared to all other languages and India is no different.
Traditionally, English language learning in India has been largely left to the formal schooling process. That has had limited success. Out of a population of 1.2 billion in India, 350 million use” English in some capacity in their daily lives; only 90 million out of that speak the language; and out of that a mere 10 million speak and comprehend English fluently. While the aspiration to learn English remains high in India, fulfillment of that aspiration has been a huge challenge. In sucha scenario, smart phones, mobile internet and the cloud has the power to impact dramatic change in this area.

Knowledge of the English language is increasingly seen as an economic empowerment tool, to help boost ones career growth and employability factor. Given the shortage of quality English language teachers and lack of standardisation in teaching methodologies, technology-enabled solutions are helping to bridge this supply side constraint of shortage of English language teachers and methodologies (or the lack thereof).

This combination of low quality English language education infrastructure and the gap between academic teaching and employability has been a drag on the proliferation of fluency in the English Language. In 2011, Aspiring Minds, a company that conducts assessments on student and their employability, found that across a sample size of 55,000 students (in India), only 3 percent were fit for employment in the IT industry without any further training; and around 78 percent of the students surveyed struggled in English language.

Traditional vocational institutes” and coaching centres” have had little positive impact on the English learning market place, as they are fragmented across the country with poor quality teaching staff and lack of any well-established practices that foster language learning in the most effective manner. Learners have to go to these locations physically and at specific times of the day. The latter alone is a huge constraint (i.e., geography and time) when it comes to attracting learners.

Traditional classrooms are increasingly replacing chalk-board with electronic screens with content being transmitted from central servers. Innovation in the areas of mobility, cloud and last mile connectivity is going to redefine the learning landscape over the next few decades in India. However, this transition needs to impact a large portion of the over 200 million students who go through the formal education process in India and the bulk of them as part of the government-sponsored public schools.

The role of mobile technology and App-enabled ecosystem coupled with improved mobile data networks is unfurling new innovative means of delivering language learning using instructional technology that facilitates personalised learning, standardised learning methodology that caters to the specific learning requirement of a student. In India, mobile internet is the only mass medium to deliver learning solutions to a wider audience. This is the space that is seeing the emergence of players that are looking to impart English language learning capabilities to the wider mobile smart phone enabled market place.

The true promise of personalised learning English can be achieved through the integration of powerful online instructional resources, comprehensive assessments to identify strengths and weaknesses of each student, modules of grammar improvement and vocabulary building courses as provided by EnglishLeap – the leading English Learning App in the Indian market place. EnglishLeap facilitates self-learning through a range of audio-visual aids as well as allows you to learn in a fun way, by the online gaming feature that allows each user to quiz with fellow app users on the English language.

Digital learning has seen the rise in the importance of MOOC (Massive Online Open Courses) and OER (Open Educational Research) in most mature digital economies of the world. India stands to benefit and leapfrog many of the innovations in this space over the next few decades as the masses secure easier access to data networks and devices to engage such capability come within the economic reach of more and more Indians. Mobile language learning solutions, in that context, are likely to grow in their importance over the next decade as increasingly the mobile phone will be seen as an economic empowerment and skill-set enhancement tool.

The authors are Indy Sarker and Saurabh Chopra.

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