What Are the Different Types of Computer-Assisted Language Learning?

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  • Written By: N. Kalu
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 16 June 2019
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Computer-assisted language learning is a rapidly growing field. As new software and technologies continue to improve, online courses have become increasingly popular. Common modes of online language learning include online remote instruction, study software, and online tools for language students.

Many universities, private companies, and cultural organizations offer online computer-assisted language learning by means of distance education classes. These classes can generally be taken independently or as part of an online degree. Costs and quality of online degree programs vary wildly. Some programs are accredited, but others are not. Accreditation can be a good indicator of the quality of a course and will help ensure that the course can be used towards a university degree.

The two main varieties of online distance education classes are synchronous and asynchronous. Both are computer-assisted language learning, but the use of the computer varies somewhat. Asynchronous courses frequently use a computer to deliver texts or pre-recorded lectures. These courses also frequently employ some degree of computer graded assessment.

Synchronous online language learning courses require students to participate in real time or near real time classroom activities. Computer-assisted language learning technologies employed in these courses include student forums, live multicast lectures with student interaction, and one-on-one or group video chat. The additional human involvement required to run these courses can make them more expensive, but they can provide more extensive student feedback than asynchronous courses.


Another major area of computer-assisted language learning is note taking and study software. Note taking software allows students to record portions of live or online lectures and write associated notes to be stored with the recording. This can be especially helpful when studying pronunciation.

Study software includes flash card software, character recognition software, and computer-based dictionaries and translators. Flash card software is helpful for students learning new vocabulary. Many flash card programs use a spaced repetition algorithm to improve memorization by detecting which words are hardest for each student and showing those words most often. Various flash card programs are available at a variety of price points, ranging from a moderate monthly fee to a free download.

Students learning languages which use different writing systems may benefit from character recognition software. When combined with flash card software, this allows students to use a spaced repetition algorithm while learning new characters. It can also help students move from recognizing characters to easily writing them.

Advanced students studying texts often use computer based dictionaries to look up unknown words. These dictionaries can be much faster to use than traditional paper dictionaries. Online translation tools are generally not reliable for detailed translations but can help students who are not very familiar with a language confirm that they have not used incorrect words in their compositions.



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