Blended learning in professional settings

As noted in Section 4, “classes” that take place in companies, particularly with small groups of higher-ranking managers, tend to be customised very much to the clients’ specific needs. Teachers are expected to devise activities that are relevant to their clients’ job-related communication requirements.

Kern (2013) describes several case studies of the use of technology to enhance such professional settings. One of them illustrates particularly well how a mix of technology tools can be used to practise different skills in exact alignment with learner requirements. In this particular course, the “students” were three managers who had limited time to devote to English practice and wanted that time spent profitably. As well as meeting face-to-face with their teacher, they were encouraged to do work online. The technologies employed were those they used in their workplace (e-mail, Skype, virtual conferencing rooms), plus an educational platform. The activities emulated real-life tasks such as delivering presentations and negotiating. For instance, participants were recorded giving presentations in class; students and teacher together watched the performance later to give feedback. Alternatively, as suggested by Motteram and Sharma (2009), it would also be possible to use software such as Audacity to edit in feedback and to mail the digital recording of the presentation to students.

In Kern’s case study, participants accepted the use of technology because it helped “them with their real-life tasks”. Interaction via Skype conference calls and e-mail, for instance, are commonplace work-related activities; the educational platform provides practice activities for both forms of communication. The technology- mediated tasks thus correspond to two key concepts of business languages teaching, specificity and needs-relevance. Participants showed positive reactions to this goalrelevant employment of technology, even if they “valued human interaction” and thus “would not want a fully online course” (Kern 2013:105).

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