DIGITAL PORTALS IN LANGUAGE LEARNING ENCOURAGING STUDENT AUTONOMY
In Finland, Swedish is one of the national languages alongside Finnish. Within higher education, every student must take an oral and a written exam in Swedish. During the last decade, students’ language skills have decreased which creates a challenge, since the requirements have remained the same. Teachers need to find new ways to motivate and encourage students and students need to have ways to review to learn professional Swedish.
This paper discusses two different language learning portals. The objective of these portals is to encourage student autonomy when studying professional Swedish. The aim is to motivate students by giving them more responsibility and autonomy for their own learning i.e. student empowerment. When using these portals students become active content creators and owners of their learning. The portals encourage students to seek and process information in various ways and finally, to produce appropriate outputs. Furthermore, students are encouraged to use a wide range of digital tools in the different phases e.g. when processing information, learning vocabulary and grammar, and creating and presenting the output. The primary focus is on communicative skills and the students are encouraged to work with themes that interest them and where they can show their own expertise. Both platforms are suitable for blended learning, distance learning and independent studies.
The first portal is Smart svenska (Smart Swedish) developed as part of an Aalto Online Learning project (A!Ole) financed by the Aalto University. Smart svenska is created for learning Swedish within higher education and mainly aimed at business, arts, design, architecture and technology students. The portal has open access for anyone wishing to learn Swedish. The Smart svenska portal comprises of three sections called Input, Process and Output. First, the students seek information about a specific topic, then process the information and finally present it to others. The input section consists of links to authentic material such as field specific journals, blogs, videos and podcasts supplemented with instructions on how to make surveys or interviews in order to collect new information. The process section provides instructions and tools for processing information, for example digital mind maps, tools for arguing and discussing, and material for learning vocabulary and grammar. In the final section, output, students find instructions for creating their output e.g. video presentations, vlogs, pitches, pecha kuchas, podcasts and reports.
The second portal is a multi-disciplinary and open-access digital language learning portal called Svenskstudier i bufféformat. The portal has been created within the DIGIJOUJOU project, a national development project for digitalizing second language learning in higher education in Finland financed by Ministry of Education by a teacher team from three institutions: Aalto University, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences and Laurea University of Applied Sciences. The portal comprises activities students flexibly select as part of a course or independent studies. The activities are suitable for different fields of study and they are on CEFR B1 – B2/C1 levels. All the activities follow the principals of flipped learning and are divided in seven thematic categories.
In the presentation, we demonstrate the portals and discuss the pedagogical aspects.