Language education has long been an area for technological innovation. Today we are lucky to have our choice from effective learning tools including the language lab, virtual classrooms, educational platforms and the multimedia learning centre.

When the traditional approach of rote learning and memorisation began to decline at the end of the nineteenth century, it was due to experimentation with new ways of teaching. Specifically, educational leaders were keen to experiment with ways in which they could replicate the way in which humans learn their first language in order to teach them subsequent languages.

These developments encouraged schools, universities and language schools to find ways to offer their students immersive learning experiences and offer multimedia courses. The first major technological advance in this was the creation of the first language lab at the University of Grenoble in 1908.

Modern language labs are generally still found in most language schools. They are an excellent proven tool for immersing students in the language they are studying and allow language tutors to closely follow progress and easily facilitate additional learning.

language labs


What are language labs?

A language lab is a classroom dedicated to the study of oral and spoken language. Traditional labs were created with tape decks, but today the digital language lab is created with banks of computers. Language labs are an important part of modern multimedia courses as they enable students to practice listening and speaking skills independently.

Most schools, universities and language schools give their students the freedom to access the language lab outside of normal classroom hours in order to work to improve their skills in their own time.

What are educational platforms?

The growth of the digital world has encouraged more and more innovation in the digital education sphere. Huge numbers of training providers now offer multimedia courses online, and it has become increasingly important to find a way to effectively manage and administrate these.

Educational platforms, often referred to as Learning Management Systems (LMS) or Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS) fill this need. They act as an online language media centre for students and tutors to communicate, share resources, host live and recorded lessons, engage in learning and revision activities, and complete assessments.

How do the two compare?

In some ways language labs and educational platforms offer a similar service. They both offer students the opportunity to improve their skills using digital tools, and both offer a great deal of independent learning and revision opportunities.

However, the scope of educational platforms is far bigger than what is offered by a language lab.

Multimedia courses that are offered either solely or partly via an educational platform have a great deal to offer. Not only do they offer all the benefits of a multimedia language lab, they also come with added benefits that a physical language lab can’t offer.

These include:

  • Unlimited 24/7 access – Students don’t have to limit their learning time to within school hours. An educational platform allows them to access language lab style activities any time of day or night.
  • No limits on usage –  In physical language labs, space is often at a premium. In some learning centres students know they need to get to the lab early if they want a place. In some cases, there’s a limit on how much time students are allowed to use the lab facilities before they are expected to let the next student have a go. Educational platforms have no such limits: students can spend as much time using online tools as they choose.
  • No travel time – Many students find revision a far more attractive prospect when they don’t need to travel to a physical location in order to do it! Instead, multimedia courses offered via educational platform offer all the benefits of a language lab, but students can log in and use it from wherever they are, whether it’s a few streets away from their language school or in a whole different continent.
  • Flexible cloud-based software –  Learning management software is particularly popular as it’s so easy to use. Users don’t need to download or install anything on their own devices, they can just easily log into a cloud based system from whatever they have on hand, whether they’re using a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone.
  • Real conversation opportunities – There are huge benefits of independent studying, but nothing quite compares to practising language skills as part of a real conversation. Educational platforms come with plenty of communication opportunities, including video and audio chat tools.

Language labs are incredibly useful educational tools, but situating them in a physical classroom doesn’t always work for students who are used to digital learning for multimedia courses.

Luckily, educational platforms have accounted for this by creating digital language labs as part of their offerings. Why not explore how this works as part of Voluxion?

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