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Tech-Driven Transformation: How Technology is Revolutionizing English Language Teaching

an online teacher teaching a class on her laptop

The language learning market is vast, and like so many other industries, it’s evolving with technological advances. Language learners are today’s largest cohort of learners around the globe with one in four actively learning a language. The global English language learning market is projected to nearly triple by 2030, and technology is one of the primary drivers of that growth. For example, the online language learning market is projected to reach nearly $45 billion by 2031, with the English segment accounting for the largest portion of the market at nearly 56 percent.

Growth in online learning is only one example of how technological development is changing ELT. Classroom-based language learning is also increasingly digitized as creative technologies are integrated into all aspects of teaching, from lesson planning to assessment to professional development.

While the rapid advances and adoption of tech tools in ELT introduced some challenges for educators, the overall impact has been positive. Technology in ELT is increasing accessibility to a global audience, enhancing language learning skills, improving communication abilities, and providing greater flexibility in course content and delivery methods.

The expansive ways technology is revolutionizing English language teaching and learning are varied and complex. Let’s explore some of the ways English language teaching is evolving through the integration of increasingly sophisticated technologies.

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What is the role of technology in ELT?

Technology in ELT is used in a variety of ways, but ultimately, the role of technology is to facilitate learning. One could argue that the role of the teacher is also to facilitate learning, so in this context, technology provides tools that extend the teacher’s role as a facilitator to advance student learning. Let’s look at a few ways technology is enabling, even accelerating, learning and supporting English language teaching around the world.

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Increasing access to teaching and learning materials

In some ways, the facilitating role of technology in ELT boils down to increased access. For students, the rapid growth in technology has created unprecedented pathways to education. Learners from all corners of the globe can now access courses, tutoring, and other educational materials. Similarly, English language teachers can now access continued professional development in all forms, from courses to webinars to conferences.

Read about eight ways to use AI to teach ESL reading.

Bridge alum Johanna, completing online TEFL certification.
Bridge alum Johanna, from Germany, leveraged online TEFL certification courses to gain the professional development needed to teach in Japan. Read her story.

Improving the effectiveness of ELT instruction

Technology also facilitates effective and personalized instructional practices that were either not possible in the past or were simply too time-consuming. Access to multimedia resources, such as videos, podcasts, and interactive online activities can now be used to target different learning styles of students, increase student engagement, and improve the overall effectiveness of instruction.

English language teaching requires a great deal of class preparation, and new technologies are increasingly reducing time on developing lesson plans, course materials, and assessments, while also improving the quality of the resources. Tools such as AI chatbots and virtual assistants still require considerable time investment. Teachers must develop a detailed, thoughtful prompt to generate quality content, and it’s important to carefully evaluate any generated materials for accuracy. However, these tools still reduce the time investment significantly and have the potential to elevate the quality and effectiveness of instruction.

Find out about six ways to utilize AI as your personal teaching assistant.

Streamlining and improving the accuracy of student performance data

Today’s smart technologies that create adaptive assessments, generate progress reports, provide assignment feedback, and more can also streamline the process of determining a student’s current language level, identifying learning goals, developing learning objectives, and monitoring progress. By leveraging these tools, teachers can now automate many of these processes, and then leverage the information to develop custom learning pathways based on a learner’s progress and needs.

Learn more about using AI tools and other smart technologies for English language proficiency, placement, leveling, and progress monitoring.

Why is technology important in ESL, and what are the advantages of using technology to teach English?

Technology plays an important role in any educational context, but it is particularly impactful in English language learning. Advances in ELT EdTech have greatly expanded, giving rise to a variety of resources for English as a second language teaching and learning. From language apps to online ESL lesson plans, teachers have a broad range of tech tools available to support their instruction. Let’s look at a few ways technology is important in ESL.

  • Access to authentic language resources – From YouTube videos to news articles, authentic language resources expose students to real-world language use and build cultural competency.
  • Increasing engagement – Interactive learning tools such as online games and interactive whiteboards allow real-time interactions, cater to different learning styles, and make learning engaging and effective.
  • Personalized learning development – Adaptive learning and progress-tracking technologies allow ESL teachers to personalize learning and adapt instruction to better meet student needs.
  • Supporting speaking fluency – Language processing technology and other adaptive tools provide opportunities for pronunciation and fluency practice with instant feedback.
  • Teaching 21st-century skills – Discussion boards, shared project technologies, and other collaborative tech tools cultivate the important transferable skills of teamwork and communication.

Teaching adult learners? Read about strategies to hyper-personalize your Business English teaching with AI.

Bridge alum, Ken, teaching online in Columbia.
Bridge alum Ken, from the U.S., teaching online in Colombia. After retiring from a career in business systems analysis, he leverages tech tools and EFL teaching methods to privately tutor professionals focusing on conversation – listening and speaking. Read his story.

How has technology enhanced language learning?

While the expansion of online learning models in ELT may seem like the most obvious way technology is enhancing language learning, it’s clear technological advancements are changing all aspects of ELT. Inclusive of today’s diverse online learning models, some key ways technology has enhanced language learning include:

  • Improving online teaching and learning experiences – New tools, tech integrations, artificial intelligence, and automation in LMS and learning platforms are transforming online learning into an increasingly interactive, personalized, and effective option.
  • Expanding opportunities for extending learning beyond the classroom – Increasingly sophisticated language apps that leverage natural language processing (NLP), a branch of AI that uses machine learning to interpret and comprehend human language, are providing opportunities for learning to extend beyond the classroom.
  • Growing capacity for differentiated instruction – Whether teaching in person or online, the growing use of podcasts, videos, images, and other multimedia is improving opportunities to meet the diverse needs of students’ multimodal learning styles.
  • Expanding the market of ELT resources – The EdTech market has seen unprecedented growth in the last decade, and TEFL-supporting technologies are no exception. A less robust market in the past, today’s ELT professionals now have vastly expanded access to professional development, lesson plans, and other teaching resources.
  • Growing opportunities for ELT entrepreneurship – In addition to the growing sector of ready-made ESL lesson plan businesses, ELT trainers, and creators of language learning technologies, teachers are taking on roles of entrepreneurship by launching online tutoring businesses or developing secondary income streams by offering private tutoring, freelancing for language companies, and tutoring on language marketplaces.
Bridge alum, Lisa, from Argentina, teaching Business English students
Bridge alum Lisa, from Argentina, teaching Business English. Focused on corporate areas such as IT, banking, and finance, Lisa teaches in person and online. Read her story.

What does the future of ELT look like?

With the accelerated technological growth and associated changes in English language teaching over the last few years, English language teaching is evolving. The English language learning market projections indicate the years ahead will include continued expansion, providing an array of opportunities for English language teachers. Whether teaching English online or in person, technology will impact all aspects of ELT, increasing global accessibility to educational content and materials and expanding teachers’ abilities to provide informed, personalized instruction to their students.

Technology is an integral part of today’s English language teaching landscape, providing tools to further facilitate learning. With advances in AI, adaptive response capabilities, and other machine learning, English language teachers can reduce course preparation time and deliver targeted, effective instruction. Access to authentic materials and multimedia provides students with authentic language and cultural exposure from around the world. As technologies become increasingly sophisticated and new ones arise, English language teaching will continue to evolve as well, developing new, innovative ways to improve language learning. The possibilities are endless.

Looking for training to make the most of today’s tech resources for teaching online? Learn more about our Teaching English Online Specialized Certification.

Jennifer Maguire, EdD is a freelance writer living in Southern Calif., U.S. A graduate of City University of Seattle, she is a college English professor and writer and editor of K-12 and college curricula.