The Future of Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

Engaging the Twenty-First Century Foreign Language Student: the Validity of Hybrid E-learning and E-portfolios in the Foreign Language Classroom

Fiorentina Russo, St. John's University (United States)


Most foreign language instructors hailing from bench-mark institutions in the U.S. do not employ e-learning in performance courses from the beginner to the intermediate level, with very little exception. The supporting rationale is that beginner through intermediate foreign language courses set the communicative foundation for the student, fostering the highly interpersonal skills of speaking and listening, along with what are believed to be the less social and more “passive” skills of reading and writing. Research however has pointed to the anonymity of the online setting as a most liberating environment that at times may be less intimidating to foreign language students than the more conventional  face-to-face modality [Lanham 1994; Turkle 1995; Jones 1995; Herring 1996]. Further research points to the American student’s penchant for computer mediated communication, rendering the modality a highly engaging mode of communication for the American student’s sensibility  [Beauvois 1998]

The reconciliation of the needs of the foreign language student and the efficacy and appeal of the online settings may be reconciled in the hybrid modality. Indeed as students progress through their target language study and move beyond performance level courses, the employment of asynchronous online learning, in the hybrid modality, may prove to be beneficial. The latter mode affords the instructor an asynchronous online meeting, complimented by a synchronous face to face class meeting, ensuring that all four skills are fully addressed vis ‘a vis the classroom and  the online setting. The hybrid modality may indeed be a key medium in negotiating the almost inevitable paradox at hand when confronting an online setting, that of alienation versus effective, interpersonal communication.

The creation of the social virtual space and the element of virtually sharing opinions, thoughts and experiences through online forums as well as through e-portfolios can be a very empowering experience for students and thus a valuable tool in the foreign language classroom.    

This paper will explore my first-hand experience at employing the hybrid modality in foreign language teaching in the American University system, specifically in non-performance courses, as well as the validity of the e-portfolio as a complimentary means of virtual sharing beyond the classroom setting.   



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