The use of embedded digital tools to develop English language proficiency in higher education
Communication skills, including English language proficiency (ELP), are an essential graduate outcome and necessary employment outcome (Australian Universities Quality Agency [AUQA], 2009). An increasingly diverse student population has triggered the need to look beyond entrance requirements and ensure there is development of these skills throughout a student's degree (Arkoudis, 2014; Harris & Ashton, 2011; Johnson et al., 2015). In response to this, higher education providers (HEPs) have developed digital self-access resources. With so many HEPs moving to online delivery, it is essential to look at the effectiveness of these resources as well as to understand the processes required to roll them out. A literature review was conducted to characterise and evaluate current digital resources through the lens of second language acquisition theory, academic socialisation and genre-based pedagogy.
This review found benefits to students and staff when using embedded videos, technology for communication, quizzes, games and resource banks aimed at ELP development. There is evidence that, when well scaffolded, these tools offer an opportunity for language input, vocabulary growth and to learn cultural communication norms within the context of the discipline. In several studies, students reported gains in confidence when communicating in English. However, few studies measured or tested for improvements in language acquisition. The short term nature of many of the projects indicated a lack of a holistic, systematic approach to ELP development and measurement across the studies.