Technology in formal and informal learning environments: Student perspectives

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Katia Carraro
Ruth Trinder


The aim of this study is to assess whether the ease with which L2 learners/users can engage with their target languages beyond the classroom influences their perceptions of formal environments. In the last two decades, the rapid development and spread of new technologies has transformed foreign language acquisition, facilitating learning through leisure and informal language contact. At the same time, the new media are altering instructional contexts. Having always played a defining role in self-access centres (SACs), their ubiquity may now threaten this setting’s raison d’être; and while they can certainly add new dimensions to formal teaching, they are not necessarily welcomed by all stakeholders alike. These potential conflicts triggered our interest in researching students’ use of and perspectives on the affordances of technology for language learning in both formal as well as informal environments. Drawing on questionnaires, interviews and the results of the annual SAC monitoring, we will present data from three interlinked settings. Results indicate that despite the abundance of technology-based language learning opportunities, students still believe they benefit profoundly from the expertise and feedback of teachers and SAC advisors. We will conclude by pointing out potential reciprocal influences between the individual settings of a learning environment, and advise how teachers could help students become better-informed consumers of technology-mediated learning opportunities.


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How to Cite
Carraro, K., & Trinder, R. (2021). Technology in formal and informal learning environments: Student perspectives. Global Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, 11(1), 39–50.
Author Biographies

Katia Carraro, University of Fribourg, University Language Centre, Fribourg, Switzerland

Katia Carraro joined the University of Fribourg (CH) as Head of the Self-Access Centre in January 2018. She previously worked at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, where she was in charge of the Language Resource Center and taught Italian for the Department of Foreign Language Business Communication. She holds a Masters’ Degree in Translation Studies from the University of Trieste and a Master of Arts in Applied Language and New Technologies from the University of Hull. She is currently working on her PhD in linguistics at the University of Vienna. Her areas of research and interest include autonomous language learning, informal learning, individual learner differences and computer-assisted language learning.

Ruth Trinder, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Vienna, Austria

Ruth Trinder received her first degree in English and American studies in 1993 from the University of Vienna, and started working for the Institute for English Business Communication shortly afterwards. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on new media in language learning and teaching and was awarded a PhD in English in May 2000. In 2006 she completed her Habilitation, which focuses on students' attitudes towards online/blended learning in the context of individual learner differences. Her areas of research and interest include new media in language teaching and learning (more recently with a focus on informal language learning) and individual differences theory.