Developing Students’ Language Competence and Essential 21st Century Skills for Future Employability: The Case of Latvia and Lithuania

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Abstract

Introduction: Nowadays, language and intercultural competences have become core employability skills in many fields, supporting the development of other skills which emphasizes the necessity for specific pedagogic approaches in developing online learning materials and courses that would develop learners’ language competence and other relevant 21st century skills for future employability. The current comparative summative evaluation research conducted in two higher education institutions in Latvia and Lithuania analyses students’ feedback, elicited from 200 students, on the efficiency of the methods and methodologies applied in the course development and their suitability to develop the above-mentioned skills and competences.

Methods: The research implies a mixed-model design comprising a students’ questionnaire (a quantitative tool) and students’ essays (a qualitative tool). Quantitative data analysis was done applying descriptive and inferential statistics tests by IBM SPSS 22 software, qualitative data analysis – applying discourse analysis.

Results: The findings indicate that students highly evaluate the learning platform and the courses created. They find them as useful, visually appealing, interesting, interactive, well-structured, and easy to understand. Students acknowledge that they have developed their knowledge of professional lexis, reading skills, grammar and gained useful knowledge in their field. Significant differences were found concerning students’ group, specialization and the course completed – local students vs. international students as to the evaluation of the learning platform, students of IT field vs. business fields, Latvian students vs. Lithuanian students as to the intercultural B2/C1 English course completed. The research results strengthen the cognitions derived from theory on significant issues to be observed when creating blended-learning courses.

Discussion: The course designed is an alternative way of learning and may be useful for anyone who wishes to update their language and intercultural competence either through a formal or non-formal education course or on a lifelong learning basis.

Limitations: The research period covered one semester only. Although the study materials for 16 languages have been created, the current paper analyses only the results obtained in piloting English and Spanish courses, with the predominance of learners opting for English courses.

Conclusions: The research results show that the methods and methodologies applied in the given interactive blended-learning courses have developed the students’ language competence and have fostered the development of their digital competence, team-working and collaboration skills, problem-solving skills and learning-to-learn thus motivating them to become autonomous learners. The pedagogy-based approach applied in the current research has been successful despite a few flaws in the design of the course materials.

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