Intensive English (IEP) and English as a second language (ESL) programs play a critical role in improving access to higher education in the U.S. for domestic and international students with insufficient language skills.
The ESL classroom is almost always made up of students from extremely diverse backgrounds. This diversity is reflected in terms of their native languages and cultures, but also in their educational backgrounds, learning style, and academic goals. Students who are taking ESL courses at the post-secondary level need to improve their language skills quickly, and their success in the ESL course(s) will directly impact their ability to go on and succeed with courses in their chosen discipline.
In order to achieve these important outcomes in such a diverse setting, institutions from community colleges to major research universities have benefited from incorporating technology, such as the Rosetta Stone Solution, into their ESL programs. Lessons that can be undertaken at the student’s own pace allow for a degree of individualized learning that one instructor simply cannot replicate.
It is easy to see how the “flipped classroom” model made famous by, among others, Salman Khan, founder of the Khan Academy, can be applied to ESL education. In the most advanced version, ESL students would achieve mastery of vocabulary and grammar at their own pace using online tools and recorded instruction, while their entire time with the instructor would be spent getting personalized assistance with speaking or clarifying difficult points.
Yet incorporating simple elements of technology into the ESL classroom or even using technology as a way to supplement classroom learning can improve student outcomes. These solutions can provide students with ample opportunity to practice speaking with native speakers and language learners (without fear of embarrassing themselves in front of peers), while allowing students to repeat lessons on vocabulary or grammar where they need additional reinforcement.
Instructors can also get a much better sense of where a student might need extra help because of the ways technology can track progress — as well as how much time the students have spent on individual exercises.
Do you think this type of blended learning can benefit the ESL experience?