ESL is growing its international partnerships through new virtual programs that bring English language training and the Canadian culture experience to students around the globe.
In the wake of the pandemic and quick switch to remote learning, Karlie Butler, Coordinator of Customized Programs for the U of R’s English as a Second Language (ESL) Program, has been hard at work creating virtual English language programs for partner institutions around the globe. One in particular, Japan’s Chiba University, has made ESL’s Language and Culture Program its top English training program of choice with over 100 of its students taking the program since the virtual launch in March 2021.
Chiba University has been a partner with ESL since 2018, sending students to its in-person Language and Culture Program each year for intensive short-term English language training as well as to learn about and experience life in Canada.
Kaori Tsukada, Deputy Head International Student Division, Chiba University
" I was not surprised at all when students' feedback came back very positive, saying that they enjoyed the program very much and gained confidence in communicating in English, which I wanted them to experience the most." - Kaori Tsukada"
With COVID-19 preventing international travel, Kaori Tsukada, Deputy Head of Chiba University’s International Student Division, asked ESL to bring the program to them. “Studying abroad is one of the required elements for all students at Chiba University. I contacted Karlie to discuss the possibility of offering virtual programs…at our university,” says Kaori. This was a brand new way of learning for Chiba University. She emphasizes, “Our University had never done any virtual programs before COVID, so I didn't know what to start with, and I had a lot to ask.”
Karlie Butler, Coordinator of Customized Programs, ESL Program, University of Regina
“When thinking about transitioning the program to virtual delivery, it just clicked. The program came together really well and we’re all really proud of how successful it is." - Karlie Butler
Karlie had been working on a virtual version of the Language and Culture Program which was perfect timing to jump on Kaori’s request. “ESL short-term programs have always been offered in-person, and we were thrilled to add a virtual option to our delivery suite and reach students abroad so they can continue to learn and grow their English language skills,” Karlie says, adding, “Students can also continue to experience Canadian culture from a distance.”
Karlie led a team of ESL instructors to build a curriculum and materials adapted to remote and online learning. 60% of the program consists of synchronous group instruction, conversation sessions, and virtual culture tours while 40% of the program is delivered through asynchronous online activities. Students also have the opportunity to be matched one-on-one with a Regina resident known as a virtual local contact. “When thinking about transitioning the program to virtual delivery, it just clicked,” says Karlie. “The program came together really well and we’re all really proud of how successful it is.”
In addition to teaching virtually, instructors are adapting to teaching across time zones. Karlie notes, “It hasn’t been an issue for us. We teach more in the evenings which is quite manageable. What works best for the learning experience of our students is what matters most to us.”
Kaori gave high praise to ESL and the program. “I could tell how much they cared about the students and how happy they were to see students’ improvement. I could tell that all the ESL teachers and staff love teaching and helping international students so I was not surprised at all when students' feedback came back very positive, saying that they enjoyed the program very much and gained confidence in communicating in English, which I wanted them to experience the most.” adding, “A little over 100 students participated in their virtual program this past summer and other groups of students will also take the program in the upcoming spring session. Of course, we are all very happy about that.”
Minori Hata, Chiba University and Language & Culture Program student
“I enjoyed this program because I didn’t have much knowledge about Canadian culture before,” says Minori Hata, Chiba University Student. “I enjoyed meeting with my virtual local contact who was so kind.” Minori happily recommends the program to other students. “It’s a good chance to get in touch with Canadian culture and also to learn a new way of thinking.”
Karlie is planning to expand ESL’s virtual learning far and wide through existing global partnerships in Japan, Mexico and Korea. “We’re working on a survey to send to our partner universities around the globe to assess their English training needs and guide our program development to support their students,” he says. The survey will also gauge the level of interest in various delivery modes. “In addition to fully in-person and fully virtual programs, we understand institutions may be interested in hybrid options where students do a portion of a program from their home country and a portion in Canada.” Karlie notes, “This type of model can help students prepare for life in Canada before coming and reduce culture shock. It also helps decrease some of the costs like living expenses to make a program more affordable, but still a high quality experience.”
The future of ESL program development at the U of R is virtual. Offering both in-person and virtual learning will provide more choice and opportunity for everyone. “It opens the door for more students at our partner institutions to study with us. We can reach more students with our programs and more students' needs can be met. They can travel and study here or they can take an equally high quality program online.” says Karlie. “It’s an exciting innovative time for ESL.”
Hear Kaori Tsukada, Deputy head of the International Student Division, at Chiba University, Japan, talk about her positive partnership experience with the U of R's ESL Program.
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