Eight Questions ESL Providers Should Ask Themselves

Many types of programs are used to instruct English as a Second Language. Find the best ESL program for your school by considering how you incorporate technology and engage your students.

From deans to teachers, educators have hundreds of English as a Second Language (“ESL”) programs to choose from. To help you pick the right one for your school, Voxy’s Chief Education Officer, Dr. Katie Nielson, answered some questions you might have during the decision-making process.

What’s the most effective method to teach a language?

Language ­learning providers use blended learning solutions to maximize the benefits of both technology and in­-person classes. However, because most of their methods rely on using technology to foster outdated teaching techniques, they have proven to be rusty, inefficient, and boring. The most effective approach is to offer students access to authentic content that matches exactly what they need to learn and to complement these lessons with personalized instruction to get just ­in­ time feedback, right when they need it the most.

How does this method fit into a school’s curriculum?

First, you need to find an English program offering a scalable platform that is easy to integrate with your curriculum. Then, your language provider should start with a needs analysis and proficiency test to measure students’ current level of English. This will enable a personalized course design to match your curriculum and to offer self-­study lessons, live tutoring sessions, daily progress reports, and multi-platform access.

Should the ESL instructors be native speakers? Should they be certified?

Listening to a native speaker is a good way to learn, but that doesn’t mean this person is an expert in Second Language Acquisition. Always make sure your provider has English instructors with degrees in Applied Linguistics, TESOL, language teaching, and/or a CELTA certification. The most important quality to look for are teachers who want to create classes focused on the students’ needs.

How will I know if the content is relevant to my students?

If your provider is teaching rudimentary phrases, such as “Janie kicks the ball,” it’s probable your students will abandon their course quickly. Students need content they can relate to in order to stay motivated and engaged. Your provider should deliver a wide range of content applicable to real life activities. Students should get the opportunity to practice reading, writing, listening, and speaking with authentic phrases from real sources.

How will I know if my students are using and learning from the program?

You should track learner engagement and proficiency improvement over time. Students must put in the time practicing, and the ideal provider will let you track everything they do on the platform, including the articles they read, the videos they watch, which activities they’ve started, and how many they’ve completed. Your provider should give progress reports to students to track their daily performance and offer granular, longitudinal data to teachers and administrators to get the insight they need to accelerate students’ learning.

What is the role of technology in my ESL program?

As technology becomes more accessible, distance learning programs enable universities to expand opportunities to all students, regardless of where they live or their language learning needs. That said, we shouldn't use technology for the sake of technology. We should use it to offer motivating content, individualized instruction, and guidance from certified teachers.

Isn’t technology expensive??

You don’t need to build an expensive, high tech lab in order to teach English on your campus. As long as your provider understands your technological infrastructure, you shouldn't have to worry about connectivity speed, streaming audio lessons, or live tutoring sessions. Ask your provider if it has a cloud­-based platform, which will reduce infrastructure and IT costs, make it easier for teachers to employ multiple platforms, and offer students unlimited access to a seamless learning experience anytime, anywhere.

Do I need support?

Whether you have 100 or 10,000 students, it’s very important for you to have help and support available 24/7. There are many moving parts in online learning, from activating courses and setting curriculum objectives to creating engagement programs (such as email campaigns and SMS reminders) and customizing progress reports. A dedicated team offering a suite of engagement services that can be optimized to provide unique solutions for students and teachers will ensure you’re providing a comprehensive, successful, seamless experience.

This post was written with the help of Dr Katie Nielson, Chief Education Officer at Voxy and expert in second language acquisition.

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