ELI Online: The Best of Both Online Worlds

This graphic features a head shot of Associate Professor, Nigel Caplan. To Caplan's left is text that reads, "ELI Insights With Dr. Nigel Caplan."

By: Nigel Caplan, Associate Professor

When ELI moved to remote learning at short notice in March, our instinct, like that of many other universities and language programs, was to replicate as much of our classroom as possible on Zoom. This is called synchronized learning because the students and teachers are present at the same time on the same video platform. Since then, synchronized teaching has worked well: students appreciate the human contact they have with their instructors and classmates, and as teachers, we can use interactive techniques that respond to our students’ needs.

However, Zoom classes have their limitations: they follow a fixed schedule and can be interrupted by technical problems. And of course there’s a huge time difference between Delaware and many of our students’ homes!

There is an alternative: asynchronous learning. In the asynchronous mode, instruction is self-paced through modules in a learning management system, such as UD’s Canvas. Asynchronous learning takes place at any time in any place, and includes anything from recorded lectures to carefully crafted multi-media modules with short videos, readings, discussion boards, collaborative writing, online projects, and quizzes. Asynchronous instruction fits different schedules, personal and professional commitments, time zones, and internet access.

Here at the University of Delaware ELI, our faculty have been busy improving our skills in integrating synchronous and asynchronous instruction. Our new ELI Online courses, which launch in Summer and Fall 2020, feature a strategic blend of synchronous and asynchronous learning, combining the benefits of each mode.

The majority of each course will still be synchronous so that students benefit from live interaction with ELI’s expert faculty. Classes will meet live on Zoom and learn through pair and group discussions in “breakout rooms,” interactive activities using carefully chosen apps, and of course feedback and instruction from their teachers. Outside the Zoom classroom, students will work at their own speed and in their own time through modules that use Canvas, discussion boards, digital textbooks, internet content, exclusive ELI videos, engaging online activities, and library resources to develop their language proficiency. Students will work in groups with peers from around the world, both synchronously and asynchronously. Instructors are available to support students through individual and group meetings, where they can discuss writing assignments, work on pronunciation, and review course content.

ELI Online is an exciting innovation that offers the best of both worlds: the experience of a live language classroom and the flexibility of individual study.

Dr. Nigel Caplan is an associate professor at the ELI and chair of the ELI Online Taskforce. His publications include Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Writers, Q:Skills for Success Reading/Writing 5, and Changing Practices for the L2 Writing Classroom. This article is adapted from his blog, www.nigelcaplan.com.

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