Martin. J. (2019). Building Relationships and Increasing Engagement in the Virtual Classroom. Journal of Educators Online, 16 (1), 232-238.
One of the challenges of teaching in an online environment is how to address the sense of disconnection and isolation that many online students report, and which tends to be de-motivating and to undermine engagement in learning.
How can instructors build relationships with students and foster a sense of community which supports student engagement in an online environment? This article provides quite simple and practical strategies using digital technology tools and simple videos to help to bridge the “social gap” in online learning environments. The author describes how instructors can use screen recording, videoconferencing software and social media platforms to connect with students in a more personal and immediate way. These tools can also be used to provide personalized feedback to encourage engagement and to enable students to connect with one another, to share photos, interests and ideas , and so reducing isolation and increasing engagement.
Retrievable from: https://www.thejeo.com/archive/2019_16_1/martin
Albiladi, W., & Alshareef, K. (2019). Blended learning in English Teaching and Learning: A Review of the Current Literature. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, 10 (2), 232-238.
This paper provides a review of research related to the use of blended learning in English as a second/foreign language context. As part of the review, the authors cite two studies that identify sets of challenges to using a blended learning approach. The studies will be of interest to language professionals despite not being language-related. In Bonk and Graham’s Handbook of Blended Learning, they include cultural adaptation as an issue. They relate this to the materials that are used in the mode of delivery and also their relation to the students’ culture.
Riel, J., Lawless, K. A., & Brown, S. W. (2016)’s Listening to the teachers: Using weekly online teacher logs for ROPD to identify teachers’ persistent challenges when implementing a blended learning curriculum reports on Responsive online professional development for well-supported middle school teachers implementing a social studies curriculum. The issues identified in the teachers’ learning logs are also relevant to instructors working in settlement language programs as is the notion of providing responsive professional development. This report provides insight into the importance of teachers’ understanding of the pedagogy embedded in learning tools and the knowledge and confidence to implement and use them in their classrooms.
Shebansky, W. (2018). Blended Learning Adoption in an ESL Context: Obstacles and Guidelines. TESL Canada Journal, 35(1), 52 – 77.
This report looks at the factors that influence adult ESL instructor opinions about implementation and use of blended learning in a federally-funded Canadian LINC program(Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) (24 instructors), in an ESL program in a mid-sized Canadian community college (5 instructors) and in an EFL program in a large Korean university (19 instructors).
The author acknowledges that digital tools are available and accessible, but are not being widely used to implement Blended Learning.
He references several conceptual frameworks and extends two that are used in higher education to a part-time LINC context to inform and guide his investigation into the low rate of technology adoption at his LINC program.
The research study asks these questions:
- Do participants in the study use BL? How is use different across different ESL settings?
- What institutional strategy (design-related issues), structure (issues related to facilitation of the BL environment) and support (faculty implementation and maintenance of its BL design) factors most influence whether instructors will adopt BL? Is this different across ESL settings?
- Why do those factors affect adoption of BL in a LINC context?
He reports on these factors that influence instructors’ decision whether to adopt blended learning:
- Ability to quickly upload and download materials
- Availability of professional development in a face-to-face group or one-on-one
- Availability of technical support
- Availability of pedagogical support
He then reports on these findings to explain why this list of factors influenced instructors’ decisions.
Dooly, M. (2018). “I do which the question”: Students’ innovative use of technology resources in the language classroom. Language Learning & Technology, 22(1), 184–217.
Although this study isn’t about adults in settlement language programs, it contains a number of examples in the Discussion section that are relevant to any learning situation in which adults are working in groups with technology to learn and practise their communication skills. This study of two middle school classes in Spain and Sweden working together on English language projects using technology provides some good analysis of what can lead to students branching out on their own instead of following task instructions, not working in the collaborative way the teacher intended because of top-down task instructions, seating arrangements and classroom setup that are frustrating for group work and discussion, being able to wait for others to finish and then copy their answers, and a lack of student accountability for the assignments. The detailed descriptions of the technology used, the project questions asked, the student responses are a fascinating look at a classroom using technology. in addition, the author describes how the students managed to engage in genuine communication between the two classrooms using tools that were outside what were assigned to them.
Retrievable from: http://www.lltjournal.org/item/3024
Lai, C. & Zheng, D. (2017) Self-directed use of mobile devices for language learning beyond the classroom. ReCALL p.1-20
This article is based on a study conducted with language students in a university in Hong Kong, exploring their self-directed use of mobile devices for language learning outside of the classroom. The study revealed that the students used mobile devices to personalize their learning, rather than for communication, and that their use was determined by their own understanding of the affordances of the devices. How the students used mobile devices for language learning was also determined by their habits of use of these devices in their daily lives, and by the types of learning tasks they were engaged in. The authors suggest that these factors, based on a deeper understanding how students use mobile devices, should be considered when designing mobile learning activities. The finding of this study echo those of Trinder, R. (2017). Informal and deliberate learning with new technologies. ELT Journal, 71(4),402-412 (see annotation below) and underline the importance of learning how mobile devices are being used by students in daily life to shape the development of appropriate mobile language learning activities
Available for purchase ( $25.00 USD) at:
Elizabeth Colucci, Hanne Smidt, Axelle Devaux, Charalambos Vrasidas, Malaz Safarjalani and Jonatan Castaño Muñoz; Free Digital Learning Opportunities for Migrants and Refugees. An Analysis of Current Initiatives and Recommendations for their Further Use. Joint Research Centre (JRC) Science for Policy Report. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2017.
This report contains a snapshot of the current (2016) field for free digital learning for migrant/refugee settlement in Europe with a few examples from the Middle East and the Southern Mediterranean. The study’s objective was to assess the extent to which free digital learning is an effective and efficient way to develop needed skills for migrants/refugees. The study includes a literature review, a searchable website, and a SWOT analysis based on interviews with key informants.
One of the findings of the study was that migrants/refugees believe that free digital learning should be a complement to face-to-face formal and informal/non-formal learning. Those who were interested in higher learning saw recognition of credits and degrees as important and were interested in blended learning that involved social interaction.
Retrievable from: https://ec.europa.eu/education/news/20170516-free-digital-learning-opportunities-migrants-and-refugees_en
New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Report: 2017 Higher Education Edition. Austin, TX.
This annual report profiles six time-based key trends, significant challenges and important developments related to technology adoption in higher education. The 78-member 2017 Expert Panel includes Canadian representatives from the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Ottawa, Conestoga College and Niagara College. One of the 10 highlights from the report states that online, mobile and blended learning are “foregone conclusions” necessary for an institution’s survival. This highlight emphasizes the importance of measuring how these approaches affect learning outcomes.
Retrievable from: https://www.nmc.org/publication/nmc-horizon-report-2017-higher-education-edition/
Jurate Matulioniene, Boston ESOL Academy, UK; Daiva Pundziuviene Bytautas Magnus University, Lithuania; The Potential of Blended ESOL Courses: Attitudes and Practices Among the UK Immigrants. Sustainable Multilingualism. Volume 10, Issue 1 (May 2017)
This research study looks at a small group of recent immigrants’ experience and attitudes to learning and opportunities and barriers to speaking English in the United Kingdom. The study provides background suggesting that language competences may be an important factor that influences immigrants’ progress in their new country. Their findings include information on the individuals’ use of information and communication technologies (ICT) on a personal level, at work or for learning. These could include mobile and smart phones, email, digital cameras, scanners, social network etc.
The study examines these immigrants’ willingness to take part in blended language training and the barriers they see to doing that. The study asked if they would be interested in taking part in blended English classes that originated from their home countries, thus providing the support of their first language and at the same time help them keep the connection with their native countries.
They also present important considerations such as ensuring participants in such courses have the technical proficiency required to participate effectively in a blended course.
Retrievable from: https://www.degruyter.com/view/j/sm.2017.10.issue-1/sm-2017-0006/sm-2017-0006.xml
The NorthStar Digital Literacy Assessment was developed by the St. Paul Public Library and the St. Paul Community Literacy Consortium. Through a set of online and interactive assessments users can identify skill gaps in Basic Computer Use, Internet, Windows Operating System, Email, Word Processing/ Microsoft Word, Spreadsheets/ Excel, and Social Media.
The NorthStar Digital Literacy Assessment is widely used in the U.S. and by some organizations in Canada and South Africa. As of March 2016, over 150,000 assessments had been completed. Although the NorthStar Digital Literacy Assessment was developed for the adult basic education community it is appropriate for ESL learners – the developers note that, “A mid-level English-speaking ability is needed to complete the assessments.”
Retrievable from: https://www.digitalliteracyassessment.org/
Shields, John, Julie Drolet & Karla Valenzuela. (2016) Ryerson Centre for Immigration & Settlement. RCIS Working Paper No 2016/1. Immigrant Settlement and Integration Services and the Role of Nonprofit Service Providers: A Cross-national perspective on Trends, Issues and Evidence.
This paper compares the contexts for settlement and integration service delivery and the role of nonprofits in working with government to provide a wider context within which to reflect on the situation in Canada. The paper looks beyond the United States, Australia and New Zealand to UK/England, Ireland, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Italy and Spain. The study provides a number of definitions of settlement and settlement work which help explain the environment in which settlement language training occurs. Government immigrant settlement policies vary depending on the model of integration that operates within each country. Canada’s settlement policies involve formal programs and general policies assisting immigrants. Language training programs are one of these formal programs. In fact, language acquisition is a core area of settlement services for all 13 countries in the study, along with labour market programs. The report provides information about fees, curricula, integration courses, pre-arrival services and settlement plans.
The report provides a wide-ranging discussion of current trends and changes in immigration, newcomer settlement and integration and citizenship in the countries in the study. One of the trends presented is the increasing role for nonprofit agencies in immigrant settlement and integration and the privatization of some aspects of the settlement service sector.
Renteria Navarro, Victoria. Becoming Blended: A case study in teacher identity. Plymouth St Mark and St John University. British Council ELT Master’s Dissertation Awards: Commendation. (2015-16).
This case study is set in an English Blended Program in Mexico. The author’s aim was to discover how a teacher’s educational and cultural background as well as their experience and knowledge play a role to promote or hinder agency, their capacity to critically shape their responses to problematic situations, such as those they would encounter teaching in a blended language learning program.
The study takes as a given that the internet and web applications have provided options and responsibilities that have seriously influenced teachers’ outlooks, encouraging them to change their practice. This will impact the institutions that provide professional development for teachers. One of the elements the author suggests will help to guide them is teacher identity.
The author provides evidence that experiences in one’s own educational past will have an impact on one’s approach to teaching, e.g., how to be successful teaching in a new blended language learning program with little technological support, how to cope with constantly changing technology, how to work with dependent students, whether to take on a formal or informal guise in the online component, etc. The author also describes the teachers’ professional development and examines how it has helped each of them to evolve or change their preferred practices in the blended environment. The examples of each teacher’s Moodle pages provide further insight about this dynamic relationship.
Retrievable from: http://englishagenda.britishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/attachments/dissertation_for_publication_2016_st_mark_and_st_john_plymouth.pdf
Gilbert, J. (2014). Exploring ESL Students’ Perceptions of Their Digital Reading Skills. Ed.D. University of Nottingham.
A doctoral thesis exploring ESL students’ understandings of their own digital reading skills. The study included three sources of data: reading workshops created for the participants; interviews with participants; discussions with participants and analysis of participants’ reading journals. The study concludes that while the participants had the capacity to randomly search the internet they lack the information literacy skills to productively research and evaluate information online. The study also found that the participants’ reading strategies varied when engaging with print and web-based text. Finally the research points to the need to consider teaching digital literacy skills in tandem with language instruction and to provide instructors and instructors-in-training with the means to develop robust digital skills to enable them to support students to develop these skills alongside their language learning.
Retrievable from: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/14080/1/Gilbert_Re-formated_Thesis_Draft.pdf
Chinien, Chris, and France Boutin. (2011). Defining Essential Digital Skills in the Canadian Workplace: Final Report. Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.
This study reports on a proposed digital skill framework for Canadian workers. The proposed framework includes four skills clusters, three of which are foundational skills, technical digital skills and digital information processing skills. This report is of interest because it provides information about the types of skills adult learners who attend settlement language training will be expected to be able to demonstrate in the workplace. The report points out that prosperity from the digital economy will not depend only on specialists and advanced users of digital technology, but on general workers as well. This has resulted in an increased interest for all workers to possess essential digital skills for both technical systems skills and for everyday tasks so that they can work efficiently and effectively. At the time of the writing of the report, there was no consensus on a definition of digital literacy, as indicated in a chart of definitions of concepts, but attempts were being made to standardize, these while maintaining some adaptability to reflect emerging technologies, in the EU, Australia, New Zealand, the U.S and through UNESCO’s member states. The report provides short reviews of the digital literacy frameworks in each of these jurisdictions and goes on to propose such a framework for Canada.
Understanding the Digital Capacity of Newcomer Settlement Organizations
Open North presented this webinar on the responses from surveys sent to 657 Canadian Service Provider Organizations delivering Settlement services through IRCC’s Settlement Program. IRCC defines Digital Capacity as “the ability to use digital tools within an organization to enhance service delivery, communication, and coordination. The digital capacity of an organization may be the function of skills and training (e.g., staff digital literacy), infrastructure (e.g., accessible internet, mobile hardware), applications (e.g., software, cloud computing) and processes (e.g, data analytics, data management, social media use).”
The slides from the presentation are available on the site along with recordings of both the French and English presentations.
The research objectives of the study are as follows:
1. Gain a deeper understanding of the digital capacity and needs of service provider organizations (SPOs) that serve newcomers in Canada
2. Help to inform and recommend options for future consideration to support the digital capacity of the settlement sector
3. Help to fill a gap in evidence significant to policy development in the digital capacity area
4. Support improvements to digital capacity among SPOs
Retrievable recording of webinar: http://www.amssa.org/resources/videos/other-video-resources/understanding-the-digital-capacity-of-newcomer-settlement-organizations/
Kelly, M., Kennell, T., McBride, R., & Sturm, M. (2007). Fast Forward: An Analysis of Online and Distance Education Language Training – Settlement at Work. New Media Language Training.
This research report provides a review and analysis of online and distance education language training in Canada, as of 2007. The report also provides a set of recommendations for the implementation of online and distance education language training, including the need for increased access to online and blended learning opportunities, the need to address integrating culture in language learning, the need to provide robust learner orientation and professional development for instructors, ongoing and multi-modal communications, technical support and the development of a centralized repository of learning objects.
Retrievable from: http://wiki.settlementatwork.org/index.php?title=Fast_Forward:_An_Analysis_of_Online_and_Distance_Education_Language_Training
Williams, E., & Williams, A. (2007). ESOL and EFL: An unhelpful distinction?
This review of the current state of ESOL in the UK and brief historical overview of the development of ESOL and EFL, outlines the distinctions between these two terms and points to the need for convergence and/or integration of ESOL and EFL to meet the current needs of students in the UK. The report also provides an outline of the authors’ understanding of ESOL provision in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, tracing the historical, policy-related and ideological strands in each country that led to the current model of provision.
Retrievable from: https://esol.britishcouncil.org/content/policy-and-research/policy/uk/esol-and-efl-unhelpful-distinction
Lawrence, G. et al (2014). Exploring the Feasibility of E-Learning in Ontario ESL Programs. Contact, 40(1), 12-18.
A report of a study in Ontario examining the feasibility of integrating e-learning in Adult ESL programs. This multi-phase research study included a comprehensive review of global trends in e-learning in ESL and an extensive online survey and focus group consultation with ESL students, instructors and program administrators. The researchers also conducted a review of how ESL programs are currently using e-learning. The research findings show that a blended learning approach is favoured by a majority of the stakeholders. Those surveyed reported that they recognize and are enthusiastic about the potential of a blended learning approach to expand and extend learning opportunities. However, as with similar studies, respondents identified a range of issues and challenges related to technology infrastructure, connectivity and technology support, as well as the need for appropriate training and professional development and the need to ensure that students have the necessary computer skills. These issues must be addressed for the successful implementation of a blended learning approach.
Retrievable from: http://www.teslontario.net/uploads/publications/contact/ContactSpring2014.pdf
Realizing the Full Potential of Blended Learning. (2012). Center for Digital Education.
This brief strategy paper from the Center for Digital Education, a US research and advisory institute focused on K-12 and higher education technology trends and policies reports on a survey of blended learning initiatives and trends in the higher education sector. Although the paper does not address blended learning in the language learning sector it does provide a useful overview of the rapidly developing trend towards blended learning, the implications of that trend, the potential benefits of blended learning, particularly in relation to increased student engagement, and the ongoing need to further clarify the concept of blended learning and its concomitant parts so that instructors can better understand its potential.
Retrievable from: http://echo360.com/sites/default/files/CDE12%20STRATEGY%20Echo360-V.pdf
Contact North. (2013). Reducing Costs through Online Learning: Five Proven Strategies from the US, Canada, the UK and Australia.
A companion document to Online Learning as a Possible Cost Saving Measure: What Canadian Researchers Tell Us, this report outlines five successful cost-saving strategies related to online learning within the post-secondary and higher-education sectors. Although the focus of the report is on cost-containment or cost reduction through online learning within larger institutions, these strategies, particularly with regard to improved teaching and learning efficiency and cost reduction in the areas of development and support, through the use of shared services are relevant to language training programs at every level.
Retrievable from: http://teachonline.ca/online-learning-news-may-8-2013