Q&A: Online Learning for ESL Students

Answer: You can absolutely still be successful completing school online. Depending on your grade level, there may be special programs or assistance available for ESL students. Some schools even have courses specifically designed to help non-native speakers learn English. Even if these resources are not available, the convenience and flexibility of an online program can be beneficial for those still becoming familiar with the language.

In a typical online course, your instructor posts assignments and prerecorded lectures to a classroom site which you can access any time you want. Students are then free to watch lectures and complete coursework at their own pace, as long as they meet all posted due dates. The teacher will correct these assignments and most likely provide you with some feedback on how you could improve moving forward. By completing weekly assignment submissions, your written English skills should improve drastically, especially by utilizing your instructor's constructive feedback.

Some online courses also offer live webinars that you may have the option of participating in. Through the use of this live media stream, your teacher will log on at a pre-determined time with you and your classmates. The instructor might conduct a short lesson and then offer a brief question-and-answer segment. During this time, I suggest that you participate so that you are actively practicing your English speaking skills and gaining confidence using your acquired second language.

In addition to your mandatory curriculum, you may have the option to participate in some elective courses (depending on your grade level) that could help you improve your English skills. If you are at the high school level, I suggest participating in a speaking course or remedial reading/language arts course, where you would have the opportunity to learn and practice basic grammatical and writing skills.

A student should expect to complete three to five hours of school work daily while progressing through an online educational program. Although schools may be flexible with the time of day that a student logs in, it is necessary to be consistent with the amount of time spent and remain motivated to complete all of the required coursework. Not only can participation in live webinars help improve your English skills, but the live engagement may also help you learn and retain the course material taught.

Christi WilsonChristi Wilson is a credentialed teacher of highly-gifted students in Northern Nevada. She has 11 years of classroom teaching experience, a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, a master’s degree in education leadership, and has even taught K-12 education online. A mother of three busy boys, she knows how important it is to keep students engaged in the classroom and interested in a lifetime of learning.