Supporting ESL Students in Distance Learning Courses: A Case Study

Supporting ESL Students in Distance Learning Courses: A Case Study

Sarah D. Korpi (University of Wisconsin – Madison, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4097-7.ch004
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Abstract

Skill gaps between faculty's expectations around assessments and student work are common pedagogical themes. When misunderstandings are compounded by linguistic barriers and variances in cultural expectations, a simple error can have unforeseen impact on student success and the student-faculty relationship. In this chapter, the author explores sociocultural theory and second language acquisition research for tools that can improve communication between faculty and English language learner students. A proactive strategy is proposed that promotes understanding of the learner, investigates faculty assumptions, uses transparency in communication of assumptions, and provides ongoing support to faculty and students to reduce tension, increase understanding, and promote student success.
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Introduction

Academic misconduct in the form of plagiarism is an ongoing concern in higher education, especially with the ease of accessible information through the internet and the growing number of courses offered in the online learning environment. This case study investigates the impact of differing cultural understandings of academic misconduct on perceived academic performance of international students enrolled in an asynchronous, online, general education course. A brief overview of studies on plagiarism and English-learner writing is provided, as well as support for international students and general education course instructors.

The course considered in this case study is an online, asynchronous, open enrollment, general education course in the humanities. With its beginnings firmly planted in a historical correspondence course program, the writing intensive course was conceived as a distance learning course first, and redesigned to fit an online learning environment second. The course prerequisite is a high school degree, and the course is appropriate for first year college students. The course has 15 units, 15 essay-based assignments, and three exams. Students are able to enroll in the course, submit assignments, and complete the course on their own schedule within a 12-18 month period. Because no distinction is made between in-state and out-of-state tuition rates, the course is attractive to a growing international student population as well as students who reside abroad.

Looking at multiculturalism through the lens of sociocultural theory and pedagogical approaches from Second Language Acquisition research can offer insight into the experiences of English-learner and international students studying in the United States. These insights can impact teacher and student support in non-ESL classrooms and offer teachers a framework for teaching cultural understanding in general education courses to students who do not share the same cultural background and experiences.

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