April 24, 2019
by Lisa Chang
During the spring and summer of 2018, Penn’s English Language Programs designed and delivered an online course titled “English for Journalism” for over 130 journalists in Kazakhstan. The 8-module course, delivered via Canvas, was supported by a grant funded by the American English E-Teacher Program, which worked in partnership with the British Council, and aims to increase learners’ capacities to use English effectively in their professional contexts, and to increase their understanding of U.S. culture and values. The course included video lectures, readings, quizzes and peer-reviewed recording and written assignments. By responding to prompts such as pitching a newsworthy story, preparing interview questions, and drafting news articles on important subjects, learners got to engage with one another and instructors on a virtual level. Ultimately, participants not only learned about the principles of journalism and the process that goes into producing high-quality news stories, but they were also equipped with English language skills that help them read critically, write clearly, and express themselves effectively.
Before designing and delivering the course material online, Michael Sullivan, an ELP Language Specialist, conducted an initial needs analysis in October 2017, on-site in Astana, where he interviewed journalists, editors, and professors of journalism about their English language needs. After the course launch, he interacted regularly with students on the discussion board, made announcements, and provided direct feedback to their work. Ian Nichols, ELP’s Advising Specialist, also visited Kazakhstan to personally train English instructors there to provide additional support and instruction to the online course participants.
Overall, learners were highly satisfied with the course. All the learners agreed that their level of English had improved, and most learners felt more confident in their English language abilities in relation to journalism. Due to the success of this online course, Penn English Language Programs has received a grant extension to continue to make the course available to learners in Kazakhstan in 2019. As ELP develops improvements to the course, including increasing the involvement of onsite teachers, they look forward to strengthening global partnerships through providing for the needs of English language learners abroad.
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