EWC Adult Education finds creative ways to meet student needs

Implementing Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) requirements for English Language Acquisition (ELA) classes has been a challenge, particularly because it is very difficult to find highly qualified English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers in Wyoming.  When Torrington based instructor, Gabriela (Gabi) Banville, resigned in May 2016 the search for a new instructor proved to be difficult and as the fall term approached, it became clear that there was a desperate need for an instructor.

Students in the online classroom utilizing WIZIQ for the coursework.

Students in the online classroom utilizing WIZIQ for the coursework.

By early August EWC Adult Education Director Diane McQueen realized that a new approach to learning needed to be considered for these classes. With the help of Eastern Wyoming College’s Instructional Technologist, Aaron Bahmer, the possibility of teaching ELA classes online utilizing the College’s WIZIQ platform was explored. The system was initially piloted with Gabi, who now resides in Massachusetts, to see if ELA classes could be taught using this medium of instruction. A second pilot was conducted with actual students to measure comfort levels with this type of instruction. Both pilots were successfully completed.

At the same time that these pilots were taking place, Ms. McQueen began to address a WIOA mandate: developing a program of study, which specifically integrates ELA, mathematics, workforce skills, and civics specifically for a local employer. In this case, the owners of the local Chinese restaurant wanted employees to learn appropriate English for the restaurant industry.

This new program of study was launched in early September.

“After the students learned basic computer skills and set up an email address to receive weekly links to the online classroom, they jumped in feet first and loved being able to learn ELA in this innovative method,” shared Ms. McQueen.

Today, these students are active learners in an online interactive classroom using webcams, computer headsets with microphones, and the mouse as a pencil! Completed homework is submitted through a Smart Phone or email and can be immediately uploaded into the online classroom.  A typical classroom incorporates not only language instruction, but also mathematics as it relates to the restaurant industry. Videos, listening passages, reading, writing  and civics are all  incorporated into individual lessons.

In January, students will continue to utilize this platform with one major change—the course will focus on developing workforce readiness skills for non-native speakers of English.

“We hope to expand the offering of this type of course throughout the EWC service area and possibly to other areas in the State of Wyoming,” shared McQueen.

For more information about Adult Education at Eastern Wyoming College please contact Ms. McQueen at 307.532.8399.