Some of you might have an icon with the clear white letter “S” floating within a blue cloud on your computer desktop screen. If so, you know the advantages of being able to connect with family and friends throughout the U.S.A. and the world via Skype. This same benefit is now being used by ESOL tutors to reach ESOL students who cannot attend classes on a regular basis because of issues with childcare, employment, transportation, or time. These barriers can slow down even the most serious student. Anyone learning another language will tell you that it takes many hours of daily study to acquire the communication and academic language skills needed to be able to become proficient in another language.
Through funding from a North Carolina Community College EL/Civics grant and a 2011 awarded International Paper grant, Cape Fear Literacy Council is removing the barriers of childcare and transportation for some ESOL students. Studying and practicing English via Skype is the newest resource CFLC is offering to make English learning opportunities more accessible for both student and tutor. Skype’s “free video calling makes it easy to be together, even when you are not.” As a first-time SKYPE tutor said, “After the first 5 minutes, I forgot I was even on Skype.”
Skype is beneficial not only for the students, it also has advantages for tutors. It provides more time for tutoring because the need to travel is eliminated. To participate via Skype, tutors and students must have Internet access. For those who do not have computers with a built-in camera, the NCCC EL/Civics grant provided funds to purchase the cameras that are necessary.
Skype is the latest addition to the list of learning opportunities for ESOL students. The program currently offers ten different on-site classes and three off-site classes each week along with a staffed computer lab to meet students’ needs for a flexible schedule. The computer lab is available Monday to Thursday from 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. and from 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. on Friday. In addition to classes, the computer lab, and Skype 25 students meet with an individual tutor, and four are preparing for their citizenship test.
To read more about how Skype is used in the classroom here at CFLC, please read the article featuring ESOL Program Director Barbara Biba in Notebook by ProLiteracy.
Spring 2012(pages 8-10).