Online Course Enhances Academics + Belonging

Coming to a new college campus can be overwhelming. A new place, with all new faces, and intimidating academic challenges ahead. Now add on a different culture, another language, and seven thousand miles between you and your family.

International students have some extra barriers to a sense of belonging at a new university, and a courageous ODEE grant project set out to eliminate some of them.

Instructors for the Advanced English as a Second Language course received an Impact Grant to help international students arrive on campus Buckeye Ready. Typically, about 300 students have to take an English as a Second Language course before they are eligible for the standard first-year writing course. This sets them back in the curriculum compared to traditional students. It also limits the students' ability to apply these valuable composition skills when they first arrive at the university. These instructors knew they could serve their students better by offering the course early and online.

Getting students to earn course credit before they were officially enrolled to being their coursework was no easy feat. We partnered with the registrar to make this anomaly possible.

Students benefitted academically from this offering, but they also had a social advantage. Getting to know each other through "about me" videos and other interactive assignments helped students know some faces and names when they got to Ohio State.

“The course provides an opportunity for these students to get to know and appreciate collaborative learning,” said Andy Seibert, ESL Composition Coordinator. “The instructor doesn’t have to be the only source of information; there is value in what peers have to share as well.” 

Instructors integrated content into the course to help students get to know campus, too. Students were assigned to research and report on campus services and traditions.

Not all sites are accessible for those studying online in China, so making Ohio State the topic ensured that students could get to the information they needed. Instructors and students found other creative solutions to the censorship issues: using new tools for communications, sharing resources and posting assignments.

This course format was new for many of the ESL 1901 students.

“I’ve never taken a course like this before,” said Computer Science Engineering student Zhen Tian. “In my previous university courses the teachers just lectured and we fell asleep.”

A students' sense of belonging is critical to their success. Changes like this, which can help students arrive on campus and be Buckeye Ready, are sure to have a significant impact. Just how significant? We're staying in touch with the cohort to compare their experience to students who had the traditional ESL 1901 experience on campus upon arrival.

Watch our video to hear from the faculty and staff who made it happen, and the students who came to campus Buckeye Ready.