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Why Use An E-Course? – Allison Weinhold

Hello everyone! It’s Allison from Mis Clases Locas. This past December like many of you I participated in the 12 Days of Fluency Matters giveaways. I was lucky enough to win e-course subscriptions. I will be honest, at the time I was a little skeptical since I personally am not a fan of reading on screens. Lucky for me, the e-course ended up being very user friendly and provided a nice break from the normal routine for everyone.

My experience with a Fluency Matters e-course

I picked the reader El Ekeko, because I wanted something that I could try out with a variety of levels. I love books with a deep cultural story that are written with simple language for this very purpose. I posted planning to teach the El Ekeko e-course, where I shared resources that can be used to introduce and build on the reader.

My Spanish 3 were the guinea pigs who tried the e-course right after winter break. That class liked the e-course format the most of any group. They enjoyed the self paced nature and the easy read that made them feel successful. I actually completed the whole course myself too, so I could get a better idea of the kinds of activities and to help them troubleshoot if they had problems.

I think El Ekeko reader was just right level wise for my Spanish 2 students, but this group had a lot more push back with an e-course. They love to be read to, so I would read a chapter a day, discussing like we normally do for those who wanted to read with me. With this group I did a better job of having checkpoints along the way, with group and small group discussion days. We just finished the year with the El Ekeko e-course in Spanish 1 and it was similar experience to level 2, except it was a little tough for some of the students. In the future, I would use an easier first e-course with level 1, since I want them to feel confident and successful reading.

Why use an e-course?

  • They are great for self-paced or independent study classes or high flyers who need extension. Students can work at their own pace, without teachers having to create everything from scratch. Students could also work on different novels for instant differentiation of mixed level classes. They also include the audio for each chapter, so students can listen as they read.
  • If you have 1:1 devices, it is a great way to mix up your instruction, as well as makes administration happy that you are actually using their expensive purchase. At the same time I would only recommend them if your school has reliable Internet.
  • E-courses are great for times of the year when schedules are crazy and you may not see students in class regularly. (Some example of great times would be state or AP testing, end of the day classes that students in sports miss leaving early, Homecoming or Prom week, etc).
  • These self-paced courses would be perfect for a long term teacher absence. I wish they were around both times I went on maternity leave. They are the best option I have seen for a long term alternative for substitute that does not speak the language. Students are able to have their reading comprehension assessed immediately, even without a teacher speaking the language. We all know having a substitute who speaks the language is ideal, but an e-course would be a great alternative option.

Ways to use an e-course

  • Whole Class Reader  – If a whole class is reading the same book, just like any other reader, it works well to start a little easier and you need to spice it up! Just reading online and doing reading comprehension and quizzes gets boring chapter after chapter. It is helpful to have certain checkpoints of where students should be in the book by specific dates. One chapter a day is usually a reasonable goal in my classes. On those checkpoint days students can have small group conversation circles, a listening assessment, or all class discussion or activities to better check for comprehension.

Spice it up!

  • Offer students the option to be read to by the teacher, discussing as a small group.
    • Have some physical copies of the books for students to check out. Some students are not a fan or reading on screens and do better with a physical book. (Also, if you are assigning any ou of class work, think about your students who do not have access to Internet at home and would need an actual book option).
    • You can stop after a chapter and do the same kinds of interactive activities you do with a physical book, such as Running Dictation, The Marker Game, Quizlet Live Relay, GimKit or conversation circles. 
  • Literature Circles – Pick a few options for students to choose from to read literature circle style. You could pick all non fiction options like Santana, Frida Kahlo and Felipe Alou or all past tense options like Bianca Nieves y los 7 toritos, Problemas en paraíso & Noche de oro. This is a nice way to allow students choice or also to allow for differentiation of a variety of levels in one class.  I have found it works well to have 4-5 students in one reading group. These groups can set their own group deadline of what to have read be certain times. Just like in paper book literature circles the teacher can set one or two days per week for group discussion and/or writing on specific topics. 
  • Individual Reader Study – An e-course would be a great option for a student with an independent study, or as an extension for a student at a higher proficiency level than the rest of the class. For example a heritage language learner who is placed in a level one language class could complete an e-course at a more suitable language level. Or each student in a class could have the chance to pick a book, with the guidance of their teacher to read as an individual reader study. This opportunity for choice would hopefully allow for more learner buy in. Students could also complete an e-course over the summer to keep up their language skills.

How to get started an e-course

  • Start with the Fluency Matters e-course FAQ Page to get your basic questions answered
  • Also, make sure to watch the How to tutorial videos.
  • I would recommend buying an individual e-course, trying it out yourself, and then seeing how you can best make it work for you and your students.

Have you tried an e-course? What tips and tricks do you have to share?

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