TECHNICALLY SPEAKING New mobile learning app reduces ESL waitlists

Two years after arriving in Canada from China, Phoebe Yang was ready to start a career. She chose VCC’s Health Care Assistant program but needed to upgrade her English to meet admission requirements. That’s when Phoebe joined the approximately 800-person waitlist for VCC’s Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program, learning that she might wait anywhere between a few months and a year to start classes.

In November 2018, however, Phoebe started her English education much sooner than expected thanks to mLearning. This "mobile learning" technology, being piloted by VCC for the first time in Canada, is similar to popular language-learning apps, offering self-paced lessons that can be finished in as few as three minutes.

One major difference from mainstream apps, however, is mLearning’s integration with human, VCC-trained coaches who can answer students’ questions by text message in the app. Coaches can also give feedback in real-time by phone call. "It’s really good for improving English. I want to recommend it to my husband," says Phoebe.

VCC’s national award-winning ESL curriculum offers practical learning for real-world scenarios like interviews and public speaking.

Phoebe Yang, VCC's Health Care Assistant student, is using mLearning app on her cell phone

VCC mLearning coach Rae Switzer is currently working with 28 students who would otherwise have limited access to English as a Second Language (ESL) courses. Aside from waitlists, Rae has also seen many newcomers abandon ESL programs due to work schedules or family commitments. She views mLearning as a solution for these people too. “Students take full control of how much they learn and when they learn,” says Rae. "We’re there to make sure they stay on track."

With funding from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, VCC plans to enrol 550 newcomers in the mLearning program over the next two years.

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