Even in the midst of a pandemic, CSUN will continue to offer its Intensive English Program (IEP) for international students in a virtual format this fall. The program has been offered virtually since March in response to COVID-19.
“The program transitioned to virtual delivery of classes in record time while meeting the needs of international students,” said Bessie Karras-Lazaris, academic director of the Intensive English Program and Student Success Pathways Programs. The change happened abruptly during spring finals for IEP students. Instructors quickly transitioned to teaching classes via Zoom and Canvas, an online learning platform.
“Students were able to take their finals and complete the session as planned,” she said. “Fortunately, the program had prepared by training instructors and students before the change took place, so the student transition went smoothly.”
At first, students had concerns, but they quickly found their learning continued. “When IEP courses changed from face-to-face to online, my mood changed, and I was disappointed,” said Yin Wang, an IEP student from China. “I thought it meant that I couldn’t improve my English. However, I was pleasantly surprised that IEP’s online courses were also very good. I felt like I was being guided through an adventure remotely and effectively.”
IEP student Camila Moreno from Brazil found virtual English classes rewarding. “Even after transitioning from face-to-face to online classes, I improved my English a lot,” she said. “At the beginning, taking online classes seemed a little weird, but later everything was fine. The teachers were very professional and dynamic.”
The strength of the program, and the agility of faculty and staff, meant every aspect of student care moved online. “The program performed at full capacity.” Karras-Lazaris said. “The IEP virtual tutoring center offered one-on-one assistance by trained tutors who are graduate students in the M.A. TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) and linguistics programs at CSUN.”
Student support continued uninterrupted. “The transition from face-to-face classes to online classes was really challenging, because I was not familiar with online classes, and my technological devices are not state-of-the-art,” said Agnese Gallenzi, an IEP student from Italy. “I felt a little disoriented initially, but the IEP team has been so sympathetic towards our needs that at the end of the courses, I felt like that situation had become normal. Professors were organized, nice and humorous, and that made the whole situation comfortable.”
Students also got to relax and meet with friends through online activity classes and conversations. The fun, interactive sessions gave students a chance to make friends virtually. To celebrate the end of the spring session, IEP held a virtual get-together with videos, messages from faculty and staff, and an interactive scavenger hunt.
“Even though students experienced unexpected transitions, most excelled in the program and continued with their academic plan,” Karras-Lazaris said. Some of the students also met the university’s English language requirement and transferred to an undergraduate or graduate program. We look forward to celebrating continued student success through the IEP Fall Session – offered once again in a virtual format.