When a client registers for an English class at the Global Gathering Place, staff take them through an onboarding process to learn about their class, the Portfolio-Based Language Assessment (PBLA) approach, and other information. Now, to support clients participating in online GGP English classes during COVID-19, each client also receives a digital orientation.
This training sets clients up for success by equipping them with the skills to use Zoom and connect to other channels their teacher uses such as WhatsApp, other online platforms, websites, and YouTube. Learning Zoom is particularly important as the platform allows students to participate in group learning with their classmates, getting as close as possible to the classroom experience.
Muhammad Muhammad, Language Support at the ELC, facilitates many of these onboarding sessions and says that they have gotten a lot of positive feedback from clients. “Many clients appreciate that they now have training on technology not just for school, but for life. Initially they didn’t know how to access websites, Zoom, or WhatsApp. Now they’re confident they can use these tools.” He said one client who received the digital orientation gained the skills and confidence to join an online GGP computer class.
Most digital orientations are done over the phone and if clients need help, members of their household will sometimes provide extra assistance. For particularly challenging cases, GGP staff will meet with clients in-person while following COVID-19 safety protocols. If possible, multilingual staff may train the client in their first language. Muhammad, who facilitates some orientations in Arabic, says, “While we see more of a tech barrier than a language barrier, it’s helpful to speak the client’s first language, especially for literacy level students.”
To further support students, GGP staff developed technology guides for Zoom and WhatsApp, two of the most commonly-used online platforms in classes, which are translated into several languages. These guides offer clients reference information from their digital orientation and helps them participate effectively in their online classrooms.
What’s been the biggest success? “The change in mentality of clients who were resistant at first,” says Muhammad without hesitation. “When they get on Zoom and connect their camera for the first time and we see each other face-to-face, it’s priceless. We can see that the client is proud and happy to be communicating this way. It’s very rewarding.”