The Linguistics and Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages Department is offering the first class in a series for certification online this spring.

TESOL is an international group that helps certify instructors looking to teach English to students in other countries. Many teaching jobs outside the U.S. require that English teachers obtain this certification in order to be employed.

The online course, taught by Jessica Rohr, linguistics and TESOL adjunct lecturer, gives students the opportunity to earn credits toward their certification in a convenient way, Rohr said.

“We wanted to give students from other disciplines and degree programs a chance to take these courses,” said Laurel Stvan, Linguistics and TESOL Department chairwoman.

A year ago, the Linguistics Department made a change affecting which students could enroll in TESOL courses.

“We used to only have the certification available for graduate students, but a year ago we offered it for undergraduates as well,” department academic advisor Ryan Hazmeh said.

Before this spring, the department offered face-to-face courses for TESOL, but in order to make sure the classes met the university’s requirement of 15 students enrolled in a single undergraduate class, online was the next best option.

For the past several semesters, the department has been offering some courses online, Stvan said.

“It’s possible that if we get enough students, we might have both face-to-face sections and online sections, but right now, for flexibility, we’ll only be offering the online sections,” she said.

Rohr said these courses deal with the history of teaching abroad or teaching English as a foreign language before getting more specific and subject-tailored.

“We’ll also talk about how to teach to different groups of people whether they are high school students or college-aged,” Rohr said.

TESOL recorded a total of about 11,500 members in October. The U.S. accounts for just over 70 percent of the members, and Texas ranks fifth among states with the most members.

Demand is high for TESOL-certified teachers, Rohr said. While traditional classrooms abroad are one facet of the opportunities available, there are also many opportunities available closer to home.

“We have other students who work with other organizations who are dealing with community outreach,” she said.

Stvan echoed this point. After completing these courses and becoming certified, students can find jobs at community colleges teaching abroad or offering English classes in a community outreach effort.

While online courses might seem daunting to students who have never taken them before, Rohr said there’s nothing to be worried about.

“We have a little supportive community in these classes,” she said. “We can depend on each other.”

Rohr has already seen some of the benefits of the online course besides the scheduling flexibility.

“We spend a lot of time in this class finding material, critiquing material with the online version,” she said. “They get a lot more time developing materials and resources on their own.”

Stvan said the online classes will still give students the opportunity to interact with an instructor and a different way to interact with classmates if they’re shy.

“I think it’s so important that everybody learn how to be the most helpful in the classroom,” she said.

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