‘It’s a game changer’: Remote learning creates new opportunities for Sheridan international student
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the plans of many international students, but for TESOL Plus graduate, Shweta Shweta, remote learning has given her education experience and career prospects an unexpected boost.
Shweta, who’s from Lucknow, India, originally planned to come to Canada starting in January 2020. Once the pandemic hit, she was unsure about online education, and considered postponing her enrolment in Sheridan’s TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) Plus graduate program until travel restrictions lifted.
But she gave it a chance – and looking back, she’s confident she made the right choice.
“I’ve always enjoyed learning in classrooms, but then I thought, ‘Wait a minute – remote learning means I don’t have to commute and I can spend more time with my family!’” explains Shweta, who graduated from her program with a 3.75 GPA, one of the best in her class. “It turned out that taking courses online suited my lifestyle. I also had more energy to focus on my studies and complete my assignments.”
Shweta points out that another advantage of online learning is easier access to a large virtual network of students that’s available in her program’s teaching practicum. With an online mode of delivery, she can teach students from anywhere, providing her with more opportunities to hone her skills as an ESL instructor.
“My mother was a teacher, but she never had to teach online or had the training to instruct students virtually. With my experience, I feel like I have an advantage since teaching online is completely different from the traditional classroom setup. There’s more opportunities for aspiring English instructors like myself – it’s a game-changer.”
Understanding the value of accreditation and hands-on learning, Shweta knew that Sheridan’s TESOL Plus program was the right choice for her. The “Plus” in TESOL Plus refers to the unique triad of accreditations – the University of Cambridge CELTA, TESL Ontario, and TESL Canada – which allows graduates to teach English to second-language learners in a variety of classroom settings, including remote delivery.
“I’ve always enjoyed learning in classrooms, but then I thought, ‘Wait a minute – remote learning means I don’t have to commute and I can spend more time with my family!’”
“I had been planning to move to Canada for the past two years,” says Shweta, “but I also want to make sure that I have the right certifications and skills to be able to find work that I love, which is helping others improve their English and giving them the encouragement that they need.”
It’s important to establish rapport with students through good communication, adds Shweta. She finds that meaningful learning takes place when a student feels comfortable enough to ask questions and receive feedback in an open and supportive environment.
“Virtual classes allowed the sessions to be a little more creative and fun,” she says. “I had a student from Brazil, for instance, who showed us her home during a warm-up discussion – which was next to a forest! Students seemed more comfortable interacting with me online because they were in a familiar space, such as their bedrooms, patios, sometimes kitchens.”
Despite the benefits of online learning, Shweta understands the hurdles students face in a remote virtual environment, especially international learners.
“The time difference between India and Canada was definitely challenging. I had to stay up late at night just so I could take part in online lectures and group meetings. I can understand how students might feel isolated; we have all these great technologies to connect us, but lacking physical interaction can also cause stress and anxiety.”
“Even though I was thousands of miles away from Canada, I still felt like I was part of Sheridan because my instructors always went out of their way to support me in my situation.”
Sheridan, with its robust virtual student services, makes it a priority to support remote learners like Shweta. Whether studying in-person or online, students always have a full suite of resources available to them – including academic and career advising, personal counselling services, information technology, library resources and tools, and online workshops.
“Even though I was thousands of miles away from Canada, I still felt like I was part of Sheridan because my instructors always went out of their way to support me in my situation,” she explains. “They would always check on my progress and they were always ready to respond whenever I had any questions or issues with my studies.”
Reflecting on the last academic year, Stephanie Samboo, Interim Dean, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (former Associate Dean, School of Communication and Literary Studies), is proud of Shweta’s stellar academic year. “Despite the challenges of studying remotely, Shweta achieved an amazing GPA of 3.75.” says Samboo. “Her tenacity and grit in completing the program is inspirational. I know many students will find her story motivating, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Shweta.”
Since completing her program, Shweta has qualified for an international work permit in Canada, and she now resides in Toronto, Ontario. She currently volunteers in the ESL (English Language Studies) club at Sheridan, helping students practice their English and improve their communication skills through interactive and social activities.
“We provide our graduates relevant opportunities and give them hands-on teaching and facilitation experience to prepare them for their ESL teaching career,” says Samboo. “We have had TESOL graduates who started out volunteering with the ESL program and are now part-time ESL teachers in the program.”
“...my experience completely changed the way I see my education and career.”
Shweta says that she is grateful for the support and care that she had received from everyone in the TESOL Plus program, including her instructors and advisors, and Sheridan’s International Student Services department.
"Whether it's through virtual or in-person learning, the most important thing for me is the quality of the program – how it prepares me in the job market and how the instructors take care of its students," explains Shweta. “The practical education, the support resources, and the three certifications I received at Sheridan helped me a lot. But more than that, my instructors showed me how to be a great mentor to students and how I can bring value to their lives; my experience completely changed the way I see my education and career."
The delivery mode for the TESOL Plus will remain virtual and fully remote for the Winter 2022 term. To learn more about the program, please visit the TESOL Plus web page.
Photos provided by Shweta Shweta.
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