Designing for English Language Learners in your Online or Blended Course

  • Nancy McGinley Myers University of St. Thomas
Keywords: ESL, ELL, EL


Online and blended learning offers great advantages, as well as some challenges, for English Language Learners (ELLs). For instance, online asynchronous discussion boards can give ELLs necessary time to prepare responses; however, their literacy skills may not be as strong as their verbal fluency. Another example is the use of videos: the ability to play a video more than once is an advantage over face-to-face lecture. However, not being able to see the lips of the lecturer and take in their nonverbal cues makes comprehension more difficult. Whether you are teaching international students, deaf students, students who are fully bilingual, or even students who grew up speaking a different dialect of English (such as Liberian or Nigerian English), the advantages in online and blended learning can be exploited, and challenges mitigated, through intentional course design. In this session, I’ll identify the challenges for ELLs and provide ways to support your ELL students through instructional design. I’ll also share ways to maximize the advantages that online and blended learning offers to ELLs. In addition, I’ll identify aspects of Universal Design for Learning that specifically support ELLs.

Author Biography

Nancy McGinley Myers, University of St. Thomas

Nancy McGinley Myers is an instructional designer at the University of St. Thomas. She holds a Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction, and a Minnesota teaching license in ESL and Spanish. Before becoming an instructional designer, she taught Spanish as a foreign language and English Language Learner classes for over a decade from middle school through college.