Using Online Technology to Expand Standard Language Skills of Nontraditional Students

By Coker, Theodore; Majors, Lenora | Distance Learning, March 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

Using Online Technology to Expand Standard Language Skills of Nontraditional Students


Coker, Theodore, Majors, Lenora, Distance Learning


Today, there is a prolific growth in the number of nontraditional students in colleges and universities throughout the United States. This increase is most dramatic in institutions offering online technology. The University of Nevada Reno's online enrollment, for example, has shown a tremendous increase in this population (Powers, 2002).

The ameliorative activity of the forensic competition design provides the opportunity for debate using higher-order thinking skills through questioning, responding, and the adjudication by class members. This process incorporates all levels of Bloom's Taxonomy.

This design, which reduces student anxiety during presentation and performance, intertwines the use of Blackboard.com to provide peer collaboration. Additionally, it encourages the opportunity for sharing and interacting with research in a collaborative forum. This has the capability to extend interaction of nontraditional audiences both inside and outside the institution (Ko, 2000).

Many culturally diverse teacher education programs require nontraditional students to have the prerequisites needed for basic skills performance in mathematics, reading comprehension, and writing. The lack of these skills in language development provides a rationale for designing the history and philosophical foundations course to accommodate these deficit needs. However, in addition to being unaccustomed to and unprepared for the rigors of the traditional college academic courses, the nontraditional student often lacks the technology skills needed to accomplish academic assignments (Manner, 2003).

Consequently, there is great effort by higher education institutions to identify the academic and psychosocial variables. To achieve this goal, many institutions are developing programs needed for students to successfully perform and complete their course of study.

The use of innovative nontraditional approaches is a powerful means of developing language skills through reading, free writing, and oral deliberations. The forensic activity incorporating problems in education found in "Do we still need public schools" (Center on National Educational Policy, 1996) encourages students to consciously apply standard language patterns in deliberations. The incorporation of a competitive activity expands development of students with the inclusion of high-interest reading selections such as "The good-and the not-so-good news about American schools" (Center on National Educational Policy, 1996). The process used goes beyond the traditional study and memorization that are prevalent in traditional instructional approaches. The result is a venue for the conscious application of Standard English skills in the academic setting.

Assessment of the activity involves the students' invitation of college's professors to attend their presentations. These professors offer their professional reactions and critique to the students' performance in the activity. This entire process is taped for an extended evaluation of oral language and stage presence. The class members who do not participate in the panel adjudicate the debate and write an opinion for their presentation. The process gives students the opportunity to conduct peer assessments, identify grammatical usage problems, and gain personal experience in assessing grammar.

The practice of using online media to develop course materials for nontraditional students is not new. Several institutions are using these media in innovative course applications. Nova Southeastern University, the University of Phoenix, and many other institutions have developed online degree programs in a number of disciplines.

Some instructors have experienced difficulties with the task of converting traditional materials to online formats. Consequently, they often develop course content and omit strategies that promote critical thinking during the conversion process (Visser, Visser, & Schlosser, 2002). …

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Using Online Technology to Expand Standard Language Skills of Nontraditional Students
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