Longform workshop helps ESL students

By De’Jon Sylvain, Advocate Staff

Following a move to offer writing courses in 2015-16 aimed to help students with basic computer skills, the Contra Costa College English as a second language department (ESL) has implemented new programs and services for students for the 2019 spring semester.

“I approached the ESL department and with funding from the campus Basic Skills Committee and we were able to develop Digital Tools. It is a series of basic computer skills workshops for ESL students,” ESL department faculty member Laila Khan said.

The ESL department offers courses in English language skills (such as reading, writing, listening, speaking, grammar and pronunciation) to students whose first language is not English.

“ESL students come from a variety of different backgrounds from all over the world and speak a number of different languages,” Khan said. “Students take our courses to improve their English language skills for social, academic and professional purposes.”

The workshop is a 12-week hybrid series that helps students navigate through and out of college.

“The Canvas help sessions also specifically help students at the beginning of the semester when they may be more overwhelmed by all the course requirements,” ESL department Chairperson Anoosheh Borhan said. “It also provides support for students at a critical time.”

Borhan said technology has become a central part of people’s day-to-day lives and it is important for students who frequently need to use these tools to know how to access them.

The program covers the use of the online learning Canvas, basic computer parts and use, typing practice, keyboard shortcuts, college email writing skills, creating and formatting documents, creating slide presentations, internet browsing basics and use of online office productivity software (Google Drive or Office Online).

Khan said, “The Digital Tools workshops help ESL students gain practice with these tools, so they can complete their coursework with greater ease and efficiency. Those skills can extend into their professional lives as well.”

The ESL department also includes tutoring services for students enrolled in the program.

Borhan said students can get one-on-one help from an ESL faculty member for free.

Faculty members work with students on class assignments or help explain things that students may have difficulty understanding in their ESL courses.

Also available are Canvas drop-in sessions. These unscheduled sessions are for students who have difficulty using Canvas to access or submit assignments, so they can drop in to get help with specific things.

ESL assistant Julissa Martin helps students during these sessions.

Martin said the drop-ins are only available during the first month of classes as students learn how to navigate Canvas and she also sets up appointments for students who are not available during drop-in hours.

The class meets on Monday’s from 3-5 p.m. every week in the College Skills Center. To attend one of the upcoming sessions, students need only have their WebAdvisor login and password information.