Session One Introduction


Hi All,

I’m Christen Smith: an ESL professor and Education student. This is my first quarter at CSUSB and first graduate class since earning my MA in English and TESL back in ’96- pre-internet (as we know it) days (yikes that makes me sound old). I went to grad school at Cal Poly Pomona and did my undergrad at UCI. For the past twenty years I have been a community college instructor in OC, SD, & RC and am lucky to say it is still a job I love doing everyday. Since 2005, I have been a full time ESL Professor at College of the Desert in Palm Desert.  Being a beach girl, born and raised, I couldn’t have imagined myself ever moving inland, but the truth is that I love waking to blue sky daily and have become an avid hiker and pool floater.  Of course I still manage to travel to somewhere in the world with a tropical ocean at least yearly.

The reason I went back to school- This year I was granted a sabbatical to earn the E-Learning Certificate and improve C.O.D.’s online English and ESL courses. Truthfully, I like face to face, but I recognize that hybrid and online appeal to our students.  Unfortunately, C.O.D.’s pass rates in online classes among basic skills students is dismal, so my hope this year is to learn how to help this student population achieve better success.  Besides working on the E-Learning Certificate, I’m taking advantage of my time off from teaching to take a variety of Education classes for professional growth: Education Reading, Education Administration, etc.- anything that will help me be a better teacher.   Staring at the stack of textbooks that have steadily arrived this past week is already making me more empathetic to my own students : )

I look forward to getting you know my classmates and professor in ETEC 648.

Best of Luck All,


Best of Blog

I would say my best blog this week is my comparison of School-as-a-Service and Ad Hoc.  Writing about this shows me that there is a lot I have to learn about eLearning while at the same time reminding me that I bring in a lot of background knowledge from my 20 years of teaching.  On one level, it worried me that there were so many eLearning terms in the Models of Online Educational Delivery article; however, once I understood the terms, I could apply my experience to fully understand the concepts.  Reading and writing this session made it clear to me that this is exactly the right course for me.

Discussion Post

School-As-a-Service was a new term for me, so I decided to contrast it with the more familiar Ad Hoc Online Classes/Programs.

As a teacher the idea of an outside source designing and creating any of my courses is frightening. Most of the partner companies made claims similar to Wiley Corporation saying, “we pride ourselves on deep, long-standing partner relationships that adapt to complement your needs and goals” (Wiley, 2014). Still, I couldn’t help think that I can’t even use a textbook because I’m can’t find one that appeals to all my requirements: topics, authors, exercises, supplemental, format, etc. I noticed that of the corporations that showed the courses they offer, none listed English or ESL (my field); are there simply disciplines that do or don’t lend themselves to standardized courses prepared by outsourced companies? One of these corporations 2U sites, “Social Work, Nursing, Education, Public Health, Business, Data Science, International Relations, Law, Public Administration, and Health Administration” (2U, 2014). Interesting to me that subjects like Art and Literature, which might be more subjective to personal taste, would not be included. Even though at this stage in my career I wouldn’t want to give up “control” over my course, as a new teacher I would have been grateful if someone had put the entire course together for me, and all I had to do was “manage” it.

Now as Lead Faculty in my department responsible for hiring, training, and evaluating new instructors, the standardization that school-as-a-service could offer is appealing. Recently I hired a couple of brand new graduates from CSUSB with no experience, and to be honest, I worry if their students are getting everything they need. I saw one instructor’s first assignment and immediately recognized that it was too easy for the level, and this is someone who has taught for years in our program. Even with detailed course outlines that have clear objectives and outcomes, it’s nearly impossible to ensure that all faculty are teaching the same information and requiring the same standards in assignments. Let’s face it, we’ve all been told which teachers are the hardest/easiest at some point in our educations. If all of the teachers are using the same course “module”, it ensures that every student is getting the same information, assignments, even grading to some extent if detailed shared rubrics are used. Though it’s not surprising that an article on School-as-a-Service: The Next Big Thing in the Higher Education Industry would highlight “enhancing access, reigning in cost, and enhancing revenue”, it is nice to see that they also claim to “contribute to better learning outcomes” (Greendale and Warner, 2012).

Clearly there are pros and cons to independently creating your own course (i.e. Ad Hoc) versus hiring a company to create one course that everyone uses as with School-as-a-Service. From an Administrative perspective, School-as-a-Service makes sense.


10 thoughts on “Session One Introduction

  1. Hi Christen,
    I would like to compare notes with you at some point. I teach a K-8 blended online program. We have a number of ESL students. Although they are fairly proficient in their speaking of English, academic English, reading and comprehending are challenging. We do not have translations in our program, but even if we did, most of our students are even less proficient in reading and writing in their primary language. I wish we did have translations, at least, for the parents.
    I am very much sold on online learning, but I realize it has its place and is not beneficial to all students. You have a challenge ahead and I am very interested to follow your insights and plans.


    • Hi Laura,
      I’m curious what the majority of your ESL students’ L1 is? Are they new immigrant, 1.5, or children of immigrants? I agree that Translators ought to be available for parents, but most of the research I have read on second language acquisition is against translation method for students. This site gives a rational for why so many researchers are against translation; however, it provides an interesting argument ending in favor of translation. Ma MA program was strongly against, so I admit I am biased.

      I found what you said on your how Blog about self-regulation being a key factor to teach to online K-8. I’d love to know how you do it??? I invasion K-8 students requiring parents that ensure the students are completing the work, so how do you get students to shift to self reliance? I ask because as a teacher of first year college students, that lack of self reliance is often the demise of our students. I crack up whenever parents show up demanding to discuss their “children” because in my case it’s actually illegal to talk with parents without student consent. The independence/freedom that 18 year old first year college students can often lead to eye-opening failure. Perhaps there ore stogies you use with your young students that might apply to mine?


  2. Very nice and organized WordPress site, and Kudos to you in going back to get more education to assist the dismal online passing rates! I hope to improve my site with a better feel and as this is my first attempt at this wordpress and Blogging stuff I better figure it out before I expect to have any student look at what I’ve created because I have a sneaking suspicion this is going to be the next common mode of interaction!! The worst thing is, as I write this I feel I am probably behind the power curve already and just don’r realize it!


    • Daniel, I feel the same way about feeling behind the curve, only in my case I am sure! I’m one of the last hold-outs who refuse to join Facebook- not that I can’t; I just don’t get the appeal. haha This past two weeks I have found myself Googling techie bells and whistles like crazy. Look on the bright side- I bet most of your colleagues don’t have an E-Learning Certificate or Masters. At least we are headed in the right direction! Thanks for the encouragement!


  3. Hi Christen,
    Your job sounds awesome, especially since they gave you the time to work in your eLearning certificate. What a wonderful opportunity! I can only dream about the things I’d be doing and learning if I didn’t have to work, or even if I’d gone back to school before I started a family. There are so many interesting things I’d like to research! However, I think the timing of going back to school couldn’t have been better because things are so different than they were when I graduated from UCR in 2001.

    I’m really interested in what you teach in your ESL classes. Honestly, I had never really thought about English Learners in college! Are they mostly newcomers?

    What do you think the reasons are for the dismal passing rates of online courses at your college? I think you are going to learn so much during your time here that you will be able to share with your colleagues.

    I look forward to getting to know you!



    • Griselda, I am very lucky to get this opportunity and believe me, I’m making the most of this time off to study everything I’ve wanted to and didn’t have time to.
      My students are about 1/2 immigrants, 1.5 Generation, and adults who were born and raised in the US but came from Spanish speaking homes where English wasn’t introduced until school; the other 1/2 of my students are here on International Visas and they come from all over the world.
      At the community college level we offer non-credit and credit classes. Adult Ed. covers Literacy-Intermediate Comprehensive English; Credit is Intermediate-Advanced Academic English. A student can start with A,B,C’s and after completing the full program they will be ready for Freshman Composition- a long 8 semesters from start to finish.
      We have several classmates who are wonderful examples of fluent speakers who at some point likely took the type of classes I teach.
      I haven’t figured out the pass rate problems with our online classes, but I should point out that this problem is with our Native Speakers in basic skills English (pre-Freshman Comp). We don’t currently offer any ESL online. I don’t know what the problem is for sure, but I highly suspect it is a combination of students lacking study skills, teachers not teaching to a variety of learning styles,and students lacking the motivation and personal connections to enjoy and stay connected in the process. I think that last one is going to be the toughest to conquer.

      Thanks for the message. I look forward to getting to know you better as well.


  4. I’m kind of frustrated- It would be nice to have links to some information (keep the page more organized). I can see that this option is supposed to be there, and it looked easy enough, but I couldn’t make it work.
    1) click on “Insert Read More Tag”
    2) click on “more” in document and then “insert edit link” becomes available and select
    3) Choose “URL” or “Link to existing content”
    4) Select title of existing content from Blog page previously created

    Since I wasn’t linking to a URL, I created a new WordPress page. I then selected the title of the page. The break where the page shows up saying “more” is in the draft but the title never links. The published page shows no link.

    Anybody know how to do this?


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