September 22, 2018

Free online courses on English for Syrian refugees

FutureLearn’s Basic English 1: Elementary. Click on image to access course.

FutureLearn (2018) New free online courses launched to help Syrian refugees continue their education FE, June 8

Kings College, the University of London, has partnered with FutureLearn, the U.K. Open University’s MOOC platform, to deliver a series of twelve new free online courses to assist refugees affected by conflict in the Middle East. The first two courses, Basic English 1: Elementary, and Basic English 2: Pre-Intermediate, start on June 18.

The courses are a result of an interesting project called PADILEA, which stands for The Partnership for Digital Learning and Increased Access, whose partners are King’s College, LondonKiron Open Higher Education (Germany), FutureLearn in the UK, Al al-Bayt University in Jordan and the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. The PADILEA project will provide blended academic programmes, including Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs), targeted online learning, and classroom-based learning to displaced students who are in refugee camps and other communities.

While the course content is specifically designed for people affected by the Syrian crisis, they are open to all people in the region and beyond for free. Learners can join the courses from any device, computer or smartphone with an internet connection. The courses will also have Arabic translations.


This is an example of the huge potential of MOOCs to improve accessibility to education and meet some very pressing needs. The PADILEA MOOCs are more focused and targeted than many other MOOCs but still have a large potential audience and have a very important goal. Professor Bronwyn Parry at King’s College perfectly captured the significance of this project:

In the scale of the enormity of the ongoing conflict in the region, English courses may seem a relatively small affair but access to education is absolutely vital and offers opportunity and hope for an entire generation whose lives have been devastated by war and displacement.

I have already reported on Kiron University’s efforts to help refugees with online learning. In some ways, online learning for refugees is like a band-aid for someone who is bleeding to death. It can only help reduce some of the effects caused by more fundamental political and economic issues that still need to be urgently addressed, but nevertheless band-aids are still useful when you are bleeding.

I hope though that eventually a more long-term and stable solution will be found for the education of the millions still stuck in refugee camps hoping to transition to a more normal existence – or better still, remove the need for refugee camps in the first place. 

Learning English via games on cell-phones in rural India

Simmi Aujla (2009)  In Rural India, Learning English via Cellphone Chronicle of Higher Education, October 21

A project based at Carnegie Mellon University will study how effective games on cellphones are at teaching English to students in rural India.


Why am I deeply skeptical of such a worthy effort? Could it be that loaning 450 cellphones to children in villages in Andhra Pradesh will do nothing to solve the problems of education in rural India? Or am I missing something here?

Indian readers – please comment when you have read the article online from the Chronicle of Higher Education!

Studies Explore Whether the Internet Makes Students Better Writers

Keller, J. (2009) Studies Explore Whether the Internet Makes Students Better Writers Chronicle of Higher Education, June 15

Interesting article exploring the differences between ‘academic’ writing and ‘Internet’ writing, based on studies at Stanford and Harvard Universities

Empowering education through technology in the k-12/school sector

My web site focuses primarily on post-secondary education, and because of the volume of articles in the k-12/school sector, I rarely post articles about this sector.

However, eSchool News provides a useful collection of articles each week through its Online Educational Resource Centre. There are often articles here that would also be of interest to post-secondary education readers. This week’s includes:

Project-based learning engages students, garners results

Technology empowers differentiated instruction

Report: Reinvent schools for the digital age

Tech giants vow to change global assessments

HP grants aim to redesign college engineering

How to infuse 21st-century skills into English classes

Seven skills students desperately need

Ten ways to boost learning with technology

School leaders: Focus on new-age skills

Program helps educators teach digital-age skills

New resource helps teach 21st-century skills in social studies classes

These are all magazine-type articles, rather than research-based, but still worth reading.