The English Language Institute (ELI) had two days to reimagine an intensive program students travelled from all around the world to attend. As FIU moved to remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the institute’s staff created a remote curriculum they had envisioned for many years but never thought would see manifested in 48 hours.

Going online was an effort the staff had been considering for some time. Other English programs had tried but with little success. “We wanted to be pioneers,” says Laura Lamour, ELI’s director.

In mid-March, Lamour and her team set out into the unknown of remote learning and charted a course the staff believes will have a lasting impact on how the institute and its programs are offered in the future.

“We began thinking out of the box,” Lamour says. The team trained in Canvas (the learning management system used by FIU) and Zoom; interviewed teachers with online backgrounds; and conceived of different ways students could maintain a daily dialogue with advisors and professors.

Eighty-five students from around the world—Venezuela to Angola— are enrolled in the institute’s Intensive English language program—an academic course designed to help international students make the transition to American academic life through full-time instruction in English as a second language. Normally, these students attend classes at Modesto A. Maidique Campus in the ELI building, eight hours a day.

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