Massive Open Online Course Helps English Language Learners Improve Writing Skills

Posted by Evan Ryan
January 6, 2014
Students Take the College Writing 2x: Principles of Written English Massive Open Online Course in Madagascar

International students connect the United States with the world.  We want international students to be successful in their fields of study and to gain a rich understanding of America.  Learning the intricacies of written English increases students’ chances of success in science, business, technology and much of higher education -- global fields where English has become dominant.

Beginning last fall, the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs partnered with the University of California at Berkeley to launch College Writing 2x: Principles of Written English, a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) hosted on the edX platform to help English language learners improve their writing skills.  Berkeley’s Maggie Sokolik teaches the course.  She’s an expert in teaching English to an international audience from her time as an English Language Specialist sponsored by the State Department.  

Participants in this MOOC learn key critical thinking skills, as well as grammar, how to control a sentence, and how to proofread -- empowering them with the educational tools for success in the classroom and beyond. In addition to offering new skills, MOOCs offer students an unparalleled opportunity to “test drive” the U.S. education system and prepare for studying in the United States.  The feedback from students so far has been excellent.  A student from Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, wrote that he would recommend the course because, “It is a great means for discovering how the international universities work.”

We just wrapped up the first five-week module.  The course started with 55,000 students participating in the online forum from all around the world, including significant numbers from China, India, and Mexico.  Twenty-eight thousand were actively participating online in the last week, and just under 8,000 students earned a certificate for the course. 

But the course isn’t just virtual.  As part of our partnership, participating U.S. Embassies helped us launch our MOOC Camp initiative by hosting in-person, facilitated discussions in tandem with the online module of the course.  U.S. embassy officials and their EducationUSA advising staff, English Language Fellows, and local community experts led these discussions. 

The combined virtual and in-person approach clearly paid off.  As Ms. Eve Smith, a Senior English Language Fellow who works with English teachers in Ukraine explained, “Combining an online course with face-to-face instruction provides the support that [participants] need.”

If you missed the first module, don’t worry.  The second five-week module of the course begins on January 16, and you can take it even if you did not take the first module.  Want to participate in a facilitated discussion?  Get in touch with the Public Affairs Section of the nearest U.S. Embassy.  We hope you will join us! 

About the Author: Evan Ryan serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs.



Deepanshu M.
February 13, 2014
I really want to improve my writing thanks for sharing.
james o.
United States
January 7, 2014
Sir it is my desire to participate and learn with this programme of yours, so as to not only improve my writing but also to get a little sense of how it feels studying as an international student. I would be very pleased if i am directed. I tried selecting my country, but the device am using presently(my mobile phone) did not allow select. I am an undergraduate in nigeria, my country.
Jacmen K.
Côte d'Ivoire
January 8, 2014
I am very happy to read this article. I am a participant of the MOOCs, now i feel confident when i write an essay and when a teach English to non natives. I am eager to follow the next module.
Fernando R.
January 8, 2014
Will be the part 1 available again ?
mohamad k.
United Arab Emirates
January 9, 2014
Thank you so much, special thanks to Dr Maggie Sokolik for her time . I am looking forward to be enrolled .
Liz R.
Costa Rica
January 12, 2014
Hiii!! I would like to take the course, but I live 4.5-5 far hours from the capital where is the nearest embassy, and because of my work I can't move this month. Is there any other way to take it? Thank you!
Sona K.
January 13, 2014
At first thaks for a good chance to improve our language level. Please, let me know how can I join the online courses? I want it very very much. Please, don't ignor me. I need it.


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