Q&A: World of Learning Institute

World of Learning Institute Works to Ensure World Language Education is Accessible to Everyone

Dr. Patricia “Pat” Mulroy of the World Learning Institute

With a noble mission to ensure foreign language education is accessible to everyone, the World of Learning (WOL) Institute has capitalized on existing technologies to provide face-to-face world language instruction in a virtual format. The organization has provided close to 10,000 hours of instruction to over 1,600 students worldwide. In May 2020, the WOL Institute began working with CourseArc to ensure their online courses are accessible to all learners and to increase student engagement. 

CourseArc chatted with Dr. Patricia Mulroy, Supervisor of WOL Institute, to learn more about how the organization is using and expanding the use of technology to improve language learning through virtual instruction. 

Tell us about WOL Institute and how you hope to ensure world language education is accessible to everyone.

The World of Learning Institute was started many years ago by a group of forward thinking rural administrators who wanted to provide high quality options for their students. I don’t think at the outset any of us imagined that the technology would be so good and so pervasive. We have teachers from across the U.S. who are passionate about language learning and helping students to reach their language acquisition goals. So, today we believe that anyone who wants to learn a language should not be limited by time, space or geographic location. 

How is the WOL Institute different from other language education programs in the market?

Students of World of Learning Institute pause for a coffee break during a virtual session.

The WOL Institute is different because we provide engaging live sessions, currently in Zoom, with highly skilled teachers. The real difference is the time we spend with teachers on professional learning. Teaching in a virtual environment is hard as we have all come to know during COVID-19. It takes planning and practice to deliver virtual sessions that connect students to the teacher and the learning. We are proud of the dedication of our teachers to seek out learning from ACTFL, COERLL, and their specific language organizations that support best practices in second language learning. 

How has WOL Institute adapted, and helped your students adapt, to a new world of online learning?

We are lucky to have been doing virtual instruction for a long time. Through many years of trial and error, reading and learning ourselves, we try to be sure to address the best practices of online learning. In addition to the social and teaching aspects of online learning, we also engage students in the cognitive domain. Our activities that students use to practice are developed to stretch students beyond simple recall and provide them with prompts and challenges that provide them with opportunities for authentic practice and skill development. 

How many schools and students are you working with today?

Today we work with about 25 schools and districts. This year we anticipate serving about 1200 students each semester. Often when folks can’t find a teacher or a teacher needs to take leave, we will add students as we become the long-term substitute until the teacher returns or the district can find another classroom teacher. 

How has CourseArc played a role in your ability to support your students, and grow your program?

We are super excited about our relationship with CourseArc because we believe that CourseArc’s tools give students additional visual support, and varied opportunities to demonstrate their understanding. The summary page is one area that students can see right where they are in their asynchronous work. We also like the interactive nature of the activities, the vocabulary development resources and the adaptive content. We know that these resources will help our students – ALL students, really – to better navigate the content with success.  

Students from the Windber Area School District in Pennsylvania work together during a World of Learning Institute learning session.

What advice would you give to other organizations seeking to deliver accessible, quality online world language instruction? 

Build capacity in your teachers. Support teacher learning and growth every day. Don’t make professional learning a “one and done.” Be available when your teachers have questions. Ask them what they need to be successful. Create collaborative learning communities for them. Make sure they know you are available to support their growth. And, use resources from high quality organizations – like ACTFL and COERLL, and of course CourseArc!

Tell us how you support educators in supplementing traditional education with a world language education?

Learning a new language offers so many advantages to a learner. We blogged about that a few months ago about the necessity of learning about a new culture. Our world expands and we have more empathy as we see the traditions and values of others. Academically, our understanding of English expands, our ability to listen and concentrate improve, and test scores improve. Languages teach us history from another point of view, about food in other countries, about music and cultural opportunities. The conversation about how important languages are is deep and exciting. 

For more information about World of Learning Institute, including ways to make foreign language a part of your curriculum, please visit www.worldoflearninginstitute.com reach out directly to Pat Mulroy at pmulroy@worldoflearninginstitute.com.

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