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International students can prepare for the Test of English as a Foreign Language Internet-Based Test (TOEFL iBT) in the comfort of their homes as TOEFL iBT Techniques courses are offered online through U.S. colleges and universities. Studying online has become a reality as more and more students choose the freedom of taking courses online and completing degrees in their own time and pace.
In recent years, test preparation courses online have opened new educational opportunities for those who have to take the TOEFL iBT test for academic purposes, as a career requirement or for personal reasons but just do not have the time to go to a traditional, face-to-face (F2F) class. Taking courses online, instructed and guided by professional, knowledgeable instructors, brings comparable - if not better - benefits and outcomes to F2F courses minus the time spent in traffic while riding a bus or driving a car to school and the time spent in the classroom (Sloan Consortium, Becoming an Online Nation, 2007). Online courses also offer a convenient option to studying abroad in an English-speaking country.
The online instructors use D2L (Desire-to-Learn) or other course-management platforms (e.g., WebCT, Blackboard, Moodle) to bring the practice tests, preparation activities, and exercises to their students. In this layout, every week (out of 8 weeks of the course), students will find the following:
Practices to succeed with the Reading Section of the TOEFL iBT test:
The students focus on practicing techniques that they need to master in order to read the texts and answer the questions on the test successfully. They focus on developing their reading skills, such as guessing vocabulary from content, finding pronoun referents, simplifying meaning of sentences, finding facts, inferencing , etc. Vocabulary exercises are provided to help the students to review English vocabulary for the test.
- Practices to succeed with the Listening Section of the TOEFL iBT test: The students familiarize themselves with various questions they will be asked on the TOEFL and strategies to answer them. They learn useful notetaking techniques in order to be able to use their notes and answer questions in the Listening Section of the test.
Practices to succeed with the Speaking Section of the TOEFL iBT test:
The instructors use the OLE board (Webswami or other programs) to help students to practice answering questions in the Speaking Section of the test. Every week, they post numerous questions for the students to answer. The students use their microphones to record their voices as they answer the practice questions. They can also use their webcams so that their instructors can hear and see them. Then, the instructors listen to their recordings and give the students useful feedback on how to improve their speaking skills and succeed in the Speaking Section of the TOEFL.
- Finally, the students practice writing for the independent and integrated parts of the Writing Section of the TOEFL. Every week, they write responses to reading and listening passages (the same way they will be doing it on the TOEFL) and practice writing essays to succeed with the Writing Section of the test. This part of the course includes a comprehensive review of major grammar topics to improve students' writing skills.
The instructors guide the students through the process and are available every step of the way. For that, they use Elluminate (a synchronous online video and text-based chat platform) for the weekly live chats when the students are able to see their instructors, talk to them (via their webcams) or use a text-chat function of Elluminate to ask questions or voice out concerns.
U.S. colleges and universities are discovering new ways to help their students to achieve their goals in education as most of them now offer online courses and programs.
By Olga Geissler