Intensive English course gives science and engineering students hands-on experience

“It takes a village with Adobe Illustrator.” Students surround a computer during their Innovation Studio class, practicing language skills and gaining hands-on experience for their studies.

Taught by lecturer Carol Ochsner, “English for Science and Engineering” course offers international students a chance to improve their language skills with hands-on learning experiences across the UNL and Lincoln communities. Moving beyond classroom instruction, students participate in various activities closely related to their field of study so they can practice contextualized language skills through project-based experience.

“These projects have provided opportunities for students to interact with people who are unfamiliar to them by following the explanations, asking questions, understanding the answers, and applying that information to the development of their individual projects,” said Ochsner, a lecturer for Programs in English as a Second Language.

Typically, classroom time is split between Nebraska Hall and the Innovation Studio on Nebraska Innovation Campus. Before the class could fully use the studio, students underwent an orientation. Initially nervous, students emerged from the session excited and grateful for the friendly staff.

During the most recent class at Innovation Studio, the students learned all aspects of silk screen printing, including cleaning the equipment when finished. Other projects have also included the use of the world-class 3D printers.

While the projects have varying degrees of difficulty, students often relied on each other to solve problems with different software and equipment. They also enjoyed the chance to use such incredible equipment.

“Students have turned to one another to collaborate, to help resolve issues and capitalize on each other’s strengths. I see them becoming true problem-solvers, and I see their sense of pride as they design and then create their individual projects,” said Ochsner.

Several students have mentioned making other projects outside of class assignments, such as room decorations or gifts for their family. One student has even designed a t-shirt with his personal WeChat QR code printed on it.

“I have been impressed with their creativity! But more importantly, I have been pleased to see a real growth in responsibility and independence in the students through these hands-on projects,” added Ochsner.

Overall, despite their initial reservations, students have left each class session with a sense of pride in what they can accomplish, satisfied the extra effort required for such projects has been worth it.

For more information on the intensive English language courses and hands-on applications offered at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, please visit the Programs in English as a Second Language website.