VHS Nördlingen: "Everyone can learn at their own pace and according to their own preferences." 

March 2017. The Volkshochschule in Nördlingen received 25 Google Chromebooks from NetHope’s Project Reconnect. They are made available to refugees participating in integration courses to help deepen the lessons learned. Some of the refugees have never worked on a computer before, but they are eager to explore the Chromebook. The small laptops are very popular and have become are an integral part of the courses.

Instructor Antonia Schneider shares her experience:

At the Rieser Volkshochschule in Nördlingen, the participants of the integration course "Einstieg Deutsch" are from six different countries: Eritrea, Nigeria, Syria, Afghanistan and Uganda. Many of them have a smartphone, but only a few had experience using computers, the Internet, or e-mail. They all are very excited about the Chromebooks received through Project Reconnect. 

Thanks to an Internet connection through Freifunk, the participants were able to practice with online exercises from Cornelsen, www.cornelsen.de, to deepen their knowledge on subjects discussed in class such as shopping, a visit to  the doctor or a café. In the online exercises the answers of the participants are automatically corrected and graded, similar to the experience on the learning platform "Ich-will-Deutsch-lernen.de", www.iwdl.de.

My instructor colleague, Simone Seitzinger and I support course participants to use the Chromebooks with up to two learning assistants. We help to call up the webpages and to work on tasks. Everyone can learn at their own pace and according to their own preferences. While one participant from Nigeria learned how to combine question and answer tasks in an online task about the subject of health, Selam from Eritrea was already asking about the solutions to another task. A friend of her watched a video about the subject. 

Even if the handling of the new technology was still unfamiliar for many, all users wanted to try out the many possibilities of the Chromebooks. They often supported each other, like a couple from Afghanistan, who had never worked with a computer before. During the break and after the course, the participants continued to use the Chromebooks with the help of the learning assistants. The foyer of the Rieser Volkshochschule offers enough space for study groups, for what we call a "Lerncafé", a study café. The Chromebooks are also used to find bus connections for trips, translations through www.leo.org or other information.

The additional online resources were particularly beneficial for some more advanced participants. Mhretu from Eritrea, for example, already completed additional tasks on a higher level. He uses the virtual course rooms on the learning platform moodle, which are moderated by our course instructors. There, he can also meet participants from other courses, chat with them, write texts and work on topics together. In addition, he can expand his vocabulary, deepen grammar and train on listening comprehension. In this way, joint learning continues after the course.