Student Enrollment in Myanmar’s Online English Language Program Surpasses Expectations

In April, the English Language Program in Myanmar was refitted for a new online summer initiative due to the coronavirus. But teachers in Yangon and Mandalay were concerned it would lack the appeal of their popular in-person programs.

The pandemic had abruptly shut down both American and Jefferson centers in mid-March leaving English-language instructors to quickly shift remaining lesson material online for the 344 students who were just weeks away from completing their term.

Jefferson Center student presents at Mandalay City Poster Presentation held on November 19, 2019.

“Initially, students did not like the shift to virtual learning,” says Alyssa Moy, director of the English Language Program in Myanmar administered by World Learning. “They missed the camaraderie with fellow students and the fun, energetic teaching style of their instructors.” That was only one reason expectations for summer enrollment were low.

Limited Internet access and a lack of familiarity with online learning in Myanmar — an emerging Southeast Asian nation of 53 million people comprised of more than 100 ethnic groups — further complicate the situation.

Internet and mobile phones have been available in the country, formerly known as Burma, for less than five years, and the technology used for online learning is even newer to most people of Myanmar.

In a survey gauging interest in learning English online, only 100 people responded positively.

Moy says her team cautiously began planning for 80 participants as a result of initial feedback. So, they were blown away when almost 520 people pre-registered for the online summer English Language Program.

A second surprise: More than 450 of those who pre-registered had never signed up to participate in one of their programs.

Moy reports that over 110 people have taken the online placement test in advance of the May 7th launch.

JCELP instructor, Stuart Foster, interacting with students for Fourth of July celebration.

She says the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon has been extremely supportive in advertising and promoting the new online English Language Program.

“This has certainly helped.”

The online term is two hours a day, five days a week over six weeks for a total of 60 hours of language instruction.

The cost to returning students is MMK 315,000 and MMK 325,000 for new students ($223-$230).

Similar to in-person English language classes, online courses will focus on the four primary language skills: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Students will also gain what World Learning refers to as “21st century skills.”

“Students will become more tech savvy, which will be useful for future learning since many universities overseas use similar online learning platforms,” Moy explains.

“Even within Myanmar, schools and companies have needed to move quickly to online platforms because of the pandemic.”

Jefferson Center student presents at Mandalay City Poster Presentation held on November 19, 2019.

The majority of ELP students are high school and university age. English language levels vary, and the in-person program offers 10 levels. However, the new online version rolling out this month will offer levels 3–8.

Using the Moodle learning platform, the course structure includes synchronous — real time learning with the instructor — and asynchronous learning — off screen assignments and activities.

As they designed the program for online learning, Moy and her team sought the advice of World Learning Senior TESOL Specialist Radmila Popovic, who advised them to include additional asynchronous exercises.

Moy says, “This is definitely a shift from in-person learning, where there is constant interaction.”

What started as a crisis is increasingly viewed as an educational opportunity.

“We can serve not only a wider swath of Myanmar’s population, but these courses could also be offered in other countries around the world,” Moy added.

Alumni Thematic International Exchange Seminars

Participant Profile

Participants are alumni of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs and vary in age and level of expertise, but all will be engaged in the seminar topic and highly motivated to create change in their communities.

Please consult the list of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs below.

Participant Selection

Alumni TIES participants who are not U.S. citizens are nominated by the U.S. Embassies or Consulates in their countries. Please contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country to learn how you can participate in Alumni TIES. Potential Alumni TIES participants who are living in the United States can apply for specific seminars managed by World Learning. The web link to the online application will be distributed widely by the Office of Alumni Affairs of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

All participants for Alumni TIES seminars are selected by the U.S. Department of State.

Program Design

Alumni TIES seminars take place in six world regions and the U.S.; each seminar is three to four days for small groups of alumni. The seminars include speakers, capacity development trainings, and alumni networking activities. Through the small grants initiative, alumni have the opportunity to take action and make a positive difference in their communities.

Learn More

Watch more videos about the Alumni TIES program.

Read stories from past participants about their experiences at the seminars or with their small grant projects on the Alumni TIES blog.

For information on programs for U.S. government-sponsored exchange program alumni visit the International Exchange Alumni website.

Alumni TIES is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and supported in its implementation by World Learning, in partnership with the Office of Alumni Affairs of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).  

Digital Communication Network

Examples of Past Digital Communication Network Projects

  • Internet vs. Democracy Forum
  • Roaring 20s #Digital Forum
  • Combatting Disinformation Training Program
  • Digital and Media Literacy for NGOs Training Program
  • Tolerance and Coexistence 2.0 Forum
  • Montenegro Digital Influencers Hub
  • Humor and Games for Social Good Forum

International Visitor Leadership Program

End of Year Report

Chosen by U.S. embassies worldwide to participate, distinguished professionals include:

  • parliamentarians
  • government officials
  • entrepreneurs
  • NGO leaders
  • journalists
  • academics
  • arts administrators
  • mid-career professionals

Programs focus on policy issues in areas such as:

  • government
  • international security
  • foreign policy
  • entrepreneurship
  • economics and trade
  • media
  • women’s leadership
  • education
  • public health
  • arts
  • agriculture
  • disability rights and inclusion

World Learning staff members design national itineraries, arrange logistics, set up meetings in Washington, DC, and coordinate the collaboration of U.S. Department of State program officers, interpreters and International Visitor Liaisons, and more than 85 community-based member organizations from the Global Ties U.S. Network who arrange local programs nationwide.


Most participants are mid-career professionals and emerging leaders, and for many, this is their first visit to the U.S. Groups are of varying sizes, from single visitors to groups of 25 or more. World Learning program staff work closely with their State Department counterparts to design a program customized to the project objectives and the visitors’ interests.


Participant Selection

IVLP candidates are selected solely by U.S. embassy personnel in each country. There is no application form. World Learning is a private sector partner of the U.S. Department of State; our role is limited to designing programs for participants once they arrive in the U.S. For further information regarding the program, please consult the U.S. Department of State’s website.

Program Design

A typical project includes up to a week of meetings in Washington, DC, to provide an orientation and overview of the theme and to introduce visitors to federal officials and agencies, national organizations, academics and think tanks, nonprofits and NGOs, and professionals in their specific field of interest. All projects include a briefing on the US federal system of government. Meetings may include panel discussions, site visits, workshops, individual interlocutors, job shadowing, or service opportunities. Visitors typically travel to an additional three or four cities in geographically diverse regions of the country; the itinerary may include a state capital and a small town to provide first-hand exposure to the great diversity that exists in the U.S. Also included in the program design are hospitality dinners, school visits, community service activities, and cultural events such as rodeos, state fairs, festivals, visits to national parks, or events that highlight some unique aspect of the region visited.

Participant Experience

“My recent experience in the IVLP program is so far the deepest ever for me to see and understand the full picture of what America as a country is like. I strongly believe this program will have a very long-term impact on my views about America and the world and to some extent it has already helped me to understand many long-time questions.” – Journalist from China

The International Visitor Leadership Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by World Learning.

Leaders Lead On-Demand Program

Examples of past leaders Lead On-Demand Projects:

  • Vietnam Legal Aid
  • Refugee Integration and Resettlement in Central and Eastern Europe
  • Sports Leadership Program for Colombia
  • Mongolia Disability Rights Legislation and Implementation
  • Promoting Open Educational Resources: Middle East and North Africa
  • Tourism and Development in Serbia and Kosovo
  • Religious Freedom and Interfaith Dialogue for Myanmar, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand
  • Emerging Leaders Exchange for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland
  • Environmental Advocacy for Mongolia
  • Getting Connected Program for the South Pacific
  • Civic Engagement Program for Moldova
  • Disinformation and Fact Checking in Kenya

The Leaders Lead On-Demand is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by World Learning.