Rise of Online Higher Education, Global English Collisions, and the Academic American English Dialect

Living reference work entry


Online students at international universities face many challenges, including fewer opportunities for enculturation, divergences in prior education and education standards, and communication difficulties arising from disassociation in the online communication medium and the multiplicity of locally correct global English variants. These challenges are often compounded by different and locally and culturally grounded standards for writing originality, quotation, and citation. Graduate students who do not quickly acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to overcome these challenges are at an increased risk of failing to thrive. Common consequences include being accused of plagiarism, dropping out, failing in and repeating gateway courses, and an extended time-to-degree at the post-coursework thesis/dissertation/capstone stage.

This chapter presents the results of 15 years’ experience teaching in distance learning environments, including 3 years with the US-based online school Walden University (the flagship school in the global Laureate Education university system) and 3.5 years as the Head of Doctoral Writing at Azusa Pacific University. The chapter surveys the challenges faced by international students at American-style universities and at online colleges and universities in particular, using Elfenbein and Ambady’s (Curr Dir Psychol Sci 12(5):159–164, 2003) dialect theory as a conceptual framework guiding a multipronged scaffolding approach for building student writing skills from orientation to graduation. It includes a definition and description of the Academic American English dialect and its use in establishing a shared standard for communication in academic environments.


Online education Learner English Cocurricular instruction Student success Gateway skills 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Writing CenterAbilene Christian UniversityAbileneUSA

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