Creating Equitable Access to Remote Adult ESOL: Multiple Contexts, Distinct Populations, and Diverse Purposes

This brief describes innovative, remote adult ESOL program practices and designs based on interviews with staff from 34 adult ESOL programs across the US about their use of digital technologies for onboarding, instruction, and supports to diverse ESOL learners.

Silja Kallenbach
Annalisa Crowe
Catalina González
Navjeet Singh
Johan Uvin
Alison Ascher Webber
Jen Vanek
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
World Education, Inc.: Silja Kallenbach, Annalisa Crowe, Jen Vanek, Alison Ascher Webber
Independent consultants: Catalina González, Navjeet Singh, Johan Uvin
Publication Year
Resource Type
Number of Pages
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This brief reports on a study of remote adult ESOL delivery through the lens of the varied organizational settings in which they operate and the supports needed to engage distinct ESOL populations (e.g., the elderly, people seeking citizenship, and Deaf English learners). The brief offers concrete examples of programming and instructional practice that best support equitable access to technology-rich, well-supported ESOL instruction that can be expanded to reach more people.

This brief is complemented by eight program profile case studies; a Practice and Policy Brief that highlights key findings and innovative practices and models, names and discusses facilitating conditions, identifies areas where more research is needed, and offers policy recommendations that can facilitate scaling up effective remote instructional models for English language learning; and a Promising ESOL Practices document that highlights specific practices and innovations from the interviewed programs.

Benefits and Uses

This resource provides promising practices for ESOL remote and distance education. It also provides key decisions and considerations for remote ESOL program design and implementation. Program administrators will benefit from the many examples of how programs across the country innovated by leveraging various online technologies during the early days of the pandemic in order to continue offering equitable ESOL services to immigrants and refugees. The examples will also help adult educators understand how to be responsive and resilient in the field of adult ESOL.

The section on National and Statewide Models would be of particular interest to program administrators since they may want to draw from these examples when rethinking their own offerings. Some of the models featured, such as I-DEA and Intercambio, are available to individuals nationwide and could possibly be integrated into local programming.

What the experts say

This is a great resource to help adult educators implement ESOL distance education into their programs. The resource highlights how, in the early days of the pandemic, adult education programs implemented innovative practices to ensure learners could continue learning English through a wide range of online approaches, both synchronous and asynchronous, as well as hybrid options.

Readers will gain many ideas for what is possible, whether their ESOL program is offered through a community or technical college, a library, a school district, a charter school, a community-based organization, or a workplace. The resource also covers solutions for programs in rural areas where technology access is limited. Strategies for serving individuals who have unique barriers to engagement such as those with hearing impairment or other disabilities, learners who are elderly, or parents of young children are all addressed.

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