Remote ESOL Project

Gratitude & Methodology

World Education and the Remote ESOL Team thank all the ESOL programs who responded to our call and took the time to submit their information. We are especially grateful to the programs whom we interviewed, who reviewed our drafts, and shared so much about their wonderful work.

We come away from this study with deep appreciation for the tremendous effort ESOL programs made to rapidly redesign their programs for the COVID-induced remote learning environment. We are in awe of the commitment of teachers and program staff to not just ensuring the continuity of the education program, but also to meeting students’ basic needs for food, avoiding eviction, filing for unemployment, and accessing health care during the pandemic. Across the country, adult education programs went well beyond the call of duty to respond to the crisis. And while doing that, they innovated, rethinking how adult education programs can be designed using diverse technology tools. It was a lasting learning experience for us all; we at World Education feel honored to have been able to document and share.

Remote ESOL Programs Interviewed for this Project

  1.  Building Skills Partnership, CA
  2. Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, Washington, DC Region
  3. Central Wyoming College College & Career Readiness, Riverton, WY
  4. Chinatown Community Development Center, Women’s ESL and Life Skills Program, San Francisco, CA
  5. Chinese Community Center, Houston, TX
  6. Clark College Transitional Studies, Vancouver, WA
  7. Fox Valley Technical College, FVTC ELL, Appleton, WI
  8. Holyoke Community College, Ludlow & Springfield Adult Learning Centers, Ludlow, Springfield, Holyoke, MA
  9. Intercambio Uniting Communities, CC English, (National)
  10. Lancaster-Lebanon IU13, IU13 Community Education, Lancaster and Lebanon Counties, PA
  11. Literacy Council of Montgomery County (LCMC), LCMC @ WORK, Rockville, MD
  12. Literacy Partners, English for Parents, New York City, NY
  13. Literacy Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
  14. Missoula County Public Schools’ Adult Education, Academic Success Program, Missoula, MT
  15. Mt. Diablo Adult Education, ESL Program, Concord, CA
  16. National Immigration Forum, English at Work, (National)
  17. National Partnership for New Americans, English as a Gateway – English Innovations,  (National)
  18. Neighborhood House – International Learning Program, Milwaukee, WI
  19. New Haven Adult and Continuing Education Center Programs, New Haven, CT
  20. New York State Office for New Americans Mobile ESOL for Immigrants and Refugees, statewide, NY
  21. Northeast Wisconsin Technical College – ELL, Greenbay, WI
  22. Orange County Library System, Learn English at OCLS, Orange County, FL 
  23. Ozark Literacy Council, Fayetteville, AR
  24. Pima Community College Adult Basic Education for College and Career, Refugee Education Program, Tucson, AZ 
  25. Queens Public Library, Grand Family Fundamentals, Flushing Adult Learning Center, Flushing, NY
  26. Riverside Language Program, Inc., New York City, NY
  27. Sacramento County Office of Education, USA Learns, (National)
  28. Santa Barbara City College, School of Extended Learning, Santa Barbara, CA
  29. Second Start, Concord, NH
  30. St. Paul Public Schools Adult Learning, Hubbs Center ABE, St. Paul, MN
  31. Tamalpais Adult School, Home Care Aide – Online Course, Larkspur, CA
  32. Technical College System of Georgia, Savannah Technical College, Savannah, GA
  33. Technical College System of Georgia,  Georgia Piedmont Technical College, Clarkston, GA
  34. ThinkSelf Deaf Adult Education, St. Paul, MN 
  35. Tuscarora Intermediate Unit  #11, PA Distance Learning Project, statewide, PA


This qualitative study was structured as a grassroots effort led by a team of researchers, who themselves have worked as practitioners in the field of adult education. The research unfolded through a multiphased process.

Landscape Scan
The project team gathered existing literature, reports, and presentations to understand key considerations to be explored in our investigation. Based on it, the team interviewed key practitioner stakeholders, leaders, teachers, and learners in remote adult ESOL programs, to ensure that our approach and questions weres relevant.

Call for Program Information
Based on this information, the project team crafted an application calling on remote ESOL programs in diverse settings across the country to share high-level information on key topics revealed in landscape scan to be important: program administration, learner onboarding and support, technology use, instructional approaches, and equity measures. The call for program information was disseminated across multiple and diverse networks through multiple channels. Fifty-five (55) programs responded.

Participant Selection
Drawing on a rubric informed by our landscape scan, the project team selected 35 programs for follow-up interviews and further review. These programs demonstrated promising, innovative practices across all or some of the key topics. The selection process also aimed to ensure that the selected programs represented diverse organizational settings and geographies, and ESOL student populations served. To select them, the project team conducted an initial screening; screening criteria included factors such as service to a range of ESOL levels from beginning to high-intermediate, and evidence of an array of coherent technology-enabled practices from onboarding to instruction to student supports.

Interviews and Information Gathering
The project team conducted interviews with teachers and leaders from the selected programs. The interviews were structured by a protocol that included open-ended questions to serve as prompts. The interviews covered program components or practices in the areas of: student recruitment and onboarding process; remote ESOL curricula and instructional approaches; specific apps or software solutions; student support activities and technologies; support for student access to digital skills and devices; and support for staff. The interviewees probed for practices that participants considered particularly effective and /or innovative. The team also reviewed program websites and additional documentation submitted by the programs.

Drawing on a priori coding scheme based on the key topics, project staff read through interview notes and, where necessary, listened to the interview recordings, attending to how each program addressed the key areas. The project team met multiple times to discuss emerging analysis and observations. In addition, the team consulted with each program profiled to ensure the accuracy of the description of the program.

Reporting on the Research
Programs that described strength across all key topics and that helped us complete a demographically and geographically diverse set of case studies, were selected for full program case studies. Innovations that fit more specifically defined audiences and in unique settings were included in the paper Creating Equitable Access to Remote Adult ESOL and Supports in Multiple Contexts and for Distinct Populations and Purposes. Additional innovations are described in our paper Promising Practices in Remote ESOL.