Remote Adult ESOL Case Studies

Each case study highlights notable practices in remote ESOL instruction and administration from eight programs that represent the diverse range of organizations that offer adult ESOL across the US.

Silja Kallenbach
Jen Vanek
Johan Uvin
Catalina Gonzalez
Navjeet Singh
Annalisa Crowe
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
World Education: Silja Kallenbach, Jen Vanek, and Annalisa Crowe
Independent Consultants: Johan Uvin, Navjeet Singh, and Catalina Gonzalez
Publication Year
Resource Type
Informational Material
Product Type

These eight case studies are part of the Remote Adult ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) Project led by World Education, Inc. The project’s goal is to document and disseminate viable remote adult ESOL program models and practices so that ESOL instruction can be done at scale efficiently and effectively in a variety of settings. Each of the organizations highlighted are notable for both a spotlighted innovation and the strength of their work across multiple activities of program instruction and administration. The programs were also selected with an eye toward featuring examples that represent the diverse range of organizations that offer adult ESOL across the US.

Benefits and Uses

This resource will enable adult education professionals (teachers, administrators, staff) to evaluate their own strategies for conducting remote instruction and to develop ideas and plans for initiating or developing those strategies. The variety of program types, program goals, and participant types covered in the eight case studies means that most, if not all, programs will be able to find situations comparable to their own to build on.

Each Remote ESOL Case Study covers the following elements:

  • Program Description Provides information on geographical location, partnerships, program history, student population, funding, and instructional programs offered.
  • Notable Innovative Practices - Describes a variety of innovative practices being implemented. Provides rich options to readers in similar programs who want to emulate the success of those practices and analyze the data reported.
  • Remote ESOL Program Design - Details what remote options were offered to ESOL students; how they were taught among different schedules and who taught them; how they were tested, tracked, and supported; and what technical and digital services were provided at different levels.
  • Student Onboarding and Persistence Supports– Shares successful recruitment and enrollment practices, which varied from full online registration to onsite registration.
  • Instruction – Covers different methods of instruction and content development. Approaches included variety in how students submitted assignments and in how content was presented.
  • Digital Learning Supports – Details how programs provided intensive training to students, teachers, and staff on how to work online in different environments.
  • Support for Students’ Basic Needs – Shares how programs helped address students’ personal needs, including their financial needs. Advisors and volunteers were made available remotely and onsite to help students deal with basic needs
  • Support for Teachers and Staff – Details how programs supported teachers and staff in their transition process, all of whom were thoroughly trained throughout the year.
  • Partnerships – Covers how programs developed strong partnerships with non-profit or other community organizations, business and industry partners, colleges and universities, or government agencies, each of which provided significant services in connecting students to helpful resources.
  • Leadership – Details how program leadership played a central role in initiating remote learning and supporting the development of systems to support students, faculty, and staff in implementing remote instruction.
  • Indicators of Effectiveness - Most programs reported higher retention rates and that many of their students now preferred to work remotely.

The eight case studies will be of most value to administrators and leadership staff as they decide to begin, expand, or modify remote instruction delivered to adults, especially to ESOL adult learners. The approaches adopted and the resources and technologies applied will provide valuable guidance to programs in the process of delivering remote instruction. For programs in the process of hoping to finance remote learning, the resource provides current information to support proposals to different funders.

What the experts say

The resource is extraordinarily useful for the variety of program types and instructional approaches that it represents, for the detail on implementation that it provides, and for the emphasis on factors such as learner support systems, teacher professional development, and partnerships within and outside the institution that it includes. The cases studies provide a treasure chest of information, ideas, resources, and content that administrators, instructors, and staff can adopt in programs that are just starting to offer or want to expand remote instruction to ESOL students.

Each case study identifies the tools (hardware, software, online platforms, apps) the program used and how teachers and learners used them. Each case study also describes the role(s) of synchronous and asynchronous learning in instruction. Important insights emerge with regard to engagement of learners in designing and implementing remote learning, as well as use of multilingual communication and ongoing technical assistance to support learners with little to no experience in using technology for instruction.

Perhaps a silver lining surrounding the pandemic is that necessity encouraged significant creativity and invention among adult educators who struggle to serve students, especially ESOL learners, who can no longer meet face-to-face for critically needed assistance and instruction.

In addition to the case study document reviewed here, users will benefit from reviewing the companion documents on the EdTech Center's Remote ESOL Project webpage: Creating Equitable Access to Remote Adult ESOL, Promising Practices for Adult ESOL, and Key Decisions for Remote ESOL Program Design and Implementation.

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