Moving Professional Development to Distance Learning


There is a great discussion on the Integrating Technology Community of Practice about moving instruction to online learning. How has this sudden shift impacted your professional development? Are you moving training online? If so, what challenges are you facing? 

OR, are you rapidly shifting your focus to preparing teachers to move to distance learning? It's interesting that we've discussed the technology skill gap with adult education teachers and as we move suddenly, how does this impact your training experiences? 

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Kathy Tracey


Thanks Kathy for raising this important issue. I second the invitation for professional developers to join the LINCS Integrating Technology group, especially now, to read and add to these two discussions: Preparing for and offering adult basic skills online during the pandemic and How Literacy Partners of NYC, a two-generation family literacy program, is moving classes online/ As you read them, note in particular the urgency from teachers and program administrators for professional development in moving their classes and tutorials online.

In California, CATESOL, the statewide ESL professional development organization has pulled out all the stops and has organized immediate help for ESL/ESOL teachers anywhere in the country. One person who has tried that, an ESL teacher from New Jersey, has found it very worthwhile. She wrote in the first Integrating Technology discussion above:

I attended one of these free webinars and it was fantastic. I highly recommend them! I learned more about how to use Zoom, and also Kahoot, Quizlet, Flipgrid and Google Docs. I really appreciate that they are offering these to the wider community! I've recommended them to colleagues in my department.

~Jennifer Kluempen

These well-designed, quick response, free, and widely open webinars; opportunities to ask questions -- for example in the Integrating Technology LINCS group discussion  Preparing for and offering adult basic skills online during the pandemic;  the (now 13-page) summary of resources described in that discussion that you will find at Regularly Updated List of Resources (mostly) from the LINCS Discussion; the new EdTech Center@ World Education website,  Tips for Distance Learning: Adult Basic Education Distance Learning Resource Site and the weekly EdTech Center Friday webinars described at that website, are all examples of new PD offerings designed to help adult basic skills education teachers and tutors move their instruction online. The recent two-day discussion, How Literacy Partners of NYC, a two-generation family literacy program, is moving classes online is an in-depth example of how one program has quickly moved their classes online, with lots of ideas about how other programs might do that.

Like Kathy, I am interested in what you and your professional development organization are doing to help teachers, tutors and program administrators, both in your state and nationally, to move instruction online in this pandemic crisis when in most states in-person instruction is no longer available..

As I see it, we are in phase one, and there are two more phases that we also need to anticipate:

Phase One: Urgent move online of as many classes and tutorials as possible, along with essential professional development to make this possible for some teachers and programs

Phase Two: Reflecting on what is and isn't working, paying attention to what enhances quality of online, remote or distance learning and how it can be improved

Phase Three: Return to the (New?) normal. When classroom doors again are open, what has been learned that programs can apply? Do we have new distance education models, new hybrid, or blended learning models? Are adult basic skills programs and adult schools now able (if additional funding can be provided) to offer excellent adult basic education skills online as well as in-person and with blended or hybrid models?  Can we reach many more of the 36 million plus adults who need these services? Optimistically, will we have a better, stronger adult basic skills system in many states?

I would like to hear what you think our role, what the Association for Adult Literacy Professional Development (AALPD) role, and what the State ABE departments' roles are in creating effective professional development for each of these three phases.  I would especially like to hear what you are doing now in phase one, and where you need help.

I would like to add that I am interested in how you, your PD organization, and your state ABE director and staff may be collecting data on where we are in Phase One. Is your state collecting data on how many programs have closed their doors? Of those, how many are offering classes or tutorials online, how many others hope to offer remote, distance or online instruction? How many programs cannot do this? Are they asking what help they need in professional development, and what kinds? For examples, delivered through weekly webinars, telephone help to teachers, state-level communities of practice where teachers can learn peer-to-peer what other teachers are doing to move classes online, and perhaps in other innovative ways to reach and help teachers and tutors. If your state is not doing any of this, perhaps you can help plug teachers in to national efforts to help them such as the ones I described above.  Incidentally, at least two states, Texas and North Carolina -- and probably many other states -- have already surveyed or soon will survey their programs to learn which are and are not moving online. I am interested in knowing which states have done surveys of their programs.

One last thought: teachers and program managers may say that their learners have no Internet access. Of course, in some cases they may be right; however, often they are not. Many of their students have Internet access through their smartphones, and it is not only possible in our field, but is now being done, to organize online instruction using a free app called WhatsApp, designing a free web page using Weebly, Wix, Google Sites or another free web page maker to list a schedule of classes, homework assignments, and perhaps other resources, and Zoom, a free (with unlimited time sessions for educators during the pandemic) and easy-to-learn online video meeting software program. I would love to see professional developers offer intensive training for teachers on how to these three kinds of tools, all free, all accessible by computer and smartphone. Let me know if this interests you -- or better still if you are already doing this! If you are interested in learning how adult education teachers are learning to use these tools, join the weekly Friday webinars  (1:00-2:00 EDT) offered by the EdTech Center @ World Education. See the "Tips" website above for how to register.

Let's share here, PD colleagues. Let's learn from each other now -- and through the pandemic. Thanks again Kathy for getting us started.

David J. Rosen, Moderator, LINCS CoP Integrating Technology group, and Advisor to the EdTech Center @ World Education





You have put your finger on key issues that we are dealing with, as you always do, to help us think about what we need to in the short term, in the mid-term, and in the long term. In Florida, virtually all adult education agencies have shut down their classrooms and have begun to move to online instruction of some kind. Our larger districts have had experience providing blended instruction and are better prepared to springboard into full online instruction. Smaller districts that are in rural counties often have pockets with weak or no internet, and the agencies there are delivering materials to students through the mail and calling students to help them work with the materials. In one case, the instructor made an arrangement with a local Spanish language radio station to provide a series of 30-minute English language lessons, and the school sent worksheets to students who signed up for classes offered through the radio station. The teacher didn't need to go to the radio station to record the English language lesson, just recorded it on their computer and sent the audio file to the radio station. The radio station was able to broadcast the lessons at specific times during the week (usually evenings). The station did this as a public service to the community. Given that in rural communities, immigrant farmworkers and their families rely heavily on the local Spanish radio station for everything, it was an easy way to deliver educational lessons. 

We also have found that even though internet connections are spotty in rural areas, almost all of the immigrants in those areas find a way to get a cell phone because of the need they have to remain connected with their families back in the home country. And, they find places in their community that have a good connection and go to those places to make calls and use the internet. WhatsApp is virtually the #1 app that is used by immigrants to call for free anywhere in the world. It is also a surprise to many to learn that in most Latin American and Caribbean countries, Haiti in particular, cell phone connectivity is often better than in rural parts of the United States. Cell phone carriers have become very rich by making sure people in small villages in Latin American and Caribbean countries have easy access to a phone, and the cell phone carriers make it easy for people from outside the country to buy a phone and add minutes for their family member back in the home country. The people in the home country often pay very little or nothing for the phone because it is considered an essential need by the family member living in the U.S. to keep in touch 24/7 with everyone back home.

Has LINCS compiled a list of resources into one place? I have seen posts on the Integrating Technology Group, and I probably have missed seeing a link with a comprehensive list to go to and to send others to.

Thank you for all you do, the posts and the information is phenomenal!

Phil Anderson

Florida DOE Adult ESOL Program Specialist

Hi Phil,

Thanks for this rich and detailed description of what is happening for programs and in professional development in Florida.

You asked about a list of resources. I have compiled a summary that I update almost daily from the Pandemic discussion that you will find in the LINCS Integrating Technology group and Program Management group.

All the best,

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology and Program Management groups



This list is awesome! It is just in time for a statewide Information Sharing Webinar with career and adult education programs that will be held Monday afternoon. I will definitely share the link you sent out on March 28th ( 

We have been rapidly shifting our focus to preparing teachers to provide online instruction. It really is a willing mindset that will make all the difference here. Our instructors have to embrace the switch so that our students will be comfortable with it. Many of our instructors are on board. They are willing and have been given the tools and resources to do so. However, just like we expect from many of our students, there is a fair amount of anxiety that comes with the unknown. We have been working with activating and populating our Canvas courses and Google Classrooms, pulling Standard-aligned lessons that can be digitally delivered and making sure all courses are user-friendly for our students. With all of this it has been very easy for us all to feel overwhelmed. What I have introduced in our Zoom Meeting (that covers Canvas Navigation 101 and Google Classroom Navigation) are Stress Relief exercises to start before we get into the guidance. I feel this is something that was beneficial for my instructors and will be beneficial and necessary for our students.