Fabulous "Coffee Break"discussion about transitioning to remote/distance education during the pandemic

Hello Integrating Technology Colleagues,

Susan Finn Miller, the moderator of the LINCS English Language Acquisition group, and I had a terrific crowd for our  Monday July 20th Coffee Break real-time discussion. For those who were able to attend, and for others, we can continue the discussion in this thread.

Here's a link to the recorded discussion. Below is a long, organized summary of the discussion chat. It was filled with great questions, and answers from the participants. I hope my summary places the comments in the correct sequence and that this makes it easier to follow, especially for those who weren't there. If I have misunderstood something you wrote, please reply with where it should be located or, if you wish, with more that you would like to say.

The discussion focused on four questions:

     1. Is your adult education program or school delivering instruction online now? If so, how are you doing that?

     2. What tools, methods, strategies, or approaches are you as a teacher or program administrator finding 

         especially useful? 

     3. What advice would you give to other teachers/instructors who are offering online classes for the first

          time? What do you see as the opportunities? What cautions would you give them?

     4. When you’re able to offer in-person instruction again what, if anything, have you learned in this time that you

         would like to continue to offer then?

Some of the participants' replies to these questions, and their own questions and comments could be important for further discussion here in the Integrating Technology group.

I hope you will start those discussions!

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology group

                                      Integrating Technology Coffee Break Discussion Chat Summary

1. Is your adult education program or school delivering instruction online now? If so, how are you doing that?

Delivering instruction online using:

   Real-time videoconferencing tools such as:

  • Zoom (and Zoom recordings)
  • Zoom plus text/phone
  • WebEx
  • Google Meet

   Online Content or course management systems (with content) such as:

  • Essential Ed (e.g. high school equivalency preparation products such as GED Academy)
  • Edmentum (Plato)
  • WorkKeys
  • Khan Academy
  • CommonLit
  • ReadTheory
  • ReadWorks
  • Quill
  • Ventures text (ESL/ESOL)
  • Burlington English (ESL/ESOL))


  • Remind -- Remind (allows teachers to send videos, voice messages, attachments, google forms, Quizizz and Quizlet links, etc.)
  • WhatsApp

   Class or curriculum management systems or tools (without pre-loaded content) such as:

  • Schoology
  • Canvas
  • Google Classroom
  • Google Suite
  • Padlet

   Assessment Tools

  • gradecore.com, and the web portal through that site (a commercial automated testing service. $15/month. Teachers create their tests)
  • Answergarden (free, short group feedback tool) https://answergarden.ch/

   Communication tools

  • Remind
  • Email
  • Telegram (messaging)

   Original content

  • Shared Google Docs (writing-shared Google Docs which allow synchronous/asychronous feedback)


  • Planning for distance learning for both GED and beginning ESL
  • Planning to use Google Classroom for ESL Levels 2-4, GED, ABE. Planning to use Google Hangout and WhatsApp for Level 1. Using Google Hangout and Google Classroom for short summer programs.
  • Hoping to add Canvas to fall courses
  • Planning to add Schoology in the fall
  • Not currently delivering online instruction
  • Don’t know what adult education in our community college is doing
  • We are using Canvas and still teaching teachers now..since April Professional Development for teachers
  • We are all devising our own ways

2. What tools, methods, strategies, or approaches are you as a teacher or program administrator finding especially useful?

  • From PD: Oxford University Press has what appears to be effective, interactive teaching resources.
  • From MPL: Using poetry as writing prompts
  • From RS: Writing is a particular issue. Need help with this. (David recommended recent discussion with Mary Ann Corley on teaching writing in the LINCS Reading and Writing group)
  • From JH: Google Classroom scheduling can help
  • From AG: Padlet allows students to write, and to record their voices. I use it to have students do homework.
  • From TM: We are using the planning tools in this excellent (blended learning guide) document: https://app.essentialed.com/resources/blended-learning-teachers-guide-web.pdf
  • From MPL: Mathisfun for mathematics lessons.
  • From CE: Odysseyware has good courses
  • From KS: Writable and CommonLit for reading and writing
  • From MPL: Desmos for mathematics
  • From KK: I'm using Zoom to do warmups for a lesson, discussion, ppt slide mini-lessons, pre-reading or writing and then connecting students to platforms like CommonLit (free for teachers and students) to extend the work we started in Zoom. I'm finding that doing this sort of connected work is resulting in stronger student participation than in doing something on Zoom and then assigning work on platforms that isn't connected to what we were working on "f2f." Some teachers in MN have taught students how to share their screens in Zoom so they can share writing or are using Google Docs and collaborating on writing and feedback.
  • From RS: TEACHERS are working thousands of unpaid hours creating materials! There IS a lot of sharing going on.
  • From TM: We are using Zoom, Google Suite, Padlet, AnswerGarden to support instructors
  • From BF: There is a program here in Central Ohio that allows ESL adult students to work independently, to build hours as well, with Burlington English, USALearns , ESL Library...it's for those who cannot join the Virtual Classroom on a regular basis due to work schedule
  • From JH: I’ve used Readworks.com and CommonLit.com independent of the group.
  • From FM: Using Moodle and Canvas - with your (own) content
  • From RS: Does LINCS have any way to become a clearinghouse area focused on ONLINE learning/teaching?
  • From SL: We are considering using an LMS that will be available state-wide to streamline the elements of hybrid and remote learning so program managers, teachers and students can learn one platform and set of tools.  We are in the infancy stage, but I'd like to create a template to help teachers create the online learning experience - if that's useful to them.
  • From MP: Might one option be to contact the author and/or publisher of the curricula being used to copy the necessary pages to display the necessary ones on the chosen platform as we teach our students?
  • From LL: What percentage of time do you have students on an 'online' system such as Essential Ed., and what percentage is Zoom lessons?  Is there another component?
  • From MP: Does anyone have any guidelines/parameter for zoom class meetings?  I'm thinking about doing online live.  Any information would be helpful.
  • From BB: We have found an hour to an hour and half works well for Zoom. Longer than that, we have found we lose focus
  • From KK: I think that building something within a platform is different than "converting" existing curriculum to a platform. We were thrust into an emergency response with many of us not having time to thoughtfully design instruction.
  • From KK: ATLAS (in Minnesota) has done a lot of work putting guidelines together for using Zoom.
  • From AG: For feedback on writing, use Kaizena (https://www.kaizena.com/)
  • From KK: Yes! Go to the discussion (recently in the LINCS Reading and Writing Group) with Mary Ann Corley. It was excellent! I'd love for more people to add ideas.
  • From JA: Some resources for writing:  https://www.thoughtco.com/topic-sentence-examples-7857  ;  https://www.teach-nology.com/worksheets/language_arts/creative/   ;  https://www.procon.org/
  • From JH: Google Docs/Classroom can do what you just described with docs and/or forms.
  • From MPL: I do 2.5 hours twice a week of direct contact via Zoom for 1 math class.  I put students into individual breakout rooms, and pull out groups to the main room for instruction, and tell students they can come back to the main room if they need help.
  • From BF: At Columbus City Schools, we have been using Everyday Edits as warmup activities for ESOL Book 2 and 3 (high beg./ low intermediate...the students love it, even though I know these are old
  • From KL: Synchronous learning can provide significant challenges to students re access to broadband at the same time
  • From RS: Not to switch the discussion, but when it's time, the best advice I have found over the summer "break" ( HAHA) is that those F2F strategies are not the place to start. Instead, begin with what you want to do online, and the issues with being online. Timing, maintaining enthusiasm, interest level, ETC It has really improved my thinking/style. Oh, and the flipped classroom concept. I'm an ESL teacher.
  • From AW: A sophisticated LMS such as Canvas. Canvas links nicely with Google Docs and is a space to put everything in the class. It has all the capabilities such as video/audio built right into discussions. It’s very easy to use and you can cater the navigation bar easily for ESL so that people do not get lost.
  • From BB: We have been using Canvas for some time and find it easy for students and faculty to work with.
  • From SL: I like the visual look and ease of use of Canvas as well.
  • From MP: I have a planning document for Canvas that could be used online but I could not upload it. It just has the following: module objective/course objective, learning materials, activities and assessments....This has helped me plan an online course...
  • From PD: Essential features for ESL on platform:

       1) view of multiple students;

       2) audio for interaction; &

       3) capacity to post document(s) being taught.

  • From FM: In several states that we have been helping -  we have been using Endless OS ( https://endlessos.com/home/ ) - since it was developed for those with limited access to the internet and it is content rich.
  • From PD: Has anyone used GOOGLE MEET?
  • From TM: I have. I think Zoom is easier. Zoom does not require an account. Sometimes the audio/video quality on Meet is not as good. There are not the same restrictions on meeting length as with the free Zoom account. You can get a whiteboard extension by adding Classroom but I have not used that. You can create breakout rooms but it is not built in
  • From LG: Many of our students do not have basic digital literacy skills.  Any free curriculum resources that anyone can recommend? '
  • From Susan Finn Miller: I posted the article in the Teaching and Learning Community on LINCS
  • From Susan Finn Miller: Check out the Teaching Skills That Matter curriculum on LINCS which includes several lesson plans on how to teach basic digital skills
  • From Melissa Zervos : Teaching Skills that Matter https://lincs.ed.gov/state-resources/federal-initiatives/teaching-skills-matter-adult-education
  • From NH: Will the tax paying public have opportunities to watch virtual learning much like visiting a physical classroom?
  • From PD: In our school system, "Google Class' is being used, which may not be accessible or useful to non-public school teachers, hence my interest in the next best thing (I assume):  GOOGLE MEET.
  • From Melissa Zervos: If you would like a copy of the recording please send a request to mzervos@manhattanstrategy.com
  • From LM: Knowing how to use various platforms was a key frustration for many of our parents as well students.

3. What advice would you give to other teachers/instructors who are offering online classes for the first time? What do you see as the opportunities? What cautions would you give them

  • From SL:  1. Create a consistent, predictable learning path.  begin with an orientation on how to navigate the system and use the key tools. 2. Begin with a thorough orientation on how to navigate the platform and use the main tools. Don't introduce new tools until students master first ones used.
  • From KK: Just because someone knows how to use tech doesn't mean he/she knows how to use tech to learn.
  • From AW: Online teaching requires a different pedagogy. You could refer to Quality Matters rubric (and UDL) for online design but we need one adapted for ESL https://www.qualitymatters.org/qa-resources/rubric-standards
  • From BB: We worked hard to let students know this is a learning process for all of us when it comes to using technology.  It takes practice for all of us.
  • From BB1: And some may not have internet at home
  • From MP: Absolutely agree with the statement about learning online....
  • From AW: Screening students for online readiness is also important.
  • From LM: Continue to be patient.  Our students are enduring so many obstacles that they need to overcome first.  When f2f we will make sure to have students complete a tech survey and get them started right away using a variety of devices. 
  • From SL : + 1 - Quality Matters Rubric
  • From KK: Some advice: Whatever you want to cover in a synchronous lesson, likely cut it in half. ;-)
  • From AW: Agree
  • KK! We have to cut the content down.
  • From PA: You may be finding yourself being a techy to help students get into your class - so be patient and you all will probably learn together
  • From JH: I had used G. Classroom for years. It improved hugely on a weekly basis as I leapt into the full online offering.
  • From MPL: The biggest problem for me has been getting my students online because their only computer/internet access was at our school and library.
  • Curriculum resources that anyone can recommend?
  • From AG: NorthStar digital literacy curriculum
  • From JH: @david rosen I've cruised the Internet a lot and the concept of teaching how to use the technology is crucial.
  • From MP: Is it endless OS that Frank is talking about? (Yes)
  • From AS: There is a growing trend in schools and organizations for students to teach other students. In the library, I have seen mixed results from that approach. Students are empowered to learn and take the driver's seat. However, students tend to ignore many of the digital literacy skills (i.e. social media privacy, impact of technology on society, etc.). So existing poor habits are reinforced by students teaching students. The educators cannot correct a behavior that they do not know exists.
  • From PD: Yes, FM.  WHATSAPP is a free platform, one that most "internationals" are very familiar with.  We, as teachers, need to discover how to post documents we will use in our teaching.
  • From LM: WE certainly find that our trust relationship is key to a majority of our students.  They might need to "stop put' temporarily, but know they are always welcome to "stop back in" when they are ready

4. When you’re able to offer in-person instruction again what, if anything, have you learned in this time that you would like to continue to offer then?

  • From JH: Opening and closure would seem to work well when we return to in-person.
  • From AG: When I return to my classroom, I will continue to have volunteers join us virtually for one-to-one ESL conversation practice.
  • From Susan Finn Miller: Program Management group on LINCS … join for the discussion on what have we learned that applies to our return to face-to-face classes
  • From KK: I'm going to continue to incorporate online resources to extend the f2f learning in the classroom. I'm also going to work hard to intentionally integrate the digital literacy and soft skills as much as academics in order to prepare my students to adapt to...whatever!
  • From FM: Teaching in a Digital Age - Second Edition https://open.bccampus.ca/browse-our-collection/find-opentextbooks/?uuid=6e34af22-19b4-4271-93378ee1160d85ec&contributor=&keyword=&subject
  • From AS: Etiquette variations between online communication methods has also been a challenge for many patrons in the library.
  • From JH: opening and closure with video clips and Forms response.
  • From PD: Usefulness of digital learning:  Some of my students are learning to use new platforms and happily becoming adept at using such.
  • From MPL: Emphasize computer skills such as re-sizing windows, using drop-down menus proficiently, general skills that work across platforms and operating systems.
  • From KK: Online teaching and learning can have a different sort of intimacy and ability to build relationships.
  • From AG: Yes, Kristine!  The online platform is *very* intimate.
  • From TM: So much educator wisdom here! Thanks everyone.
  • From PD: Another benefit of digital learning:  With one-on-one lessons with individual students (using WhatApp), I'm discovering weaknesses I hadn't been aware of in an in-person classroom environment.

Resources for Helping Learners Get Online

  • From BB1: Collier co FL actually handed out laptops and in some instances, added hotspots..k-12
  • From Susan Finn Miller: Everyoneon.org
  • From FM: We promoted refurbishing laptops and desktop computers with Linux software.
  • From CP: pc’s for people is another organization for assistance with both services and internet service
  • From Susan Finn Miller: National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA)
  • From PD: An interesting result of the pandemic is that many public schools are providing their students with laptops, which I assume could be used by their parents for learning purposes.
  • From Susan Finn Miller: My local program has made our Chromebooks available for students to borrow during the pandemic

Professional Development


  • From AS: Many libraries are transitioning to online instruction and technology assistance through Zoom, over the phone assistance, through online chat, MOOCs, etc.
  • From FM: Helping states (WA, WI for example) with secure laptops / docking stations (e.g. for Corrections) - that connect with their college servers.