New free, online blended learning guide


New Readers Press has published a new, free, online adult basic skills (including ESOL/ESL) blended learning guide written by Dr. Jen Vanek and me. We are doing a webinar about the guide today at 3:00, sponsored by New Readers Press, and expect to have a lot of questions, perhaps more than we will be able to address in the webinar, so we will try to answer some of those questions here in the days after the webinar.

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology and Program Management groups


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Blended Learning for Adult Basic Skills Learners

ProLiteracy's newly published guide, The What, Why, Who, and How of Blended Learning for Adult Basic Skills Learners, supports ABE and ESOL programs and instructors as they develop, scale up, and enhance blended learning. Join authors David J. Rosen and Jen Vanek in an interactive discussion that draws on your questions to highlight practical resources and strategies that you can use to implement blended learning solutions. Bring at least one question with you to the webinar!

Blended Learning Guide

Webinar: Blended Learning Guide

Join us for a FREE webinar on Thursday, June 11, 3:00–4:00 p.m. EDT



Hello colleagues,

There were nearly 600 people registered for yesterday's New Readers Press/ProLiteracy webinar that Jen Vanek and I offered on our new Blended Learning Guide. We will post a link to the archived webinar as soon as it is available. Over the next few days we will post many of the questions and answers here. We welcome your further questions or comments but remind those who want to comment that, if they are not yet LINCS members, they first need to join LINCS, and then join the Integrating Technology group. Here are two links that will help you with that if you are not yet a LINCS member.

How do I create a new account?

How do I join or leave a group?

In order of when they were asked in the webinar here are the Q & A questions and our answers.

1. From RF: Can we get a link to the new title?

You can find the new, free, blended learning guide here:

2. From NK: What are the most effective assessment strategies in blended learning?

Response from David Rosen: It depends on many variables: what is being taught, at what level, to whom, and under what circumstances. What blended learning offers is the opportunity to expand the kinds of assessments beyond what is available in-person to include engaging and/or systematic online formative assessments. For example, if you choose a course or curriculum management system with a built-in learning management system to measure students’ learning progress, you may choose to have this as the major assessment strategy. Even so, you may find that there are some things that you will want to observe directly in the classroom, or that the learning management assessments do not cover uniformly well, and that you will want to develop some additional assessments. One approach is to start with the curriculum standards first, for example the CCRS, and then choose curriculum and assessments based on the standards. That is not an easy or quick process, but if you start with an online curriculum or an in-person curriculum that you and your students like, and that is aligned fairly well to those standards, you can supplement that over time with additional online or in-person instruction and assessments to match the standards. 

3. From BR:  What is blended learning and is it effective for learners with ranging skill sets?

Response from David Rosen: The simple answer -- it is a kind of hybrid learning in which an online component and an in-person component are both used.  What distinguishes blended learning from other kinds of hybrid learning is that these components are well integrated.  The guide has a section on this on page 5. According to some research, and comments from practitioners, it can be effective if both components address learners’ needs, if the curriculum/a fit the learners. It is more likely to be effective if the components address the same learning content standards, and if the assessments also address those standards.

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology and Program Management groups

4.  From DD:  How will this work for ESL students with limited tech proficiency?

Response from David Rosen: This is an oversimplified answer but, if you choose an online curriculum that is specifically designed for English language learning beginners and does not assume their technology skills, you may reduce the challenges. Also, if you have Internet access in your in-person classes, introduce the online component and give students an opportunity to practice it individually in the computer lab or together in a classroom using a multimedia projector and computer or, if you have one, an electronic whiteboard, so they are comfortable with it before they use it outside the classroom.

5. From TP:  How should Blended Learning look in lower level literacy classes? and from JK:  What are the most effective ways to reach level 1 students who also have literacy struggles?

Response from David Rosen: For the most basic literacy levels, focus on in-person teaching – and support and encouragement – and consider the use of an adult literacy app such as Learning Upgrade or Cell-Ed for the online component. It, and all the other Adult Literacy XPRIZE apps (see Appendix C, page 37) were specifically designed for adult learners with a so-called “zero to three” literacy level.

6. From MF: What are best practices for recruiting and keeping students engaged in blended learning at this time?

Response from David Rosen: It will depend on the students, their motivation for enrolling in the class, the nature of the content or skills being taught, and their level of skills using technology. Having said that, I have seen a successful blended learning model for true beginner ESL/ESOL students that has both in-person AND online learning used only or primarily in the classroom, usually using a computer and multi-media projector, and the online learning is done as a group. Note that a blended model does NOT have to have the online learning done outside the classroom, although it often is because the purpose for that teacher or program is to extend time on task outside of class.

ESOL/ESL teachers have found that using WhatsApp can be very engaging. (See for example this LINCS discussion: about how ESL teachers, mostly new to using technology during the pandemic, have been effectively engaging their students.)

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology and Program Management groups

Hello colleagues,

Please feel free to jump into this discussion with new and follow-up questions or comments, and your own answers related to the blended learning guide, or to blended learning. Are you thinking ahead to when the pandemic will be over, and when in-person learning is again possible? Now would be a good time to review your blended learning classes or program in light of this guide, or to use the guide to build a planning team to make decisions about your blended learning program curriculum, to think about what you would like to be offering online vs. what what is best offered in person, and to plan how these will be integrated so you are ready for re-opening with a blended learning model that is engaging, manageable, and effective.

I would also like to hear from program managers and teachers here, or privately by email (see below) if you think you have an adult basic skills (including ESOL/ESL) blended learning model that we might feature in the Integrating Technology discussion group, that is ready for evaluation or has been evaluated.

7. From JS: What are suggestions for free or less costly digital curriculum for adult basic learners, grades 1-6.

Response from David Rosen: See Appendix F, page 40, and The Literacy List section on Easy Reading for Adult Learners, on the web page below, where there are nearly all free online reading websites or webpages

8. From VP: My experience in Zooming for the last 2 months has been that class time drags a bit.  There is less feedback, so the sage on the stage model is even more ineffective.  Ideas for engagement?

Response from David Rosen: There are many possibilities depending on what you are teaching to whom and at what level. Making short videos offers a lot of potential for student engagement, both those you as a teacher make for them, and those they make as part of the class. For example, you could make short videos, and post them on a private (free) YouTube channel for your students, or make and post them in WhatsApp, and ask your students to watch the videos before the face-to-face Zoom class session, so the “sage” is in a video students watch, as many times as they need, and may be accompanied by some questions that you post beforehand and then discuss in the Zoom session. 

You may already have a collection of good instructional videos, or you may be able to find some good free instructional videos online. For example, if you are teaching numeracy or math, you might assign Khan Academy videos; if you are teaching or tutoring basic literacy you might assign some Partners in Reading videos.   You could start your Zoom sessions by asking students what wasn’t clear in the video, or what particular question(s) or problem(s) the video raised for your students. Instead of your answering immediately, ask if anyone else in the class has ideas about how to address that question or problem; build peer-to-peer teaching/learning opportunities into your zoom session which can be continued if your students have a WhatsApp group they use during or after the Zoom sessions.

Consider using Flipgrid, beginning with the free version that allows you to make a short video for your students and then enables them to make 90-second video responses. This is great for English language learning practice, and also, for example,  for critical thinking and problem solving. For example, perhaps you want to teach some intermediate level digital problem solving skills such as those assessed in this Northstar Digital Literacy Assessment module on Information Literacy. (Select “Take An Assessment” the “Using Technology in Daily Life”, then “Information Literacy”.) You might pose a different information literacy question in a short Flipgrid video you make for each class, and then tell your students you will call on a few of them (any number you wish) to give a video response for the next class. This is just one possibility. The ways to engage students using Flipgrid videos are endless.

As you may know, Zoom has breakout rooms, so you could use part of each Zoom meeting for breakout project-based learning team meetings – again depending on what your students are studying, at what level, and depending on what kinds of technology skills they have. Incidentally, they can be improving their technology comfort, confidence, competence and courage (the “4 C’s of digital literacy skills growth”) as part of your instruction. They don’t need a separate class specifically on technology skills. Incorporate learning these in regular content and project-based lessons.

More Q & A coming soon.

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology and Program Management groups


Continued answers to webinar questions;

Link to the guide -

9. From EL: I'd like to know more about blended learning for basic literacy skills as well as GED prep

Response from David Rosen: For basic literacy skills, see the answer to JS in question 7  in an earlier reply in this discussion . For GED prep, consider New Readers Press Online Learning Pre-HSE, and GED® test prep; also consider GED® Academy.

10. From JS: As online sessions, K-12, have become the format for many jurisdictions.  Please address how hardware/software/formats provided K-12 can be adapted to ESL for Adults, access to K-12 parents who are embarking on their own ESL effort can continue?

Response from David Rosen: It’s hard to answer without knowing the specific platform(s) you are required to use. In the webinar, I mentioned Edmodo, and there is also Schoology. Both are free platforms widely used in K-12 and in adult basic skills education. However, if you can, avoid using curriculum that is designed for children unless you are using it in an intergenerational/family literacy program or unless you know that the lessons are also suitable for, and liked by, adult learners.

11. From CB: As a WIOA grant funded program, we must use TABE tests to measure level gains for our HSE program. Are there any short cuts for organizing student scores for reading, math and language so we can target instruction using the NRP TABE materials? We currently have to print each student's score report and hand create a spreadsheet.

Response from David Rosen: Because of the pandemic, states have been “held harmless” this year for meeting their proposed goals, and so their programs are off the hook for post-test results. Check to see if your state is requiring post-testing for your program. Next year could be the same, or different. It’s too early to know. As to the second part of the question, I don’t know.

12. From PC: What data supports effective Blended Learning practices?

Response from David Rosen: In the webinar. I mentioned a U.S. Department of Education meta-study (a rigorous study of studies) in K-12 and higher education that found that students do better with hybrid learning, including blended learning, than with distance education OR with only in-person learning. (“Students in online conditions performed modestly better, on average, than those learning the same material through traditional face-to-face instruction.”   Also, see Page 9 of the guide, and Appendix G, pages 40 and 41, for Texas TEAMS data comparing adult basic skills completion rates for hybrid, distance education, and in-person classes.

13. From ME: I would like to know how you approach lack of computers and lack of computer knowledge from the adults you want to teach.  Particularly in this pandemic when we rush to go online.  My other questions is connected to this.  Almost all students have cell phones.  Is there a useful way to have student do assignments and return assignments by cell phone?

Response from David Rosen: I will address your first question in two parts, students': 1) Lack of computers and 2) Lack of computer knowledge.

If students lack computers but have Smartphones, tablets, or chromebooks, and Internet access outside of class, you can still do a lot with blended learning. The online component can be entirely app-based, using WhatsApp or a basic literacy/ESL/ESOL app such as one of the Adult Literacy XPRIZE Apps described in Appendix C, Pages 37-38 of the Blended Learning guide. There are other basic skills apps (including ESL/ESOL) as well, for example you will find a list of them here. As you have mentioned, nearly all ESL/ESOL students have a smartphone now, and often many other adult basic skills students have them. With an inexpensive portable keyboard (generally under $30) students can learn and practice keyboarding skills needed for HSE tests using their smartphones. You will find a list of free keyboarding practice programs here.  Also, increasingly school systems, libraries and community-based organizations, especially in response to the pandemic, have stepped up with computer loan programs in some parts of the country.

As for lack of computer knowledge, the focus should be on digital literacy skills, most of which can be learned in through the process of acquiring knowledge and skills in listening, speaking, reading, writing, numeracy and adult secondary education subject areas. Teachers need to be deliberate about including these digital literacy skills in their lessons however.  One popular way to approach this is to assess students’ digital literacy skills, for example using the Northstar Digital Literacy Assessment (free to students) that also has its own online curriculum, and for which many other free online resources are available such as GCF LearnFree.

My answer to your second question is yes. WhatsApp makes this easy. Most adult literacy apps have built in quizzes, and many have a well-developed learning reporting system that is automated so that in a quick glance you can see how every student is doing every day with their lessons. Teachers have also found other easy ways to do this. Perhaps those who have could share how they do that as a reply.

More Q&A Coming

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology and Program Management groups



14. From NS:  How do I structure the class so that I engage my students and I can monitor their progress along the way?

Response from David Rosen: There are several ways to think about this. First, what is engaging in an in-person class and what is the remote teaching equivalent? For example, here’s a link to a chart of WhatsApp equivalents to some engaging in-class practices I developed with the help of ESOL/ESL teachers -- some experienced distance learning educators, and some of whom, facing the sudden closing of in-person classes in March, quickly learned to use WhatsApp as their primary online class delivery tool. They all have found this to be an engaging way to reach, support and teach their students. 

Second, what is more engaging online than in person? This question might surprise some in-person teachers who doubt that anything online could be more engaging; however, many adult basic skills teachers have found, both through formal online classes and, since they have been required to use only remote learning during the pandemic, that they have been able to engage some students remotely, through email, instant messaging and telephone calls better than in their in-person classes. They have found that students who never raised their hand in class, are actively engaged in dialog one-on-one and sometimes in groups. E-mail and instant messaging are tools that “shy people” are comfortable with when they are not comfortable in group in-person situations. There is much more that can be, and has been, written about this in the LINCS discussions in Integrating Technology and in other LINCS groups. Search, using “engagement” or “engage”.

15. From TN: Good point:  digital blended can provide an opportunity to reach people you might not otherwise have....

Response from David Rosen: see Chapter 3, “How can blended learning with what and who is taught?” , page 7 of the guide. Also see “Appendix D: English Now! Project and Learning Circles Information”, page 38. Learning circles are one kind of blended learning model. There are also several discussions in LINCS about them. Search using “learning circles”. Learning circles are an excellent, low-cost way to reach learners on waiting lists for classes, or who cannot attend classes but who can attend a once a week 90-mimniute learning circle meeting and do online learning. Also see “English Now” Implementation Guide and Scale-up Webinar” at

16. From JP: I have to collect hours (time on task) or learner mastery data for AEFLA funding. Do you have some favorites that collect this sort of robust reporting data?

Response from David Rosen: The Ed Tech Center at World Education has offered webinars on this: Corina Kasior and Kyle Boyson from the Arizona Department of Education described their state’s process for training and certifying teachers to assign proxy hours (using the teacher verification model) for online content they have created. Watch the recording here. Also see how one state, New Hampshire, is using the Teacher Verification Model for proxy contact hour counting. Watch the recording here A 30-minute discussion followed the presentations.

17.  From MA: Blended learning seems to necessitate a certain degree of computer literacy before it gets underway. Would it be advisable to include some form of tutorial or "hands on" practice to familiarize the learners with how the online component will work?

Response from David Rosen: Yes, ideally in a face-to-face setting introduce the online tools and give students opportunities to practice them until they are comfortable using them outside of class.

18. From LM: How do you help refugees who do not have tech ability or access?

Response from David Rosen: It depends. Ideally this would be done face-to-face in a class or tutorial first. During the pandemic a few English language programs are providing this help in the first language by telephone, but not every program has that capacity.

19. From EE: How does blended learning differ from hybrid learning? Or is it the same?

From Jen Vanek: blended learning = online + f2f with tight integration.

20. From SJ: Could you clarify the difference between blended and hybrid learning?  I still don't see how they are different.

Response from Jen Vanek: in blended the teacher pays attention to both and each mode informs what is assigned in the other.

More Q & A coming

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology and Program Management groups

21. From FC: You're assuming the teacher knows, uses Whatsapp!

Response from David Rosen: During the pandemic many ESOL/ESL teachers have discovered that their students already use WhatsApp, but not necessarily for learning, so they have decided to start with WhatsApp as their online “platform” because their students are already comfortable with it. They have quickly got up to speed in using it – literally in days. If you use the LINCS search feature and type in “WhatsApp” you will get some tips that may help you – or teachers you work with – to use it for English language learning.

22. From CC: It seems that a majority of the focus to access is centered around students with technology; how do we bridge the gap to access to current technology, which has proven to be the case with CoVid-19? At-risk or homeless students?

Response from David Rosen: Near the end of the webinar I mentioned using a combination of mailed or hand-delivered print materials and weekly or bi-weekly individual (and/or group) telephone calls focusing on the print materials. This is really distance education more than blended learning.  I also mentioned a national group in Ireland, the National Adult Literacy Agency, that has an effective distance education model using telephone and print materials that they have used for decades. There are also groups in the U.S. that have been doing this, some of which have only started during the pandemic, others that have long-time experience in this kind of distance education.

23. From DJ:  Additionally, how can it be used to expand or deepen the content available to our students?

Response from David Rosen: See the Blended Learning guide, page 6.

24. From DJ: What are some of the challenges in implementing blended learning?

Response from David Rosen: See Chapter 8 of the Guide, pages 32 - 34

25. From KJ: How do you find grants for getting Hotspots and tablets?

Response from David Rosen: this varies depending on where you are located, but searching using “grant” or “funding” and “hotspots” or tablets” would be a start. Also, see information about EveryoneOn in the Blended Learning guide, Chapter 8, page 32.

26. From EL: Please give examples of blending the online and in-person content.

Response from David Rosen: You will find several examples in Chapter 6 of the guide, “What does blended learning look like?” Pages 20-29.

27. From DJ: How can our program get started with blended learning?

Response from David Rosen:   See Chapter 5 of the guide, pages 15-19 for a ten-step process for getting started.

More Q&A coming soon

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology and Program Management groups





Below are more questions and answers from the Blended Learning guide webinar.

Did you miss the Blended Learning guide webinar? Here's a recording:

Looking for a copy of the slides?

28. From RF: How do you keep your presentations from becoming stale?

From KR: Games! Use quizizz or kahoot to reinforce concepts.

From Jen Vanek: The EdTechCenter has been running distance ed strategy sessions every Friday. You can find recordings here: Lots of short talks showing strategies for engagement in Zoom classes.

29. From AE: Are the adult literacy and basic skills that are listed in the appendix all free?

From David Rosen: Some of the materials listed in the appendix are free, and some are not.

From KW: NRP's Journey to Success series offers all the Teacher Guides for free online.  Each TG has about 10-12 pages of graphic organizers and some worksheets that are copyright permitted and can be sent home for learners without Internet or Wi-Fi. There are also end of book tests that can be printed and used. Find these at

 From KW: We also created Crosswalks to the Journey to Success series from Learning Upgrade that could be used in blended learning. Find them here:

 From  TN : LINCS learning circles/WANY mentioned - cool link:

30. From TB: It is nice to test out the resources now, 100% virtually, with your mind toward the blended future; that is what we are doing. How can we manipulate this for future use in a blended context?

From David Rosen:  A perfect way to sum up the webinar.  Thanks for sharing that!

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology and Program Management groups