Continuing Instruction from a Distance

These resources, tips, and platforms can help your program and learners continue learning from a distance during a time of health crisis and uncertainty.


ProLiteracy staff and colleagues have stepped up tremendously during this time of turmoil to create comprehensive webinars that highlight valuable technologies, resources, and ideas to help reach more learners.

Visit the webinar calendar for more:

Distance Learning: Ideas From The Field

June 25, 2020 – Webinar with Alison Austin, Program Manager for Washtenaw Literacy, Washtenaw County Jail; Karen Davis, M.A. Ed ABE Instructor, a psychiatric correctional hospital; Tom Connolly, Instructional Technology Coordinator, Virginia Department of Corrections; Dr. Olga Lopez, Assistant Superintendent of Academic Programs, Virginia Department of Corrections
In this webinar adult education providers in correctional facilities share their experiences of converting their instruction to distance learning, often without the aid of technology.

June 19, 2020 – Webinar with Alison Austin, Program Manager for Washtenaw Literacy.
In this webinar Alison Austin shared her experiences, tools, successful practices, and challenges during COVID-19.

June 12, 2020 – Webinar with Caroline Socha, Volunteer Program Manager, Literacy Source, Seattle, WA and Cat Howell, Instructional Director, Literacy Source, Seattle, WA.
In this webinar Caroline Socha and Cat Howell shared their experiences, tools, successful practices, and challenges during COVID-19.

June 5, 2020 – Webinar with Ashly Winkle, Director of Distance Learning and Mary Springer, HSE Literacy Instructor for the Literacy Council of Tyler, Texas.
In this webinar Ashly Winkle and Mary Springer shared their experiences, tools, successful practices, and challenges during COVID-19.

May 29, 2020 – Webinar with Gwen Moore, Director of Volunteer Programs and Soyla Castillo, Site Coordinator for Literacy Lubbock.
In this webinar Gwen Moore and Soyla Castillo shared their experiences, tools, successful practices, and challenges during COVID-19.

May 22, 2020 – Webinar with Dr. Glenda Rose, Area Coordinator, Bastrop and Lee Counties for Community Action Inc. of Central Texas.
In this webinar Dr. Glenda Rose shared her experiences, tools, successful practices, and challenges during COVID-19.

May 15, 2020 – Webinar with Sasha Luevano and Milena Garcia from Northside Independent School District in San Antonio.
In this webinar Sasha Luevano and Milena Garcia shared their experiences, tools, successful practices, and challenges during COVID-19.

May 8, 2020 – Webinar with Patty Sullivan, Executive Director; Mina Phebus, Program Director; and Savannah Hadley, teacher from Ozark Literacy Council.
In this webinar Patty Sullivan, Mina Phebus, and Savannah Hadley shared their experiences, tools, successful practices, and challenges during COVID-19.

May 1, 2020 – Webinar with Tyler Morrone from Zoom.
In this webinar Tyler Morrone shows participants how to use some of Zoom's features: breakout rooms, whiteboard, polling, and other features to enhance your distance learning lessons with students.

April 24, 2020 – Webinar with Dr. Jelitza Rivera, ESL Specialist with the Orange County Library System.
In this webinar Dr. Jelitza Rivera shares her experiences offering distance learning to ESL students, from beginning level up, reviews the resources she uses, and then answer questions from the attendees.

April 10, 2020 – Webinar with Literacy New Jersey and The Literacy Alliance (Fort Wayne)
In this webinar we covered some of the top concerns related to distance learning.

Tools and Platforms


A web-based software that allows groups to communicate via phone and/or video. A webinar version also allows users to share their screens, allowing programs to show documents needed during instruction. During the pandemic, for the free, basic version of Zoom, the 40-minute time limit has been lifted. Apply online at

  • How to Create a Zoom Account. Many programs are using Zoom as a tool for distance learning. However, many tutors and teachers may not be familiar or comfortable with Zoom. We've put together some step-by-step instructions you can give to tutors to help them create a Zoom account.
  • How to Start a Zoom Meeting.Many programs are using Zoom as a tool for distance learning. However, many tutors and teachers may not be familiar or comfortable with Zoom. We've put together some step-by-step instructions you can give to tutors to help them start a Zoom meeting.
  • Zoom Controls. Many programs are using Zoom as a tool for distance learning. However, many tutors and teachers may not be familiar or comfortable with Zoom. We've put together a guide for some of the basic Zoom controls to get tutors started.

Free Conference Call

Free Conference Call is a conference call solution which allows up to 1,000 participants to participate in a phone conference for free. There is a web-based version which allows for screen sharing, which gives instructors the ability to show learners documents needed for instruction.

Backchannel Chat

Backchannel Chat is a free, online, text-based class discussion tool that is designed to support instructors. Backchannels are great for facilitating participation in classroom discussions.

Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts is an easy-to-join way to conduct video calls between instructors and learners. Google is now rolling out free access to the advanced Hangouts video-conference capabilities for education customers until July 1. Click here to learn more.


Similar to Zoom or other software, Skype is an easy way for instructors and leaners to communicate. You can download and access Skype for free.

While this is not an exhaustive list, these are some of the more popular, free tools to explore for helping programs continue communication between administrators, instructors, and learners.

Resources for Helping Learners Access the Internet

The FCC's Emergency Broadband Benefit will provide a discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on Tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.

EveryoneOn offers broadband service to income-eligible families (for example, those that qualify for free or reduced school lunch, or who live in public housing) at a cost of around $10-12 per month (varies from state-to-state). Some states also offer very low-cost laptops or desktops ($100-200).

Several internet providers are offering discounts or free internet services during the time of the pandemic:

Comcast offers income-eligible families internet access at $10-12 per month. However, they are now offering this low-cost service for free for the next 60 days.

AT&T is waiving data overage fees to all customers so that families and students can stay connected during the pandemic. They will not terminate service of any customer over the next 60 days. All AT&T consumer home internet wireline customers, as well as Fixed Wireless Internet, can use unlimited internet data. Additionally, AT&T will continue to offer internet access for qualifying limited income households at $10 a month through the Access from AT&T program.

Xfinity WiFi hotspots across the country will be available to anyone who needs them for free—including non-Xfinity customers. For a map of Xfinity WiFi hotspots, click here.

Verizon is waiving late fees and committing to no discontinuation of service during the next 60 days. Visit for information about Verizon’s services during the pandemic.


Internet access in public libraries is also free. Of course, libraries are closing as well. Learners are able to use portable devices just outside libraries even when they are closed.

Digital Solutions for Helping Learners Access the Internet

From New Readers Press, ProLiteracy’s Publishing Division:

New Readers Press Online Learning—Free 90-day pilots available for online Pre-HSE, GED® test prep, and HiSET® exam prep courses to keep your learners on track to reach their HSE goals. Contact your local New Readers Press sales representative to get started.

Leamos™ (Let’s Read)—Free 4-month pilots for pre-ESL online literacy course that teaches non-literate Spanish-speaking adults to read and write and to prepare them for English language learning.

Learning Upgrade—Free 90-day pilots available for an app that provides over 900 English and math CCRS-aligned lessons to help accelerate growth in literacy, ESL, ABE, and HSE classes. Special expansion packages available for providers with a current Learning Upgrade license.

Voxy®— Free 90-day pilots available for an ESL mobile learning platform that provides support for grammar, listening, reading, vocabulary, and writing. Additional features include navigational text in 14 languages, word banks, grammar guide, flashcards, and pronunciation practice.

For more information on any of the above solutions, please contact your local New Readers Press sales representative or Customer Service at or (800) 448-8878.

While the above listed solutions are from New Readers Press, there are many other digital resources that can help facilitate distance learning. Some include:

CrowdED Learning:

CrowdED Learning provides free learning tools that reduce barriers for adult learners’ education and employment while promoting persistence and lifelong learning in the digital age.

LINCS Learner Center:

The Learner Center links to federally-funded resources for learners. It is organized around goals such as “Learn to Read” or “Learn English.” All resources are free, online, and ready for adult learners to engage with at any time.

USA Learns:

USA Learns is a free website to help adults learn English online.

COVID-19 quizzes below in English and Spanish

Futuro Sólido shares quizzes in English and Spanish to ounteract hysteria and promote smart decisions that will protect your employees, your workplace, and our society.

English quizzes:

Spanish quizzes:

Sustaining Adult Literacy Programs During COVID-19

  • Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act – This $2.2 trillion-dollar bill was signed into law to deliver relief to families, businesses, and nonprofits. Part of this bill provides emergency support to small to mid-sized nonprofits (500 employees or fewer) through a loan program with the Small Business Administration (SBA). The CARES Act includes an important provision: under this new program, loans are forgivable if the nonprofit or for-profit keeps staff on the payroll between March 1 and June 30. This, in essence, turns the loan into a general operating support grant. Forgivable loans of this type can be taken out for as much as $10 million and can be used to meet payroll and associated costs (including health insurance premiums), facilities costs, and debt service. The SBA is offering Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). This program provides loans of up to $2 million at an interest rate of 2.75 percent for nonprofits. These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. Adult Literacy Programs are advised to apply for these as soon as possible. To apply, contact your local bank or go directly online to the SBA at
  • CARES Act Charitable Donations – Make sure to communicate with your donors about these important tax changes. For the entire year of 2020, the limitation on how much of your charitable donations you can deduct against your income has been lifted. Previously it was a maximum of 60% for cash donations and 50% for non-cash contributions. These limitations have been removed in the CARES Act for federal income tax purposes. In addition, anyone who donates up to $300, whether they itemize or not, can deduct that against other income for donations in 2020.
  • Community Foundations Grants – Nearly 250 community foundations across the country have committed over $350M in COVID-19 relief funds to help local nonprofit programs. Click here to view a state-by-state listing of participating community foundations.
  • ProLiteracy Mobile Learning Fund – The Mobile Learning Fund is a grant program that provides adult literacy programs and their students with digital education materials. Click here to find out more.

Tips for Providing Instructions from a Distance

Regardless of what platform or online instruction you provide, some additional tips for conducting learning include:

  • Keep in regular contact with learners. This can be done through phone, text, or email. Keeping in contact to remind learners about lessons or to make sure they’re engaged is important.
  • Using a tool such as Zoom, Skype, etc. so that instructors and learners can meet “face-to-face” is best. Most of these tools also allow you to share documents or curricula you want the learner to focus on.
  • Stay on your current lesson plans as much as possible for consistency.
  • Use texting for a supplement to instruction
    • Send a short text that the learner can read and respond to
    • Send vocabulary words
  • Use supplemental instructional resources (such as those listed in this document) to keep learners engaged and practicing while learning from a distance
  • Use teleconference or phone conference systems (or simply phone calls) to practice conversation groups, especially for ESL learners

Additional Articles and Conversations Related to Providing Instruction from a Distance

Below are several articles and web pages that point to best practices and methods for teaching remotely:

The Literacy Information and Communication System (LINCS)
  • LINCS has facilitated an excellent discussion around many resources, tools, and tips for helping programs prepare to offer literacy instruction during the pandemic.
  • Click here to read the discussions.
Ongoing Research and Resources

EdTech Center New Website for Distance Education Support

In response to the need for adult educators to transition from in-person to distance teaching, the EdTech Center @ World Education has created a new website called Tips for Distance Learning, with resources to help adult basic skills programs scale up or launch distance education programs.

The site includes guidance on the first steps to take in planning, successful implementation (recruiting, onboarding, teaching, and assessing learners), and locating and evaluating online learning resources. We include information on how to meet virtually with students, links to offers for free or reduced online courses or curricula from publishers known to provide quality ABE learning resources, and a professional development events calendar

Download the Continuing Instruction From a Distance info as a .PDF

Webinar: Learning Upgrade's Remote Learning Action Plan

Learning Upgrade and New Readers Press have a plan to help you continue delivering education remotely so students can continue to learn outside of the classroom. With many education providers now required to teach exclusively online, our plan enables you to provide all steps of instruction remotely with students using their smartphones or other devices. This starts with virtual training where we show you how remote students can self-enroll, how to view reports and assessments online, and how to reward achievement to keep students motivated and engaged.

This webinar was held Thursday March 19. Click below to learn more.

Webinar recording and resources.

Want to get started right away?

If you don’t have a Learning Upgrade license, sign up for a free pilot.

For education providers with a current Learning Upgrade license, we will be offering special expansion packages. Contact your local New Readers Press sales representative or customer service at (800) 448-8878.

Read More in our recent blog post

Share information with your learners, volunteers, and staff

ProLiteracy encourages everyone to prepare for, protect from, and prevent COVID-19.

Our friends at Cell-Ed have developed The Cell-Ed Coronavirus Guide in English and Spanish, available on any phone, that provides micro-lessons on what Coronavirus is, how to protect yourself from contracting it, and where to receive updated information. Share this guide with your learners today!

One of our member programs, Washtenaw Literacy, has generously created and shared a health literacy flyer written in plain language called "Wash-Wipe-Cover: Don't Infect Another” to help communicate and teach essential information about coronavirus. The health literacy flyer is available for download.