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Technology and Online Learning

Technology used for learning is safe, accessible, supported, curated, and purposeful. Instructors are supported as they use technology to foster digital citizenship, build transferrable digital skills, and maximize learner choice and autonomy. Technology is used to encourage learners to explore and create language, as well as to use language to explore ideas, solve problems, develop new skills, and negotiate and communicate with an expanded audience. Online courses follow pedagogically sound principles for instructional design, are well structured and appealing, and have a strong instructor presence.

Click on a best practice for indicators that clarify how to meet the best practice.
Technical terms have been glossed for your convenience; hold your cursor over the gloss to see a definition.

Statements of Best Practice

  • Programs provide clear guidelines based on research-based practice to ensure learner privacy, learner safety, and academic integrity in online learning environments. This is done, for instance, by addressing some of the following:
    • Recording of lectures/discussions
    • Use of student webcams
    • Reproducing or sharing material or recordings beyond the class
    • Expectations for academic integrity (e.g., how to give credit where credit is due)
    • Online etiquette (netiquette)
  • Waivers or statements of agreement are used to ensure consent to participate in online activities where learners require a membership and/or have to sign in.
  • Programs support a password-protected online learning environment (e.g., Moodle, Google Classroom, Blackboard, Canvas, Brightspace).
  • In the classroom, teachers and learners have access to the equipment needed for instruction: desktop/projector/screen/speakers, Internet access, and potentially computers/laptops/iPads, interactive whiteboard.
  • For online classes, teachers and learners have access to the equipment needed for instruction: computer/laptop, reliable Internet access, microphone, headphones.
  • Teachers and learners have access to the software required for instruction.
  • The equipment required for success in a course is clearly delineated prior to registration.

  • Instructors have access to orientation, ongoing training, and support related to the following as needed:
    • Any technologies that instructors are required or expected to use (e.g., the LMS, interactive whiteboard, Google Docs, etc.)
    • Other useful technologies and apps that can be used to support language learning, such as:
      • Online teaching/learning resources designed for the level they are teaching
      • Strategies for online course design (if relevant)
      • Strategies to increase interaction in online teaching (if relevant)
    • Strategies for providing technical support and for troubleshooting common technical problems
  • Programs provide ongoing technology support for instructors.
  • Programs recognize that online instruction requires additional time to prepare and plan, and so allow for additional preparation time and/or development of online resources.
  • Instructors use technology to access self-directed professional development and build a community of practice through some of the following:
    • Webinars (e.g., through Tutela, LearnIT2teach)
    • Social media (e.g., Twitter, Twitter hashtags/chats such as #CdnELTchat, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok)
    • Podcasts, blogs, and websites hosted by institutions and educational leaders
    • Opportunities to organize or participate in collaboration, to share strategies, and to create resources for online engagement and instruction.
  • Self-directed professional development related to technology and online instruction is recognized and valued by employers and institutions (see PD Resources).

  • Programs help learners access the equipment/hardware and software needed to access online learning, for instance by doing the following:
    • Helping learners access technology through external organizations (e.g., the Electronic Recycling Association)
    • Loaning out laptops
    • Supporting access to computers learners can use (e.g., in a computer lab, library, or resource room)
    • Providing access to Office 365 or Google Suite
  • Programs provide accessible technology support for learners (ideally accessible outside of regular work hours, and/or with extended hours at the beginning of term).
  • Learners with limited digital literacy receive extra technology support as needed, in the form of teaching assistants, peer support, tutorials, etc.
  • Learners are oriented to the learning platforms used in the class (e.g., Google Classroom, Moodle, Brightspace, Big Blue Button, Zoom, etc.).

  • Instructors prioritize the use of tools that are available on the program-supported LMS (e.g., tools for sharing content, for quizzes, for interaction).
  • Instructors prioritize the use of tools that are readily available to learners on their personal computers and phones such as:
    • Voice/video recorders
    • Snipping tool
    • Editing/formatting tools
    • Text-to-speech and speech-to-text
    • Spelling/grammar checkers
    • Readability statistics
    • QR code reader
  • Instructors are mindful of cognitive load and the need to limit the number of tools introduced. They carefully curate learning tools and apps, prioritizing those that meet the following criteria:
    • Are versatile and teach multiple transferrable digital skills
    • Meet multiple learning outcomes
    • Are free and do not require learner sign-in, membership, or downloads
    • Are easy to access, learn, and use
    • Are engaging
    • Meet accessibility standards
    • Are ad-free
    • Can be embedded in the LMS

  • Expectations for respectful, inclusive, and equitable online interactions with classmates are introduced, modelled, encouraged, and followed by both teachers and learners.
  • Class activities increase learners’ ability to protect their devices, personal data, reputation, and privacy.
  • Class activities increase learners’ ability to protect themselves and others from online threats.
  • Instructors distinguish between behaviour that would be viewed as appropriate collaboration and research, and behaviour that would constitute academic misconduct.
  • Class activities increase learners’ ability to apply rules related to copyright and licenses.
  • Class activities increase learners’ ability to evaluate the reliability of digital data.

  • Class activities build on learners’ current digital literacy skills; that is, learners are given the opportunity to use and share their digital expertise.
  • Class activities build the vocabulary and language needed for digital literacy.
  • Instructions for how to use technology are given in plain language and in multiple modes (e.g., written instructions, oral instructions, screencasts, demonstrations, visuals, quick reference guides).
  • Class activities scaffold and develop fluency in digital literacy skills that are transferable to work, learning, and real-life contexts, for example:
    • Keyboarding
    • Word processing and editing
    • Managing files and folders
    • Navigating websites
    • Searching for, filtering, and evaluating digital media
    • Communicating via email
    • Being safe online
    • Using netiquette
  • It is assumed that there will be a wide variation of digital technology skill levels in any EAL classroom, so strategies for multilevel instruction are applied. For instance:
    • Learners are at times grouped with others at the same level of digital literacy, with more scaffolding and simpler digital tasks given to learners with lower digital literacy skills.
    • Learners with high and low digital literacy skills are at times grouped together to complete a task, with those with higher digital literacy contributing technical expertise and those with lower digital literacy contributing in other ways.
  • Technology, tools, and apps that are introduced in class are used consistently and often to build fluency.

  • Technology allows instructors to differentiate instruction in multilevel classes (e.g., some learners can work independently to complete online learning tasks, while the instructor provides other learners with specialized instruction, additional scaffolding, etc.).
  • Activities prompt learners to use online tools to find resources (websites, videos, articles, etc.) to explore ideas, solve problems, and learn how to do things.
  • Learners use digital and online tools to create and present content such as slide show presentations, screencasts, fact sheets, videos, infographics, virtual tours, websites, etc.

  • Technology provides learners with an expanding range of options for accessing and participating in learning; learners are supported to make informed choices, for example:
    • To attend classes online in real time, or to watch recorded sessions
    • To present in real time, or to record a presentation
    • To have cameras on or off
    • To respond in different ways during live classes (chat, speaking, typing on the whiteboard, etc.)
    • To learn by reading or by listening
    • To respond in written or audio form (e.g., on discussion forums)
    • To connect with the instructor in different ways (email, private messaging, online chat through the LMS, office hours, etc.)
    • To use different tools to present information (e.g., PowerPoint, Google Slides, Prezi, video/screencast, or an infographic)
    • Where available, to use immersive technologies to enhance learning
  • When possible, activities are designed that provide learners with immediate feedback, e.g., through the use of automatically marked quizzes and activities (e.g., H5P, Moodle quizzes, Edpuzzle).
  • Learners are introduced to activities, tools, and language learning websites that they can access independently and outside of class time (e.g., Quizlet, learning apps).

  • Learners interact with each other asynchronously through discussion forums/boards (audio, video, or text), VoiceThread, chat, etc.
  • Learners engage in collaborative digital projects and tasks using technologies such as Google Docs; Google Slides; Padlet; Canva (infographics); Winksite (mobile websites); Google tour creator; etc.
  • Learners in online classes have the opportunity to interact with each other informally as they would in face-to-face classes (e.g., by opening live classes a few minutes early; by having an open online classroom available for drop-in learner use).
  • In live sessions, learners are oriented to and encouraged to use the communication tools on the platform: chat, raised hand, mic, camera, interactive whiteboard tools, etc.
  • During live sessions, teachers use strategies to encourage all learners to participate, such as:
    • Giving learners multiple opportunities to ask questions
    • Using polls
    • Asking everyone to respond to a question in the chat bar, but not to post their response until the instructor says to “flood the chat”
    • Both allowing learners to volunteer responses and calling on individuals by name to respond
    • Using talking circles, especially in breakout groups
  • During live sessions, learners interact with each other as they role-play, create content, and collaborate (e.g., using breakout rooms in Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate, Big Blue Button, etc.).
  • During live sessions, learners engage with content and interact with each other using polls, quizzes, word clouds, and games (e.g., Quizlet Live, Answer Garden, Mentimeter, Kahoot!, Quizziz).

  • A Welcome/Getting Started section provides a course overview; the syllabus/course outline; program policies (e.g., related to academic integrity, accommodations, grading policies, late submissions); important dates; learner support information; technology support contacts; etc. (See Best Practices for Learner Support)
  • Contact information is listed for the instructor.
  • Learning goals and outcomes are easy to locate, easy to read, and relevant to learners.
  • Course activities and assessments are clearly connected to the learning outcomes and goals.
  • Instructions for course activities and assessments are given in plain language and, where possible, in multiple modes.
  • Course assessments are sufficiently scaffolded with practice and models.
  • Course navigation is clear, consistent, and predictable: frequently used tools/resources are easy to find; irrelevant information/links/resources are removed.
  • Course content is clearly organized and divided into manageable chunks/modules (e.g., divided by week or theme).
  • Effort is made to ensure the course is appealing (e.g., supported with graphics; embedded videos, and learning activities rather than a series of links).
  • Materials are accessible across devices (desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and mobile devices).
  • Files to be downloaded are small enough to be downloaded easily.
  • Materials are available in a variety of modes (e.g., links, PDFs, Word documents, Google Docs, articles, videos).
  • Materials and documents are formatted to be accessible:
    • Large clear font (e.g., 12 point, sans serif)
    • High contrast between text and background
    • Colour used to make materials attractive, but not used to convey information
    • Alternative text provided for all images, graphics, charts, and tables that convey content
    • Consistent templates, headings, and icons
    • Hyperlinks with text that describe the topic of the link (i.e., not just “click here”)
    • Transcripts/captions for audio/video
    • Use of white space to break up large blocks of text into smaller chunks
  • Activities and materials that work well on mobile devices are prioritized (e.g., HTML text rather than PDFs).
  • Learners are able to track where they are and how they are doing in the course (e.g., through use of a gradebook, progress bars, etc.).
  • Copyright and fair use policies are followed; resources and materials are correctly cited.

  • Instructors of online courses establish their social, teaching, and cognitive presence online through, for instance, a teacher description, pictures of themselves, and activities that allow their personality/individuality to show.
  • Instructors are available and approachable, and communicate how learners can contact them (e.g., email, regular office hours, online chat).
  • Instructors use a variety of modes of communication to check in regularly with learners (email, messages, online chat through the LMS, etc.).
  • Instructors participate, along with learners, in discussions related to course content (e.g., on forums, in breakout rooms).
  • Instructors create short audios, videos, and screencasts to provide content, instructions, and feedback.
  • Instructors provide timely individual feedback to learners in a variety of forms (written, audio, screencast).
  • Instructors solicit feedback from learners at various points in the course.


This section includes descriptions of what the Best Practices might look like when applied in a variety of contexts.

I work with a group of about six CLB 2–4 learners in a small non-profit rural organization. We do not have funding for a lot of technology, and we don’t have a learning management system. However, my learners all have cellphones. I create a simple website with or where I can post learning activities for my learners. I create a new page for each new LINC theme that we are working on. I help learners set up their phones so it is easy for them to access my website. Here are some of the things I have posted on my website for my learners:

  • I create and embed Quizlets. My Quizlet sets help learners learn vocabulary and functional language related to the LINC theme we are working on. I paid for the upgraded version of Quizlet so that I could add audio and my own pictures to my Quizlet sets.
  • I post links to ESL Literacy Readers that are at my learners’ reading level and are on the themes we are covering.
  • I post links to activities on LINC themes from, Live & Learn: Settlement Activities, and Janis’s ESL.
  • I post links to pre-made learning activities, such as videos about English grammar (e.g.,; grammar practice activities; and other beginner and elementary reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills activities on
  • When we talk about jobs, I post links to the Easy Reading Job Profiles along with instructions to print out a job profile, highlight the verbs, and be ready to talk about things that the person can do.
  • I use Loom or Screencast-O-Matic to make screencasts of how to do things on the computer (e.g., how to use the Snipping Tool, how to do a Spell Check or Grammar check, how to use Quizlet, how to give me permission to see documents in Google Drive).
  • I post a link to an online learner’s dictionary.

I show learners where the activities are on the wiki and have them go to and potentially do the activities in class. This way I know that they can find them for homework. My goal is that my learners can learn independently and on their own time.

I teach ESL Literacy learners in LINC. I have access to a computer lab and a laptop cart once or twice a week. At least half of my learners have difficulty using computers. In many cases, my class is the first time they have touched a computer. In order to support my learners, I do the following:

  • I teach the computer nouns and verbs they need so that they can understand basic instructions (e.g., mouse, screen, keyboard, return, left-click, double click, drag and drop, etc.).
  • I make sure that written instructions are clear and are in plain language. I also make screencasts and explain how to sign in and use the different tools, for instance, in Zoom, Teams, Google Classroom, and Google Meets. I send learners these screencasts by email, or I post them in my LMS.
  • In class, learners practice the fine motor skills they need as they do Mousercise activities and Typing practice.
  • Students use Learning Chocolate and other Games to Learn English to develop their vocabulary and listening skills, as well as to develop fluency with using the mouse.
  • I help learners to create their own Gmail account. Once they create it, we develop a computer lab routine where they sign in and check email, send an email, and sign out.
  • For writing tasks, I help learners identify the Microsoft Word icon; open a document; use basic formatting functions (copy/paste, formatting, bolding, spellcheck, etc.); save a file; and attach it to an email.
  • I send learners Word templates that they can complete for resumes and other employment-related documents.

My goal is to build learners’ digital literacy skills and fluency.

I’ve had learners who have fallen for online scams. Now I specifically include activities that build their awareness of how to stay safe online:

I see there are new freely available online courses, which I plan to use in my next class. The Websafe course (CLB 4+) has modules on phishing, common scams, social media, shopping online, finding a job online, and more, along with an instructor guide that has PBLA tasks. The Digital Literacy course (CLB 4) has a wide variety of learning activities related to digital citizenship, netiquette, and more.

I had to move to teaching online, both synchronously and asynchronously, rather abruptly. Building a community and connecting with my students is very important to me. I also enjoy the challenge of designing interesting, creative, and fun activities that spark curiosity and a desire to learn. As I moved online, my goal was to continue to build a connection with my learners and have them build a supportive community among themselves. As well, I wanted to continue to find joy in teaching. Here are some of the things I do:

  • I try to be “present” even in the asynchronous portions of the class. I participate in get-to-know-you forums along with my learners, I make short videos with instructions, and I provide audio and video (screencast/VoiceThread) feedback on their assignments.
  • I open my synchronous classroom a few minutes early and touch base with each person as they arrive, just as I used to do face-to-face. As more students arrive, I put them in chat rooms where they can interact with each other without their teacher (me) hovering. I start class with a warm-up activity at the beginning in which everyone participates.
  • At first, only a couple of vocal learners would jump in to answer or ask a question. Often if I called on someone, there would be a long silence. I now use “flood the chat,” where I ask a question and have everyone type in the chat bar for a set amount of time. When I say “flood the chat,” everyone enters their post at the same time. We read what people have written, and I call on individuals to expand on or explain their ideas. I find that there is less delay when people are called on once they have written in the chat.
  • When we do role-plays, I put students in breakout rooms. I send slides with instructions for the role-play. After a set amount of time, I send a “Did I…?” rubric for them to discuss. When we come back to the main room, one or two people will demo.
  • I try to balance giving students time on their own in breakout rooms (where they can interact without an authority figure hovering) with dropping into breakout rooms to see how students are doing.
  • In terms of creativity and fun, I’ve been able to use Quizlet Live (individual), Polleverywhere, Padlet, and polls to add some engagement to synchronous classes. In asynchronous classes, I’ve created interactive videos using H5P, and I’ve even embedded some H5P drag-and-drop and fill-in-the-blank activities; they are so easy to make!

While things are not perfect, I’ve found that teaching online has been very rewarding. I feel that I can give students more individual feedback than I would in a face-to-face class. And my students have indeed made connections that continue, even after the class is over.

I am currently teaching a CLB 3 LINC class, with 21 participants. The students in this class expressed a preference for having 90 minutes of synchronous time every day. This is done through Big Blue Button (BBB) on Avenue:

  • I like the whiteboard on BBB because I can give the students a “pen” to fill in the worksheets that I download onto BBB.
  • I also like to use the breakout rooms on BBB, as it adds a semblance of normality by allowing the students to discuss topics and work in groups.

Our synchronous session is followed by 30 minutes for individual questions.

In the afternoon, the students work asynchronously, and I am available for questions throughout. My online Avenue classroom has various sections to which students are directed as required:

  • There are sections on Pronunciation, Grammar, and Punctuation, among others, which the students can access as required.
  • The most important section contains Books. These books contain weekly work that students can access and work through. There are videos, H5Ps, quizzes, and games, which provide opportunities for the recycling of vocabulary, grammar, and skills needed for language acquisition.
  • Avenue includes resources for topics such as Health and Safety and Community and the World. These are linked to in the weekly Books so that students can access what is relevant to the theme being addressed. For example, in a weekly Book, I might enter “Types of Housing” and will link directly to the SCORM package of that title in the theme At Home in our Community and the World. Students click on the phrase and directly connect with that topic. This makes for a cleaner, leaner look in the online classroom, which is less confusing for my CLB 3 students.

Their online work is supplemented by worksheet packages sent out every other week. I like this combination as the students can continue to progress with their writing and reading skills.

Listening, reading, and writing assessment tasks are completed online.

  • Avenue provides a Rubric Template which can be easily customised.
  • Assessment tasks can be tagged and stored in an e-portfolio.
  • Speaking tasks can be recorded online, but I prefer to do those using FaceTime.
  • An ongoing concern with online assessments is one of validity. It is impossible to monitor every student as they attempt each task. However, on Avenue, I can limit the number of times a student can attempt a task, and I can restrict the amount of time taken to complete the task. The time taken to finish the task is recorded online, and this allows me to determine fairly accurately whether help was asked for and given!

I've been teaching for about 12 years, and I’ve always used technology in my teaching. I’ve taught online and blended courses on and off for several years. My first blended courses weren’t very good, and I’ve certainly learned a lot through experience, professional development opportunities, and connecting with other online instructors, both locally and in the wider community through social media and platforms like Tutela. I think my most important learning has been understanding the importance of having a strong teaching, social, and cognitive presence in online spaces and how robust instructional design can facilitate that essential presence.

  • As teachers, our focus has always been on building relationships and meeting the needs of the students in front of us. The difference is that now so much is mediated through technology. I know that the learners I am privileged to teach need to develop digital fluency in order to be successful in their future lives, so I need to integrate technology into my language teaching. I do my best to integrate all the elements of my class (synchronous, asynchronous, face-to-face, lab times) into one cohesive whole. I use my learning management system (LMS) as the hub for our class.
  • I’ve found that there is less room for error when working online, especially with asynchronous work. Everything needs to be carefully planned and clearly laid out, and this is where I've learned a lot about building in accessibility and UDL (Universal Design for Learning) from CAST and some of their projects. Accessibility also means I need to think about issues like access and equity, and I need to be mindful of what students can do with the tools, time, and resources they have.

The pandemic in 2020 pushed a lot of us online and highlighted the need for all of us to thrive in online spaces. As education and technology continue to change, I know that I need to continue learning and improving my digital skills. At the same time, I know that I can’t do everything. I will continue to work on content curation, teaching transferable digital skills, work–life balance, and focus on quality in online teaching and learning. My goal is always to use technology to make my teaching better through small sustainable changes.