CATESOL Position Statement on Distance Education for Non-Native Learners of English


Approved by the CATESOL Board of Directors, January 28, 1995


Many students who need English as a Second Language (ESL) courses are unable to take them because classes are full or because the students are unable to get to a campus. At the same time, financial constraints impede the expansion of programs and the construction of new facilities. CATESOL recognizes that distance education, in which the teacher and learners are separated in place and/or time, may be able to provide access for some unserved students. However, we must ensure that courses which are offered at a distance are quality courses and that the learners' needs are being met.


Characteristics of a Good Distance Learning Program for Non-Native Learners of English:


Program Design

  • ESL specialists must play an integral part in designing ESL distance education courseware, programs and courses.
  • The technology and delivery system must be appropriate for the goals of the course.
  • In order to increase proficiency, the goal of most ESL courses, learners must have ample opportunity to interact in English in situations that require authentic, meaningful communication.
  • Learners must have the opportunity to ask questions and to get regular and ongoing feedback on their use of the language from a qualified ESL professional.

Instructional Personnel

  • Distance education instructors must meet the same qualifications for hire as classroom teachers.
  • Remote site facilitators are to be used only as assistants to qualified ESL instructors.
  • Facilitators must work under the guidance and supervision of qualified ESL instructors.
  • Facilitators must be proficient in English and have completed professional preparation in second-language acquisition and methods.

Professional Development

  • Instructors and facilitators should receive training in the integration of new technology options with ESL instruction and in pedagogy related to the use of new technology.
  • Instructors and facilitators should receive regular and ongoing feedback on their use of the technology and pedagogy.


  • Adequate records must be maintained in order to assess the effectiveness of distance learning as the mode of delivery.
  • The program must be evaluated on a regular basis as to its quality, effectiveness, and impact on the learners' achievement.
  • The learners' progress must be assessed at regular intervals for the benefit of the learners and the program.