Developing targeted technology standards for Avenue language instructors, programs, and learners: An initiative of New Language Solutions

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In August 2020 a new platform for adult newcomer language instruction was released by New Language Solutions (NLS) on NLS recognized the need for standards to support effective use of Avenue and technology-enhanced language learning (TELL) in online and blended classes. Concluding that existing technology standards from ISTE and TESOL were too broad for their purposes, NLS initiated a project to develop their own technology standards for Avenue stakeholders including instructors, programs, and learners. These would not be performance evaluation tools but rather best used for self-assessment and for guiding local innovation. Here we report on that initiative, which was introduced at TESL Ontario 2023, focusing on the instructor standards as they are currently the most fully developed.


Since 2010, New Language Solutions (NLS) has provided a learning management solution (LMS) to front line settlement language training providers funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). The federal government contracts about 230 community colleges, school boards, and community organizations to improve the official language skills of newcomers and provide them orientation to life in Canada: Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) for English learners and Cours de langue pour les immigrants au Canada (CLIC) for French. Newcomers are eligible for full or part-time LINC or CLIC instruction before they achieve Canadian citizenship.

The original LMS solution was hosted at and built on the Moodle open-source and license-free platform. In August 2020, an enhanced solution was released as Currently almost half of the LINC and CLIC programs implement Avenue in their programs. In any 30-day period, Avenue has about 20,000 active users and hosts almost 2,000 teacher’s courses across Canada (except Quebec). In September 2023, the Ontario government’s newcomer language training programs gained access to Avenue after agreement with IRCC, doubling the potential Avenue user base.

The IRCC-funded sector is aligned with the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLBs) language skills taxonomy. Task-based learning is mandated by the funders, and portfolio-based language assessment (PBLA) is the standardized approach to classroom assessment and learner progression. provides an e-portfolio alternative to physical binders. Avenue supports a full range of learning modalities: blended/hybrid, HyFlex or online remote. Instructors are trained to adapt the course to their local context, and have control over the features, functions, and e-curriculum available to learners.

The COVID-19 crisis and the emergency remote teaching it spawned made it clear that language teachers need to be better prepared in understanding and using technology than many were. However, this realization was not new: A number of papers have argued that such preparation is needed (e.g., Nozawa, 2019), and organizations such as TESOL have had standards in place for years to address that need (Healey et al., 2011; TESOL, 2008). Yet despite the recognition of the value of such standards (Sun, 2022), they have failed to gain widespread traction. One reason is that standards like those of TESOL designed to be applicable to any language learning environment are not an ideal fit when used in their entirety for specific contexts (Hubbard, 2021). Here, we report on an initiative of New Language Solutions (NLS) to develop a set of targeted technology standards aimed at instructors in the Canadian settlement language sector. This article expands on our talk at TESL Ontario 2023. We also describe ongoing actions for sector consultation, dissemination, and adoption.

The plan is for the instructor technology standards being developed for this sector to be threaded into NLS’s four stages of expertly mentored online teacher training. As well, the standards are already being integrated into Avenue Leadership Training for administrators and lead teachers. Importantly, these instructor standards will be complemented by sets of technology standards for programs and learners, described briefly later in the paper.

The development process

In February 2023, the team recruited by NLS for this project began their work. The team included three members of the task force that developed the TESOL Technology Standards (TESOL, 2008)—Phil Hubbard, Deborah Healey, and Greg Kessler)—along with Canadian colleague Sharon Rajabi. Others centrally involved in the discussions were Rob McBride, John Allan, and Matthias Sturm from NLS.

The process of developing the instructor standards was fully online and yet highly collaborative. Beginning in February 2023, the team met on Zoom every week or two for 90 minutes or more, more than 30 times by the end of 2023. Although we worked offline on specific individual assignments as well, the online collaborative meetings represented the great majority of the total development time on the project.

Early on, we decided that our goal should be a set of reasonable, achievable standards relevant to the sector. We first revisited the TESOL standards and those of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) as well as other relevant sources. Individually, we generated and shared an initial list of principles, aiming for a compact set that teachers would find manageable. After discussing these and reconciling differences, we used the results to draft an initial set of eight standards, which we later reduced to seven (vs. 14 for TESOL).

We strove to make the language of the standards and performance indicators (PIs) as direct and clear as possible. For example, the initial Standard 2 was “Teachers are able to use technology to identify and meet current and future needs of learners and to reflect critically on this practice.” This was later rewritten directly and precisely: “Understand and use a basic set of relevant technology resources and tools for language teaching and continue to update and expand this set regularly.” It is worth noting that we deliberately use terms such as basic and relevant without fully defining them. Even within the community of Avenue users and the settlement language sector at large, the interpretation of basic and relevant may differ depending on the context.

PIs went through similar shifts. For instance, the general indicator, Supporting learners’ plurilinguistic and pluricultural selves,’ was originally under Standard 2, which is about using tools and digital resources. It was ultimately reconceptualized into a more direct form: Model equitable practices by incorporating learners’ wealth of linguistic and cultural resources in technology use. It was then moved under Standard 4, covering areas of digital literacy and digital citizenship.

This is just a small sample of the collaborative process we used to develop the current versions of the standards and PIs as well as the other elements (text expansions, vignettes, and can-do statements). We worked through shared online documents in Microsoft Teams, and many of the revisions occurred in real time during our many online meetings.

Overview of the instructor standards

Here is an abbreviated overview of the instructor standards. Readers can find a link to the full set of standards and support materials in the conclusion.

There are seven standards targeting the specific needs of the settlement language sector in Canada. Each standard is introduced with a short description as follows:

  • Standard 1 is about using devices and systems skillfully.
  • Standard 2 is about tools and digital resources.
  • Standard 3 is about technology-enhanced pedagogy.
  • Standard 4 is about digital literacy and digital citizenship for yourself and your learners.
  • Standard 5 is about using technology to help all learners thrive.
  • Standard 6 is about communicating with learners and observing their progress.
  • Standard 7 is about establishing and maintaining professional connections online.

Below is Standard 4 with its seven performance indicators (PIs). Each PI has an explanatory text, a reflection question, and a set of “can-do” statements for self-evaluation. We have included these for the first PI.

Standard 4 is about digital literacy and digital citizenship for yourself and your learners.

Be aware of and model the use of technology in safe, legal, ethical, and equitable ways.

PI 4.1. Guide learners to make positive and socially responsible contributions online.

In a blended, hybrid, or fully online class, learners are often expected to attend a synchronous session, engage in pair or group work, ask questions, or present to their peers. This may be a frustrating experience if your learners do not participate as planned. You may be compensating by doing the speaking most of the time. To create a welcoming class, acknowledge early on that the dynamics in a Big Blue Button or Zoom session are different than in-person sessions. This can help address learner anxiety and inhibitions. For example, you could dedicate the first session to an orientation about how and why the dynamics in an online class are different. Encourage your learners to ask questions. Introduce guidelines around active participation, group or pair work, turn-taking, and agreeing or disagreeing with peers respectfully in synchronous and asynchronous sessions. Incorporate in your daily plans multiple and varied opportunities for learners to ask questions and provide feedback.

Reflection: Think of strategies and practices that you incorporate in your online sessions. What works and what doesn’t work? What would you do differently next time?

__ I help learners understand how to be respectful and collaborative in synchronous or asynchronous online sessions.

__ I encourage my learners—especially those who are quiet—to actively participate online.

__ I revisit recurring issues that my learners experience to ensure that an online interaction feels as comfortable as an in-person one.

PI 4.2. Know how to access and select safe resources online and share this knowledge with learners.

PI 4.3. Acknowledge learners’ ownership of their online work.

PI 4.4. Learn about ethical use of technology and follow local, provincial, and national online privacy, copyright, and fair dealing regulations.

PI 4.5 Stay abreast of legal and ethical issues related to the use of artificial intelligence (AI) tools.

PI 4.6 Model equitable practices by incorporating learners’ wealth of linguistic and cultural resources in technology use.

PI 4.7. Model online behaviors that show respect for diversity in opinion, identity, and cultural practices.

To bring the standards to life, they are accompanied by a set of vignettes showing in detail how exemplary instructors have interpreted the standards in their courses. For example, a vignette from Jennifer Chow (Appendix A) describes how she has connected her Think-Aloud method in writing classes to elements of three of the technology standards: Standard 2 (tools and digital resources), Standard 3 (technology-enhanced pedagogy) and Standard 6 (communicating with learners and observing their progress).

Evaluation and implementation

Once we had a draft of the instructor standards in place that the team found satisfactory, we sent it to a Canadian university colleague who provided his feedback along with that of other faculty in applied linguistics and language teacher education. A number of their suggestions are reflected in the current form. Their responses also led us to add notes to teacher educators and program administrators clarifying the purpose of the standards.

Dissemination of the Avenue Standards for TELL focuses on the publication and distribution of the standards and their integration into Canadian language teaching sectors and key Avenue training initiatives. This dissemination plan is designed to weave the standards seamlessly into the fabric of teacher training, ensuring that educators are aware and trained with these standards throughout Avenue professional development. Avenue teacher training includes four stages of training that require up to eighty-five hours to complete. Only two of these training stages are mandatory.

Additionally, the Avenue leadership microcredentials integrate the technology standards throughout, including the teacher, student, and service provider individual microcredentials. The leadership microcredentials, which culminate in a capstone assignment, require participants to devise either a personal or an organizational plan aimed at enhancing the adoption of learning technologies, a critical step in advancing educational methodologies.

Taking those plans a step further, an Avenue course template is being developed to provide a local venue option for all the professionals in a service provider to innovate together and take their personal and shared practice to another level of standards implementation.

The emphasis is on the integration of these standards into all Avenue training, ensuring a consistent and thorough understanding of these guidelines among educators and leaders. A specialized course will be available for Service Provider Organization (SPOs), tailored to facilitate local integration of the standards. To make these standards more accessible, they will be made available in dual digital formats, including PDF and flipbook versions, which can be printed if required. Significant revisions are also planned for the LearnIT2teach Leadership Guide, incorporating chapters that specifically address these new standards. The Canadian language teaching community has been and will continue to be informed of the progress and continued integration of the technology standards through project communications including conference presentation, local workshop, webinars, social media posts, consultations, and professional articles. These initiatives will collectively endeavor to embed the standards deeply into educational practices, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and technological advancement in learning environments.

As a part of the sector-wide dissemination of the Avenue Standards for TELL and their integration in the instructor training and leadership course, a narrower stakeholder consultation of selected SPOs will generate data to evaluate the impact of operationalizing the standards. In this consultation, LINC clients, instructors and program administrators provide feedback. Clients follow a lesson plan developed to orient them to the learner standards and use a self-assessment tool. Instructors engage in reflective practice by self-evaluating how they are meeting the instructor standards or working towards them and the impact their adoption has on their teaching. Program administrators review the program standards to self-assess which standards their programs already meet or are on track to meet and which standards are priorities for continuous improvement, including making available instructor professional development and in-service supports.

The dissemination and consultation of the Avenue Standards for TELL will ensure that SPOs and instructors have access to formal and informal professional development and in-service supports to operationalize them. An impact analysis of the efforts of selected agencies will provide insights that will be reported on to IRCC and to sector stakeholders at TESL conferences and in forums with instructors, Lead Instructors, and PBLA leads. Our aim is to build a community of practice, serving as a source for guidance for better practices and for TESL community presentations on the use of the standards in instructional practice and program-wide implementation.

Brief overview of program and learner standards

The Avenue Technology Standards for Language Programs assist administrators at all levels when making and implementing decisions about technology use. Collaboration is encouraged; programs are best served when stakeholders are well-informed, planning ahead, and working together to improve learner outcomes. The five standards may be implemented in different ways, depending on resources available, but they should guide decision-making and requests for funding. A checklist is included for self-assessment.

The Avenue Learning Technology Standards for Language Learners are designed to give instructors and administrators a framework for providing lessons and course offerings that build learner competence with technology, primarily for language learning and use. The aim is to enable learners to use digital tools to be more autonomous towards achieving their language goals. These standards are meant to work in concert with the instructor standards and the program standards.

As in instructor and program standards, learner standards include a guiding philosophy for the standards, followed by four standards with performance indicators and sub-indicators. Descriptive text is added where needed for clarification. Reflection questions are included for administrators and instructors, along with related tasks for learners. We anticipate including checklists and self-assessment tools that help instructors and learners chart learner readiness.


We have described the motivation, process, and product for technology standards targeting language instructors who use Avenue. We believe this project has value not only for that constituency, but also for the settlement language sector as a whole. Indeed, it offers a model of why and how to develop targeted technology standards for other specific contexts rather than relying exclusively on generic ones such as those of TESOL and ISTE.

The Avenue standards are not intended to assess professional practice on a pass or fail basis. They are not minimal standards, nor are they simply aspirational. Instead, they are designed to guide personal reflection and encourage uptake of better practices in teaching and learning by individual professionals, learners, or whole language training programs.

Over the next months and years, the standards will be disseminated in English and versioned into French. They are already influencing new National LINC/CLIC Curriculum Guidelines. In the next few years, the Canadian Language Benchmarks will be modernized. We anticipate that the standards will not only inform but also be informed by national frameworks as the sector evolves. Moreover, because technology and associated practices constantly evolve, the standards will be reviewed regularly and updated as needed.

The Avenue standards for instructors, programs, and learners with their support materials will be released under a Creative Commons license so that others may freely use and adapt them for non-commercial purposes (with attribution). NLS and the development team hope that the Avenue standards will guide development of learning technology standards beyond Canadian settlement language training. It is worth noting that NLS has articulated standards for itself as well. These are presented as a Mission, Vision, Values statement at

Current versions of the standards and supporting documents can be found at





Healey, D., Hanson Smith, E., Hubbard P., Ioannou-Georgiou, S., & Kessler, G. (2011). TESOL technology standards: Description, implementation, integration. TESOL Press.

Hubbard, P. (2021). Revisiting the TESOL technology standards for teachers: Integration and adaptation. CALICO Journal, 38(3), 319–337.

Nozawa, K. (2019). Language teachers in the 21st century: Professional qualifications and challenges to implement the latest technologies. In Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Mathematics, Science, Language, and Economics in Education (pp. 1–16).

Sun, X. (2022). Ten years later: Reexamining the TESOL technology standards for language teachers. TESOL Journal, 13(4).

TESOL (2008). TESOL technology standards framework. TESOL Press.



Author Bios

John Allan, MEd, New Language Solutions (NLS), Canada, is a TELL specialist, instructional designer, and Avenue teacher mentor.

Deborah Healey, PhD, University of Oregon, USA, 2019-2020 President of TESOL International Association and emerita faculty at the University of Oregon, explores issues in technology use.

Phil Hubbard, PhD, Stanford University, USA, Senior Lecturer Emeritus at the Stanford University Language Center, works on understanding and implementing technologies for language learning.

Greg Kessler, PhD, Ohio University, USA, is Professor of Innovative Learning Design & Technology and chair of the Educational Studies department at Ohio University.

Rob McBride, MEd, NLS Executive Director, Canada, has worked as an educator, researcher/writer and media producer for many years.

Sharon Rajabi, MEd, NLS, Canada, 2006-2008 TESL Ontario President and an Adult Education consultant has an interest in the application of technology in second language teaching and learning.

Matthias Sturm, PhD candidate, NLS Evaluator, Canada, is an adult education researcher and writer with special interests in assessment and equity.

Technology, TELL
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Contact Spring 2024

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