Frequently Asked Questions

Professional Development

What is the IDEAL Consortium?

The IDEAL Consortium (a project of EdTech Center at World Education) is a national consortium of state ABE programs working to improve DL. Minnesota participates through the DL Supplemental Services grant.

Is there online DL training available for ABE staff?

Yes. DL Basics is now available online here. This course is highly recommended for all ABE staff delivering DL. Beginning May 2015, completion will be required for all ABE managers, teachers, and support staff delivering DL.

Is there a cost for participating in DL 101?
  • No. In fact, ABE sites receive stipends if they participate.
If a program has already participated in DL 101, can new teachers join a study group?

Yes. We have materials for new teachers at existing sites/DL101 alumni sites

Does an ABE program need to be approved or can it just start?

As of May 1, 2015 all teachers, managers, and support staff involved with DL must complete Online Dl Basics (unless individuals have completed DL 101). It is highly recommended but not required that a manager and teacher from each ABE program participate in DL 101, offered biannually through the Supplemental Services project. Sites that participate have significantly increased their capacity to provide effective DL. Access Online DL Basics here. More information on DL 101 is available here. More information on getting started on distance learning is available here.

Do staff who have completed DL 101 need to complete Online Basics?


Do most people who want to participate in DL 101 training get to participate?

Our goal is to serve the entire state. While we may want to be able to serve everyone interested in a given year, over time there will be opportunities  for all to participate.

Approved DL Platforms in Minnesota

There are three kinds of approved DL platforms in Minnesota - state-supported platforms, free platforms, and fee based platforms.

What DL platforms receive the most use in Minnesota ABE?

Plato/Edmentum, USA Learns, and Learner Web.

What DL platforms does Minnesota ABE support?
  • The platforms for which training and support are provided are Burlington English, i-Pathways (formerly GED-i), Plato Edmentum, and the Northstar Digital Literacy Assessment; and for Adult Diploma programs, Learner Web. Contact Margo Hernandez for assistance on Burlington  English, t Susan Wetenkamp-Brandt for assistance on Plato Edmentum and i-Pathways, Julia Tabbut for Learner Web, and for Northstar. License fees for these platforms are also paid by the State.
  • ABE programs are welcome to use any of the other approved platforms, but training will not be provided and fees will not be paid at the state level.
What are the non-online DL platforms?

English for All, Crossroads Cafe, Putting English to Work, and Teach Me English (in ASL).

Is there a software or filtering tool to automatically funnel learners to the best DL platform?

No. There is a wide range of tools available for use in MN to make sure there is a range of learning opportunities available to meet our the needs of diverse ABE institutions and learners. Each program decides what it wants to provide and support. However, to download a chart correlating appropriate student NRS levels with each platform, click HERE.

How are DL platforms approved for proxy hours?

ABE professionals can request approval of a new platform by downloading and completing this form, then submitting it to thysom@real-time. The request will then be reviewed by the Virtual Task Force, which will make a recommendation to the State ABE staff regarding approval.

Does the state support a database that ABE programs can use to monitor learner participation in DL?

SID can be used to track proxy contact hours. Contact Jenny Schlukebier at Urban Planet with any questions:

Can DL platforms be used in class?

DL platforms and curricula are not generally used in class; they are designed specifically distance learning or as additional support to in-class instruction and work.  If a site chooses to have students utilize a DL platform in class, it's better to collect the proxy hours, especially if it's 'time on task' (which includes and extra 15 minutes per hour worked/earned) rather than the seat time. 

Are minimum TABE/CASAS scores required for use of specific platforms?

The scores listed for specific platforms are suggestions that reflect the ability levels generally needed to benefit. However, students at lower levels may be able to benefit, especially in a hybrid setting. Students at lower than suggested levels should be monitored to ensure they are progressing.

Questions about Platforms

Burlington English

Where can I access basic information about Burlington English?

How can staff differentiate between student work done on Burlington English in class and at home?

  • Students need to be sure to log in as "at home" and not "at school" when using it at home or elsewhere outside the classroom.
Plato Edmentum

All of your general Plato and Plato reporting questions should be answered here:

How do I clear browser cache and cookies?

How do I turn off Pop Up Blocker?

How do I add to Trusted Sites?

Which URLs/IPs/domains need to be accessible in order to run PLATO lessons?

What are the network Requirements and Configuration?

How do I edit the status of a learner on an activity or test (lock, reset, edit progress, etc.) as an Instructor or as an Administrator?

Why there is such a large discrepancy between the Total Time logged in and Time on Acitivities?

  • There are several reasons for the discrepancy between time logged in and time on activities:

    - If students close the browser window without clicking “sign out,” they may not be logged out.

    - Time spent looking over the list of activities and trying to decide what to work on is not counted, neither is time spent in the internal messaging system or looking over scores or reports. Students may spend quite a bit of time reviewing pretest scores, for example. This kind of activity is what the extra +25% in the proxy hour award is meant to cover.

    - If there are “offline activities” such as printable worksheets, time spent looking at those is not counted. For this reason, it's best to tell students to just open them, print them out, and do them as homework, and not spend their valuable online time on them. But if your students are spending a long time reading them, that time will not get clocked. If this gets to be a problem, you could consider creating custom courses that exclude those activities so students don’t see them at all.

    - The “Plato Orientation”  shows students how to use the software may also not be counted as “activity” time. So students might lose time on that. t's best to advise students to skip it, and just ask for help if they need it (since we have supported lab time, there’s someone there to answer questions.)

    In an open lab, with staff to help get learners started, keep them focused, and not get sidetracked by the items above, the time on activities is pretty accurate; in fact it can add up to more than the lab time once you add in the extra 25%. However, when students are logging in at home/offsite, and there’s no one there guiding them, that’s when big discrepancies can occur.

When students login to Plato Learning Environment (PLE) they are asked if they are logging in “In Class” or not.  Does this mean that we can run a report in PLE that will separate out in-class time and distance learning time?

  • There is a report in the Administration Center called the “Contact Hours Report” that does separate out “in class” (contact) time.  However, it does not have a separate column of data for “not in class” (distance) time.  If you choose to use PLE as both an in-class and distance learning product for the same students, and you want to use the Contact Hours Report to track your DL time, you will need to subtract the “in class” time from the total in order to calculate the distance learning time

Why can't my students access Plato on Samsung phone?

  • This is a limitation within Plato.
Learner Web

Where can I get information about Learner Web?

Go here:


Does the state purchase a license for KeyTrain?

  • DEED no longer purchases KeyTrain for statewide use. Individual ABE programs must purchase a license, or work out an arrangement with their local workforce center to share their license.
i-pathways (formerly GED-i)

What constitutes a lesson?

  • All pages of a lesson have to be completed.

Do pre- and post-surveys count as lessons?

  • Yes, each is worth two hours.
GED Academy

How can proxy hours be tracked to meet the requirement, "Actual student time spent on lessons, not to exceed 125% of the maximum expected time."

Time on Task Reports generated through GED Academy are automatically adjusted to satisfy this requirement.  Reports should always be accurate and within the limit. More information here:

Proxy Hours

When a platform is approved midyear, can programs who have been using it claim proxy hours retroactive to the beginning of that program year?

Yes, as long as adequate documentation has been maintained.

How does a DL platform/program get approved for proxy hours?

Fill out this form and send to Tom Cytron-Hysom. He will send it to the Virtual Task Force, which will make recommendations to the state ABE staff. The VTF bases its recommendations on many factors, including quality of curricula, whether there is a reasonable means of calculating proxy hour equivalents, whether similar platforms have already been approved, level of statewide interest in the platform, availability of resources such as superusers and and training to support the platform, and reporting functions within the platform.

Can I collect proxy hours for the same lesson/chapter/unit/assignment more than once for the same learner, no matter how much time has passed?

No. The MDE ABE policy states, "Proxy Contact Hours can only be granted once per ABE student per distance learning curriculum unit. Once Proxy Contact Hours have been counted for a learner completing a distance learning unit, the learner cannot be given credit for the same unit again at a future time. This means a learner can go back and review units, but he/she cannot generate additional Proxy Hours for that same unit." However, this primarily applies to the NON-time on task DL platforms, like the DVD series, or I-pathways, for example. For the DL platfroms which collect proxy hours based on time on task, this doesn't apply. Look for an update to the DL policy coming soon. 

Can I collect proxy hours for a non-approved DL platform?

No. Tools must be approved by MDE based on applications that come from the field and are approved by the Virtual Task Force.

SID Reports

There are various SID reports that may be helpful:

What distance learning reports are available?

There are three: Table A, Total Enrollment and Contact Hours – Distance Learning, includes only DL hours; Table 4c, Educational Gains and Attendance for Participants in Distance Education, shows outcomes for adult learners with at least 50% of their total hours in distance learning; and Distance Learning and Student Completion and Post-test Rates (under Program Reports) can be set to show data for students with any number of DL proxy hours.

Also, the "Contact List for All DL Students," under “Date Clean-up reports," lists all students who are currently enrolled in a DL class – it includes contact info including email. This can be filtered to run for a specific sub-site, and can be exported to Excel where it could also be filtered by class if that is desired. There is a column called “MFIP” which shows  “yes” if the student is on MFIP.

How can I find ABE programs using specific plaforms?

Superusers, who may know of programs using the platform for which they provide information and support are listed for most platforms in the Approved DL Platforms section of the website. We do not now have reports showing statewide usage of platforms by program, but are discussing this possibility with the MDE ABE office.

Public Assistance Students and Distance Learning

How should distance learning hours be entered into SID for public assistance recipients?

Enter the number of completed proxy hours, based on DL platform reports. Do not enter more than 4 hours on any given day, as this may create confusion with job counselors.

Can distance learning count towards meeting education requirements for public assistance recipients?

Yes. If a job counselor asks questions, let her/him know that the student is engaged in distance learning, using formal curricula that has been approved by the state for a specific number of contact hours, under the direct supervision of a qualified teacher.

ABE Distance Learning in Workforce Centers

Does ABE provide DL in any workforce centers?

Some local ABE programs may provide this service.