WIA Community Conversations Summary - Technology and Distance Learning

WIA Community Conversations Summary

Technology and Distance Learning

WIA Community Conversations | Other WIA Community Conversations Summaries

Technology and Distance Learning Questions

  • What are creative and flexible ways to use technology and / or distance learning to expand access to adult education or help learners make progress toward their goals?
  • What are the barriers? What innovative solutions have you used to address those challenges?
  • What are your hopes for WIA reauthorization?


  • Incorporating technology allows programs to provide better instruction to a more diverse group of students
  • Allows for differentiated instruction in multi level classes
  • Enables programs to expand by offering additional distance learning materials
  • Pioneering BPOE (broadband over the power lines) 
  • Use of text-to-speech software builds confidence in those with learning disabilities
  • The Power of Technology to Transform Adult Learning: Expanding Access to Adult Education & Workforce Skills Through Distance Learning
  • CBI (computer based instruction) requires fewer master teachers
  • CBI programs like Contemporary and Plato have built in text-to-speech capabilities
  • Useful Technology includes: webcams; Read/Write Gold; Dragon; built in languages; MSN live for instant discussion; Skype and videoconferencing
  • Assessment online:  Practice tests for GED classes are computerized
  • New York State has developed a web based learning management system called e-Literacy New York which allows web based access to adult education programming through a wide range of media and other adult ed. resources.
  • Technology study circles and digital workshops allow teachers to share their best practices.  Online websites such as google group websites allow teachers to share best practices online.
  • Web 2.0 tools like blogs, podcasts, wikis, and social networking sites are free and easy to access
  • In Minnesota Learner Web is being used by tutors to add to their face-to-face tutoring time and by professional development programs to follow up a workshop with continued practice and feedback
  • Developing a "program" to be loaded on a flash drive with interactive capabilities for the learners


  • Instructors apprehensive about using technology
  • Untrained and/or inexperienced instructors trapped in the concept that traditional reading approaches and skills is the only way to learn
  • Students fears of technology
  • Cost/lack of funds for training and for computer equipment
  • Lack of server space
  • Lack of high speed internet access
  • “Digital” divide keeps low literacy people trapped in a world without technology and therefore ill prepared to enter the modern workplace
  • Lack of home internet and computer access for students limits use of distance learning technology
  • The National Reporting System (NRS) includes computer skill competencies for each of the six educational functioning levels, but has not approved any assessment to determine these competencies.
  • Need to be able to provide assessments (like TABE) via internet
  • GED still paper based, needs to be computer based and online
  • CBI  (Computer Based Instruction) is still considered a back-up/addition to person based instruction instead of the other way around
  • Quality of the CBI is a big issue, especially in math
  • Definition of direct instruction (80% required) in WIA limits ability for programs to fully utilize distance learning
  • Sharing data is difficult because systems do not always talk to one another
  • Nurturing direct and ongoing relationships between teachers and students using distance learning is key to the success of CBI
  • Learners move in and out of programs, so technology should be portable to support their continued engagement.
  • The recession has impacted innovation on several levels.
    • fewer students have internet connectivity in their homes
    • programs and government agencies have made drastic cutbacks that curtail their ability to invest in innovation

Other Suggestions

  • Create new technology centers to work in each state to help programs come into the 21st century in the use of technology to gain and learn from information
  • Seek assistance from private sector to create a cheaper and more flexible virtual literacy tool aimed specifically at low literate and ELL populations
  • Longitudinal Study of Adult Learning
  • National leadership of the Learner Web
  • WIA funding policies should consider incentives for taking risks and testing innovation.  Innovation needs to be resourced with research and development at the national level
  • We should join the larger innovation community and take up our role as a key step in lifelong learning, and not be confined to funding through a single stream.
  • Ensuring Internet connectivity and broadband capacity belong in the FCC conversation about bringing broadband to all
  • Plans to integrate technology and distance learning should be included in the National Education Technology Plan being written by the Dept of Ed’s Office of Innovation and Improvement 
  • Stronger interagency directive built into WIA that could strengthen some of these connections between federal agencies and initiatives. 
  • We should invest in serious research and evaluation on effectiveness of existing and new models for blended learning in adult literacy education
  • Include online adult basic skills learning accessed by web-accessible handhelds/smart phones as well as by computers and e-tablets
  • Fund a national project to develop an online and blended learning professional development model
  • Elevate technology literacy to the same level of priority as reading, writing, numeracy, ESOL,  and adult secondary education