New Designs in Online and Distance Learning November 17 - 21, 2008

This National Institute for Literacy Special Topics discussion, to be held from November 17th through November 21st, 2008, will focus on two new adult education models: a national learning portal for English language learning at a distance, called USA Learns, and a web-based and telephone-based learning support system, called the Learner Web, for ABE, ASE and ELL students enrolled in classes to supplement their learning, as well as for those who study on their own. We have four distinguished guests, researchers as well as product developers, who will describe these two models and answer questions.

For USA Learns, our guests are John Fleischman and Dr. Jerome (Jere) Johnston. For the Learner Web our guests are Dr. Stephen Reder and Dr. Clare Strawn. You will find more information about them below.

Description of the models

The Learner Web is a learning support system providing structure and resources for adults who want to accomplish specific learning objectives. A learner can access the system through the Internet. In addition to on-line resources, the Learner Web integrates support services from existing local education programs, community based organizations, tutors, and telephone helpers. The Learner Web consists of a Web-based software system that is implemented regionally. The System is organized around Learning Plans. A Learning Plan is a set of steps structured around achieving an identified goal. For example, if the goal is to get a GED, the steps might include finding out more about the tests, identifying what skills one needs to brush up on, learning new skills and knowledge, taking practice tests, etc. Each step is matched with online and community based resources and a workspace where learners can take assessments or save their work in an e-portfolio. The learner creates a personal profile, may take a short reading assessment and interest inventory, chooses a goal from the available list and follows the Learning Plan independently or with a tutor or a teacher. The Learning Plan is dynamically matched by the software to both the learner profile and educational resources. The learner's progress is saved and can be returned to at any time via the internet. Learners can choose to share their workspace with a tutor or teacher.

The Learner Web has begun the second year of a three-year demonstration project in seven demonstration regions across the country.

U.S.A. Learns is a free Web site designed for adult learners with limited English language skills. Instructional content focuses on the language and literacy skills that adults need for everyday survival. While a broad range of adults can use U.S.A. Learns, it has been developed primarily for immigrants who cannot attend traditional classroom programs because of difficulty with schedules, transportation, or other barriers. The site includes more than 400 hours of instruction and offers an extensive array of video, audio and richly illustrated graphics and images. The site layout was created with the inexperienced Web user in mind, and extensive built-in help features are available. U.S.A. Learns can be used independently, but it can also be used in association with a teacher or tutor via an online management system.

Background on Discussion Guests

John Fleischman

With more than 25 years of experience in adult education as a teacher, administrator and project director, John Fleischman is currently responsible for information and educational technology operations at the Sacramento County Office of Education. John possesses an extensive background with creating and implementing instructional and informational media for use in a variety of educational environments. His present area of focus is on building Web-based solutions for education, including data management systems and comprehensive online learning resources. Working at the state and national level, he provides oversight for a range of technology initiatives including the Outreach and Technology Assistance Network and Strengthening Programs Through Technology. John is the author of numerous publications and is frequently requested as a presenter at both state and national conferences.

Jerome (Jere) Johnston is Research Professor at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. For 40 years he has been studying ways that technology shapes what people learn. In recent years Dr. Johnston has been exploring innovative ways to use technology in adult literacy. He directs the Project IDEAL Support Center, supporting 25 states in their efforts to build distance learning programs for adult learners. The Center provides technical assistance to states in the areas of training, research, and policy development (

Stephen Reder is University Professor and Chair of the Department of Applied Linguistics at Portland State University. His research and teaching interests focus on adult education and the processes of literacy and language development during adulthood. Dr. Reder has served as the Principal Investigator for a number of major projects in adult education. Two recent projects, the Longitudinal Study of Adult Learning and the National Labsite for Adult ESOL, examine the ways adults acquire new literacy and language abilities and the roles which adult education programs and policies play in supporting that development. The results of this research have led to the development of the Learner Web, an innovative online adult learning support system. Professor Reder is the author of numerous publications about his research and its implications for adult education and adult literacy and language development. He has recently completed co-editing a volume with John Bynner, Tracking Adult Literacy and Numeracy Skills: Findings from Longitudinal Research. A second book is in progress, Dropping Out and Moving On: Life, Literacy and Development among High School Dropouts. Dr. Reder actively works with networks of adult education researchers, practitioners and policymakers at the state, regional and national levels.

Clare Strawn is Assistant Professor at Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, and has been an analyst on the Longitudinal Study of Adult Learning. She is interested in patterns of program participation, the intersection of learning and community development, social capital influences on learning strategies, and technology. She has been a co-developer, with Steve Reder of the Learner Web and has been actively involved in the demonstration project.

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