[Technology 1048] Re: online learning - preliminary findings and a call for your experiences

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Silver-Pacuilla, Heidi HSilver-Pacuilla at air.org
Mon Jun 11 09:16:05 EDT 2007

Good morning! Thanks again for letting me host for a week, Mariann, and
to all of you for joining me in an attempt to gather the knowledge in
the field on adults' use of technology to pursue literacy and language
learning. Here is a recap of my study questions, some preliminary
literature findings, and a couple of questions for you.

My charge from NIFL has been to investigate the literacy and language
proficiency thresholds necessary for adults to participate in online
learning successfully. Every noun in that sentence is, I realize,
loaded with assumptions and in need of definition.

My participation on the listserv for the week of June 11 - 15 is to host
a discussion with all of you on my preliminary findings from the
literature as well as to solicit your input to the research based on
your experiences in programs.

Mariann has been kind enough to let me post a request for documentation
or background information on the topic through the listserv before, and
I very much appreciate all the responses and productive leads I received
about how programs are providing learning opportunities to adults not
actively involved in classes.

Here then, to begin, are preliminary findings (and not my full
methodology or bibliography since both are currently incomplete) from
the published and posted literature on adult online literacy and
language learning. I hope you find them validating or provocative (or
both!) and can join in a lively discussion of what's actually happening
in your school or program.

It is not surprising that few published research studies document
independent, self-directed learning - after all, finding and following
independent learners on self-chosen tasks is not typical research.
Therefore, the nets were cast as widely as possible. In the end, most of
what I found is about computer-assisted and online learning that is
supplemental to classroom and program involvement. The implications of
this, of course, are that this knowledge is based on learners who are
already in programs and, as we know, these learners represent only a
small fraction of the adult population with low literacy and English
language proficiency.

Nevertheless, the findings are useful as an important source of
information about the issues and complexities of online learning by
adult learners as well as offering signposts to where strategic supports
could prove helpful for learners working with minimal program or
teacher/facilitator involvement.

There are three main areas I would like to share with the listserv:
program implementation issues, evidence of improvements of basic
literacy and language skills, and student skills and dispositions
associated with successful technology-based and online learning. I'll
share them in successive posts through the week.

To start, here are some key findings on implementation issues from a
review of program and project evaluations:

1. Online learners and teachers need support - pure online delivery is
not best practice for adult literacy and ESOL learners. Support could
- a facilitator at least some time for students,
- student-to-student communication,
- readily available tech support for both teachers and students, and
- a peer group for teachers of distance courses as teachers learn the
new medium

2. Induction programs or computer literacy skills pre-requisites set the
stage for success

3. Students are eager to learn computer literacy skills alongside

4. Supplemental online learning can be a positive option that increases
students' overall improvement, retention, and persistence

5. The quality of the equipment and the connection -on both ends - makes
a significant difference for the success of the experience and all
surveys point to the realization that most students do not have access
to high quality computers and broadband Internet service nor do programs
take learner costs (such as connectivity) into consideration.

So, how do these findings correlate with your experience and knowledge?
Can you share an example that confirms, challenges, or adds to them?

Today's Topics:

1. [Technology 1047] Heidi Silver-Pacuilla, research findings
(Mariann Fedele)


Message: 1
Date: Thu, 7 Jun 2007 16:19:19 -0400
From: "Mariann Fedele" <MariannF at lacnyc.org>
Subject: [Technology 1047] Heidi Silver-Pacuilla, research findings
To: "The Technology and Literacy Discussion List"
<technology at nifl.gov>
<6E8BC13A30982C44BCD32B38FB8F5AB8440888 at lac-exch.lacnyc.local>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

Dear Tech list colleagues,

I'm very pleased to announce that Heidi Silver-Pacuilla will be
rejoining the Tech list beginning on Monday, June 11th to discuss her
preliminary research findings on the language and literacy proficiency
thresholds necessary for adults to participate in online learning
successfully. You may recall that Heidi joined the tech list several
months ago to ask for you professional wisdom and input on this topic.

Heidi will also be soliciting your further input on her findings and the
research relative to your own experience and tell us a bit more about
the direction of the project.

Looking forward to hearing from all of you,


Mariann Fedele


NYC Regional Adult Education Network

Literacy Assistance Center

NIFL Technology and Literacy Discussion List
32 Broadway 10th Floor
New York, New York 10004
mariannf at lacnyc.org