[Technology 1072] Re: findings on evidence of improvement of literacy and language skills through technology

Share: Share on LinkedIn! Print page! More options

Archived Content Disclaimer

This page contains archived content from a LINCS email discussion list that closed in 2012. This content is not updated as part of LINCS’ ongoing website maintenance, and hyperlinks may be broken.

nancy.friday at alphaplus.ca nancy.friday at alphaplus.ca
Fri Jun 15 13:37:11 EDT 2007

Hi Everyone,

Nancy Friday here from the AlphaPlus Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I have
been reading this discussion all week, intending to respond, and now its Friday
and I am going to make this happen!

The AlphaPlus Centre is a provincial adult literacy resource centre providing
resource, technology and information support to over 300 adult literacy sites
across Ontario in the English, Native, Deaf and Francophone communities. As a
direct result of significant funding changes particularly at the National level,
AlphaPlus is engaged in a strategic planning process to re-position ourselves
within the new adult education environment in Ontario.

For over 10 years now we have managed and developed an online learning
environment called AlphaRoute. You can learn more about AlphaRoute and try it
out at: www.resources.alpharoute.org

For the past 4 years we have been working with sites across Ontario to realize
as much as possible true distance delivery of literacy skills development and

We have couched our practice in research and have produced research reports that
speak to varying degrees depending on the report to the subject of this
discussion this week.

In 2000 I believe we received funding fromthe Office of Learning Technologies, a
branch of Human Resources Development Canada, to explore the efficacy of online
learning for adult literacy students. We grappled with how to approach the
research question for a couple years during the time that the AlphaRoute
Web-based learning environment was being used by literacy students in programs
across Ontario. We decided to approach the research by asking literacy students
who had used AlphaRoute for a period of time. 142 learners from 42 literacy
programs across Ontario participated in a telephone survey. The questions asked
if and how using AlphaRoute impacted on their reading and related literacy
skills, did the use of AlphaRoute impact on their use of computers at home, use
of email, use of the Internet, how has using AlphaRoute impacted on the way
they learn and their motivation to continue, how important and what kinds of
support are important and critical to online learning? Our report is called
What difference does it make? - Literacy learner perspectives on Web-based
learning with AlphaRoute (2003). Here's a link to the full report:
The use of AlphaRoute as reflected in this report was as a supplement to onsite
literacy learning and primarily but not exclusively, learners were accessing
AlphaRoute using computers at their literacy program. So not a distance
learning application at that time.

In 2001 AlphaPlus partnered with an agency called Contact North in northern
Ontario and two established adult literacy programs, one French and one English,
to explore how and if AlphaRoute could be used to support distance delivery of
literacy programming. Contact North provided computer access to adult literacy
students in two communities that did not have literacy programs. The two
literacy programs provided mentors to support the learning at a distance of
literacy learners in the remote towns. AlphaRoute and supplemental learning
software were used for learning content, learning management, and interactice
communication between learners and mentors. This was a very small project.
What we learned from it was that distance learning support was possible, that
partnering to create the access path for students was necessary and workable,
but that there were some missing pieces, significantly a way to do assessment at
a distance was one missing piece. We also started to realize that distance
learning wouldn't be more cost effecitve than onsite learning.

Starting in 2003, AlphaPlus and four literacy programs across Ontario with
significant funding from our national and provincial partners, managed a larger
exploration of how literacy skill development can be offered at a distance.
This effort was carried out as formal research, under the guidance of Dr. Paul
Porter from Sonoma State University in California and Matthis Sturm from the
AlphaPlus Centre. A report on the result of that research, called Crossing the
Great Divides: Distance learning and flexible delivery in Adult Basic Education
(2006) is availalbe at http://distance.alphaplus.ca

I will ask Matthias to share what he has learned from this research that speaks
to the efficacy of distance learning in adult literacy.

And I'll stop for now.

Nancy in Toronto

"Silver-Pacuilla, Heidi" <HSilver-Pacuilla at air.org> on 06/13/2007 09:32:50 AM

Please respond to The Technology and Literacy Discussion List
<technology at nifl.gov>

To: technology at nifl.gov

cc: (bcc: Nancy Friday)

Subject: [Technology 1055] findings on evidence of
improvement of literacy and language skills
through technology

Hello everyone - here is another chunk of my data to share for member
checking with you. Does this resonate? Can you share an example that
confirms or challenges these findings?

**My key question to the group is: What has been your experience with
the lowest skilled students?

Thanks! Heidi Silver-Pacuilla


To recap, I am posting 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

This is the second of the three main areas I am sharing 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.

Here are some key findings from the review of studies reporting evidence
of improvement of basic literacy and language skills:

There is growing evidence that adult learners' work with computer-based
or online materials that are supplemental to adult literacy and ESOL
classes contributes positively to their overall literacy and language
acquisition plus complementary learning skills. The evaluations
reviewed were of supplemental materials available to students with some
type of program support (on-site trained teacher or support person,
support person available online, tech support available through the
program, and/or automated feedback system in the program) and varying
degrees of integration with the regular class curriculum.

Importantly, the supplemental materials and online interfaces were
either uniquely developed or chosen for adult literacy and language
learners. Programs have documented successful use of these materials
with all levels of students, including those with the lowest levels of
literacy and English proficiency.

Quantifying specific academic skills achievement is difficult to
pinpoint, but several significant studies report learning gains
attributable to the supplemental use of technology in instruction and
practice. It must be acknowledged that there is still no "body of
evidence" with repeated and comparable studies that can definitely
answer questions about particular interventions used with particular
literacy or language levels with predictable results.

How do these findings correlate with your experience and knowledge?
National Institute for Literacy
Technology and Literacy mailing list
Technology at nifl.gov
To unsubscribe or change your subscription settings, please go to
Email delivered to nfriday at alphaplus.ca

Nancy Friday
AlphaRoute Coordinator
AlphaPlus Centre (http://alphaplus.ca)
Telephone: (416) 322-1012 x.305
Fax: 1-800-788-1417
TTY: 1-800-788-1912
nancy.friday at alphaplus.ca