Crossing the Great Divides: Distance learning and flexible delivery in Adult Basic Education
Distance learning and flexible delivery of Adult Basic Education (ABE) programs present great potential for addressing a variety of barriers often experienced by adult learners who require literacy learner support. These barriers, or great divides, include significant distances to existing services, child care needs, work schedule restrictions, lack of enrolment space in onsite programs, needs for learning at a different pace or on a different schedule, discomfort or lack of confidence when participating in large groups, and more. This document offers a brief summary of the research activities and results from a three-year project. The executive summary is also available in French under the title "Combler les grands fosses."
154 learners ranging in age from 27 to 39 participated in this research study, developing and piloting distance and online learning delivery models for adult basic education (ABE) programs in Ontario, Canada. Almost three-quarters of the participants were women, the preferred language of two-thirds of the participants was English, and half of the learners were not employed at the time of the study. On average, almost two and a half years had passed since the participants' last upgrading course in an on-site environment. Almost half of the participants reported their learning goal was to pursue further training and almost the same amount said they would rather work independently toward achieving their goals. Each of the programs differed in population served, method of instructional delivery, and curriculum.
The literacy programs involved in this research project were:
Centre de formation pour adultes J'aime apprendre Inc. - Formation multi-modale en alphabétisation et formation de base - Cornwall and Alexandria
Community Learning Centre Napanee (Kingston Literacy) - The Distance Delivery Development Project - Napanee, Tamworth, and Kaladar
Sioux-Hudson Literacy Council - Good Learning Anywhere - First Nations Management Training program, Pelican Falls High School, Hudson, and Pikangikum
Confederation College - LBS Distance Delivery Project - Thunder Bay, Kenora, Onigaming, and Grassy Narrows.
The results were extremely promising. The study found that distance delivery is a viable option for serving students who are not otherwise able to attend traditional programs or who are in more isolated areas. The study also found that, with proper support and training, distance learners can use technology as a valuable adjunct to learning and can make good learning progress with some level of teacher contact and support. Specifically the study showed that distance learning can be a valuable tool in providing services to rural and isolated populations, and very effective for learners with relatively low levels of literacy. But it also showed that distance learners don't differ greatly from traditional learners who have done well in a classroom setting, although they do seem to have slightly higher preferences for working on their own.