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Recently, AlphaPlus completed a research overview based on analysis of the Canadian Internet Use Survey (CIUS) and other information. The overview looks beyond average household internet connections and highlights the way in which income, age and level of education contribute to the digital divide. This ongoing and entrenched digital divide has a direct impact on LBS learners and others who could benefit from learning and training programs.

Through our research, we discovered that individuals with no (or limited) household internet connections rely more often on pay-as-you-go plans and public Wi-Fi to access the digital world. Some even sacrifice basic needs to get online. Our review of the available data and information also indicates that people with no or limited internet access have fewer devices.

Overall, limited access for low-income individuals means they engage in fundamental activities like online banking and accessing government services at half the rate of those with the highest incomes.

Our research shows that 39% of Ontarians with the lowest incomes (compared to only 1% with the highest incomes) are unable to gain the knowledge and consumer benefits as well as the social and personal benefits typically associated with seamless internet access. Limited access also prevents people from fully participating and voicing their views and opinions.

The impact of Ontario’s digital divide
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Statement from a national network of organizations, people and researchers concerned about adult literacy in Canada

Choose success – Invest in literacy

Our world is transforming rapidly. Trends such as globalization, digitalization and demographic shifts are changing work, communities, the way society functions, and how people interact. In this environment literacy skills matter.
Literacy is more than reading and writing. It is about our ability to learn. It is about problem-solving and critical thinking. It is about accessing information and having the tools to understand and analyse that information. Literacy skills help us realize our life goals and meet the communication and information demands at work, at home, and in the community.
Literacy is about more than the individual person. It’s also about our country. Strong literacy and essential skills contribute to a strong economy, civic engagement, and a healthy population. Although Canada’s skills in general are above average, the proportion of those at the lowest levels has grown slightly over the past decade, and we have a striking digital literacy gap. We need a vision to ensure everyone has the skills to respond to the challenges and opportunities of a complex and rapidly changing world.

Why this matters:

  • Our standard of living will be secured and no one will be left behind
  • Our human rights commitments will be met
  • Our families and communities will be more resilient, informed and interconnected with access to digital tools and information
  • Our investment in education and learning will increase quality of life
  • Our economy will be strengthened by skilled workforce
  • Our democracy will be supported by civic engagement and participation


We can improve literacy in Canada. We can support people to participate in society and the economy. With leadership at the federal level leading to policy, funding, and conversation, we can achieve success for Canadians, today and for generations to come.

Canada needs:

  • A national literacy policy to ensure consistency and commitment to advancing literacy programming in Canada. While the provinces and territories deliver literacy programming, the federal government has a vital role to play in setting a national framework and honouring Canada’s international commitments. The federal government can support coordination across government and with other orders of government and stakeholders to ensure we make the most of everyone’s potential.
  • Federal funding for literacy to foster innovation, share best practices, and support accessible and affordable literacy programming for all adults who need it. The current federal government has taken steps by negotiating with the provinces and territories to provide literacy and essential skills training to the employed and unemployed. But much more can be done to enhance literacy levels in the family, at work and in the community particularly for Indigenous people, people living in Official Language minority communities, and those new to Canada.
  • Implement Canada’s international commitments on adult education including UNESCO’s Education 2030 Framework for Action (2015), Recommendation on the Development of Adult Education (2015) and Bélem Framework for Action (2009).
  • Conversations about lifelong learning to enable all adults to learn in a safe and supportive environment to reduce stigma and ensure success. We must increase access to technology and the learning and tools to use technology. Workplace literacy programs, family literacy activities, community-based programs, and financial and social supports will give everyone the opportunity to learn.

We call on all candidates in Canada’s 43rd general election to consider how they will address the literacy needs of Canadians. We call on you to choose success: invest in literacy.


Contact Us

Brigid Hayes (English)
(613) 614-2408

Daniel Baril (French)
(514) 602-4129


Post your support and comments on Twitter: #literacy4all and #alphabétisationpourtous


ABC Life Literacy Canada, Mack Rogers, Executive Director
Adult Basic Education Association, Sara Gill, Executive Director
AlphaPlus, Alan Cherwinski, Executive Director
Alphare, Annie Poulin, directrice générale
BC Health Literacy Networks
Canadian Labour Congress, Hassan Yussuff, President
Calgary Learns, Nancy Purdy, Executive Director
CanLearn Society, Krista Poole, CEO
Centre de documentation sur l'éducation des adultes et la condition féminine (CDÉACF)
Change Makers' Education Society, Karen Buchanan, Executive Director
Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy, Desneiges Profili, Executive Director
Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy - Creston, Gillian Wells, Community Literacy Coordinator
Coalition ontarienne de formation des adultes, Gabrielle Lopez, directrice générale
Community Literacy of Ontario, Joanne Kaattari, Co-Executive Director
Decoda Literacy Solutions, Margaret Sutherland, Executive Director
Éduc à tout, Jacques Tétreault, Directeur
Fédération des maisons d’hébergement pour femmes, Adeline Jouve, Agente communication et promotion
Fédération du Québec pour le planning des naissances (FQPN), Julie Robillard, Co-coordinatrice
Frontier College, Stephen Faul, President & CEO
Réal Gosselin, tuteur (Université Sainte-Anne)
Brigid Hayes, Brigid Hayes Consulting
Institut de coopération pour l’éducation des adultes, (ICÉA) Daniel Baril, Directeur général
Lakes Literacy, Jennifer Petersen, Literacy Outreach Coordinator
Literacy Coalition of New Brunswick, Lynda Homer, Executive Director
Literacy Haida Gwaii, Beng Favreau, Executive Director
Literacy Link South Central, Tamara Kaattari, Executive Director
Literacy Matters Abbotsford, Sharon Crowley Literacy Outreach Coordinator
Literacy Nova Scotia, Jayne Hunter, Executive Director
Literacy Quebec, Gabrielle Thomas, Executive Director
North Coast Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society, Louisa Sanchez
NWT Literacy Council, Kathryn Barry Paddock, Executive Director
Ontario Native Literacy Coalition, Michelle Davis, CEO
Peter Gzowski Foundation for Literacy, Joanne Linzey, President
Christine Pinsent-Johnson, PhD, Alpha Plus & Adult Literacy and Lifelong Learning Researcher
Public Health Association of BC, Gord Miller, President; Shannon Turner, Executive Director
READ Saskatoon, Sheryl Harrow-Yurach, Executive Director
READ Surrey-White Rock, Dr. Allan Quigley, EdD, President
Margerit Roger, M.Ed., Eupraxia Training
Irving Rootman, Adjunct Professor, School of Public Health and Social Policy, University of Victoria
Saskatchewan Literacy Network, Phaedra Hitchings, Executive Director
Linda Shohet, Researcher & Consultant, Adult Education and Literacy
Pierre Simard, travailleur social (Montréal)
Suzanne Smythe, PhD, Associate Professor, Adult Literacy and Adult Education, Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University
South Island Literacy, Mitra D. Evans, Westshore Literacy Outreach Coordinator
Matthias Sturm, AlphaPlus & Simon Fraser University
Diana Twiss, Chair, School of Access and Academic Preparation; Program Coordinator, Community Development & Outreach, Capilano University
Dr. Kathleen Venema, Associate Professor of English, University of Winnipeg
Donna Woloshyn
Yukon Learn Society, Julie Anne Ames, Executive Director
Yukon Literacy Coalition, Beth Mulloy, Executive Director

#literacy4all - AlphaPlus co-signs declaration on the eve of federal elections
Final Statement - EN v5 - 8-10-19_4.pdf
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An environmental scan of LBS programs indicated that a number of different tools and processes were being used to track data across all three sectors, and while the tools worked, duplication and inefficient data sharing was a concern.
Sioux-Hudson, a community-based literacy program, procured and implemented a student information system called Orbund and found that the system meets their needs for case management and that they could successfully customize it to align with ministry data requirements and their own internal needs.

The cost of Orbund is prohibitive for an individual program but is more manageable if individual programs can share an enterprise license. AlphaPlus provided a three-year license to pilot programs who are willing and able to help identify gaps/issues and work with AlphaPlus and Orbund to work through these issues before rolling it out to other programs.
After seeing Orbund in action, staff in the pilot programs felt it will help streamline and advance case management administration. Read the report to learn how Orbund worked for these organizations and the next steps for the implementation of Orbund.

Student Information Systems Pilot Report
AlphaPlus Orbund Pilot Results V.1 March 27 2019.pdfDownload 
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Learner Digital Files Report
Learner Digital Files Report (Ver 2.0 Mar 12-19).pdfDownload 
Appendix II Learner File Summary.pdfDownload 
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To explore the ways that LinkedIn Learning might fit into individual professional development plans for LBS managers and instructors, we engaged 10 English-speaking participants from community-based programs to collaborate on our research.

Read the report to see what we learned about how LBS practitioners are learning in order to strengthen their practice and better support colleagues, program participants and community partners. We think that their insights and recommendations are a powerful guide to creating effective professional learning opportunities that amplify scholarship in the field.

Linkedin Learning Report
1556832355wpdm_1_AP LiL Report - Final Report (Ver 2.1 Mar 30-19)TM.pdfDownload 
1556832326wpdm_2_AP LiL Report - Field Research (Ver 2.0 Mar 30-19)TM.pdfDownload 
1556832289wpdm_3_AP LiL Report - Course Evaluations (Ver 2.0 Mar 30-19)TM.pdfDownload 
1556832214wpdm_4_AP LiL - Appendices (Ver 2.0 Mar 30-19)TM.pdfDownload 
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AlphaPlus supports literacy workers to use blended learning approaches through our technology coaching services, face-to-face and online training, and tech support. This position paper describes our understanding of blended learning, its benefits and how adult basic education programs can be (re)conceptualized using a blended learning approach to best support learner success.

The full report is available in American Sign Language.

Position Paper on Blended Learning in Adult Education
AlphaPlus Blended Learning Position Paper (Ver 1.2c Apr 15-19).pdfDownload 
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A cross-case analysis of six community-based programs in Ontario’s Literacy and Basic Skills system (2018).

Digital Access, Inclusion and Learning in Community Adult Literacy Centres
AlphaPlus OHCRIF 2017 2018 Report (Ver 4.0 Nov 29-18)AWC.docxDownload 
CS AlphaPlus OHCRIF 2017 2018 (Ver 1.0 Oct 30-2018)AWC.pdfDownload 
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Project Results: ‘Digital opportunities and barriers for Ontario’s vulnerable adults’ literature review project.

In Ontario, our government is transforming how it collaborates with the public and provides services by migrating many everyday interactions and transactions to an online platform. This e-government service initiative includes a commitment to provide opportunities for people to advance or gain new digital skills, particularly to individuals most in need of digital literacy training. As those in the adult education sector know, a digital divide and lack of technology training persists in Ontario and in Canada. For many Ontarians, the cost of an Internet connection puts access out of reach. When Internet access is available disparities in education level, literacy, technical skills, online problem solving and access to digital learning supports contribute to the divide. AlphaPlus’ synthesis review project sought to examine existing literature to better understand effective and comprehensive digital literacy learning, as well as inclusion opportunities for current and future users of e-government services.

The report details the results of a literature review and a jurisdictional scan funded by the Ontario Human Capital Research and Innovation Fund (OHCRIF) in 2016-2017. This project explores what it means to be an inclusive and digitally enabled province, and to support Ontario’s vision for advancing digital literacy skills for those in need. Because of the digital literacy strategy currently under development in Ontario, this research was an ideal opportunity to look at promising policies, programs and practices designed to create an environment of digital inclusion in other jurisdictions.

Digital Opportunities Review
Digital Opportunities Review (Ver 1 May 08 2017)MS.pdfDownload 
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Full Research Report

In 2014-15, AlphaPlus was involved in a research project examining current assessment practices related to the OALCF Use Digital Technology Milestones, the alignment between the Milestones and program learning and reporting trends. Our study concludes that the Milestones and accompanying administration guidelines work counter to the ministry’s objective for the OALCF to “improve service delivery, learner experiences and learner outcomes” by introducing a series of challenges, contradictions and inequities.

EOIS-CaMS data and anecdotal information indicated that the OALCF Competency D – Use Digital Technology Milestones were often being selected. We wanted to know why there was a reliance on a limited number of Milestones and determine why assessors were making this choice. An investigation initially focused on digital technology Milestones grew to incorporate a broader investigation of Milestone use in general.

This SDNDF-funded project Assessment Use and Reporting: Investigating Data Integrity Issues gathered information from assessors in LBS programs by way of an online survey and in-person interviews focused on the digital technology Milestones as well as assessment and reporting practices and their impacts on programming. The insights of practitioners with experience using the OALCF Milestones were integral to the project.

Christine Pinsent-Johnson
Matthias Sturm


Lessons Learned from an Analysis of OALCF Use Digital Technology Competency Milestones
AlphaPlus Assessment Use Full Report (Ver 2 Oct 5 15).pdfDownload 
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With the introduction of the OALCF (Ontario Adult Literacy Curriculum Framework) and its aligned reporting system in 2012, Ontario’s Literacy and Basic Skills programs (LBS) have experienced extensive changes in the way they report program activity and demonstrate accountability.

Lessons Learned from an Analysis of OALCF Use Digital Technology Competency Milestones
Research Brief DT Lessons Learned (Ver 3 Oct 5 15).pdfDownload 
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