ProLiteracy Tackles the Adult Literacy Problem
ProLiteracy is a nonprofit international literacy organization based in Syracuse, N.Y. As one of the largest adult literacy membership organizations in the world, ProLiteracy supports educational programs that help adults acquire the literacy practices and skills they need to function more effectively in their daily lives.
Since 2011, ProLiteracy has provided free online instructional resources to teachers, staff, volunteers and adult learners. In the last year, ProLiteracy engaged 25,000 adults through its online training platform. Recently, ProLiteracy was one of four organizations to be awarded an Impact Grant from the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation. With the Impact Grant, ProLiteracy plans to double the number of learners in 2016 and deliver its adult literacy programs to over 150,000 adults by 2017.
We spoke with Kevin Morgan, President and CEO of ProLiteracy to learn more about the adult literacy problem in America, ProLiteracy’s approach, and how the Foundation’s Impact Grant will enable them to reach even more adults and literacy volunteers.
Tell us about the mission of ProLiteracy
We believe every adult has a right to literacy. Our mission at ProLiteracy is to promote and develop adult literacy learning, content, and programs, and to advocate on behalf of the programs and the students they serve. Historically, literacy has been defined as reading, writing, and basic math skills. Today, our work includes those components plus financial, digital, and health literacy.
Who are the typical beneficiaries of your services?
We produce high-quality print and digital resources designed for adults learners in three key categories:
- Adult Basic Education (ABE) - Education provided to adults at an elementary level of literacy.
- Adult Secondary Education (ASE) - Programs for adult students who have not completed high school. Material often includes GED or other high school credential content as well as other workforce training.
- English as a Second Language (ESL) - Programs for adults who lack a proficiency in English.
What is the scale of the adult literacy problem in the U.S.?
Today, there are 36 million American adults that have only basic literacy skills. The literacy problem is exacerbated by a lack of access as 67% of adult literacy programs currently have waiting lists. To make our education programs more broadly available, we are exploring new service delivery systems, developing partnerships, and enhancing the resources we offer so that we continue to lead the field in adult education advocacy and best practice solutions.
How does online learning fit into ProLiteracy’s delivery model?
ProLiteracy Education Network (EdNet) was launched in 2011 to provide free instructional resources to adult education practitioners, staff, volunteers, and learners. The website houses a collection of videos, lesson plans, and engaging classroom activities designed to facilitate teaching and learning reading, writing, math, citizenship, and basic life skills. It connects with a learning management system that stores our library of online courses. While it has been a welcome resource in the adult education field with almost 25,000 unique users each year, it is an awkward combination of a separate website and learning management system that do not work seamlessly together and do not communicate with other ProLiteracy resources such as our listserv system and additional collections of document resources.
How does the Impact Grant change your strategic plans going forward?
By 2016 it is our goal to create one online resource for adult literacy curriculum, research, courses and a community forum that directly supports the mission of ProLiteracy. The Impact Grant will help facilitate this goal and allow us to invest more in research and development to create new content. In addition, this new learning technology will help us scale and provide free, evidence-based training and learning materials to even more adult literacy practitioners. The platform will also allow adult education programs to share ideas and upload resources in an easy, intuitive way. This increases the accessibility of quality educational materials and training and will help literacy programs around the country serve more students more efficiently.
With the support of the Cornerstone on Demand Foundation, ProLiteracy will be able to impact 3.6 million adult literacy volunteers and students by the end of FY2020.