Blog Post

Digital transformation in Ontario's Literacy and Basic Skills (LBS) sector

Looking into digital transformation, hybrid and blended service delivery, digital literacy, digital inclusion, and more is something many nonprofit sectors are looking into. As discussed in the Good Idea Canadian Centre for Nonprofit Digital Resilience, the Immigrant and Refugee-serving sector has much to learn from as well as contribute to other sectors.

In Ontario, AlphaPlus is one organization that is doing, and has been doing, important and interesting work in this area for many years. Their work is highlighted in the Settlement Sector & Technology Task Group's final report: From Silos to Solutions: Toward Sustainable and Equitable Hybrid Service Delivery in the Immigrant & Refugee-Serving Sector in Canada:

AlphaPlus, which supports Ontario adult literacy education professionals to incorporate digital technology in their work outlines blended learning as:

a combination of face-to-face in classroom and technology-mediated learning using devices such as computers, smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices with an internet connection. These devices may be provided by programs, or learners may be free to bring their own device. Our position is that blended learning in adult education is not only about the use of tools and resources. Instead, it is a way to think about program and curriculum development, including learning design and delivery.

Recently, AlphPlus has gone through a similar process of looking into the future of hybrid and digital service delivery in Ontario's Literacy and Basic Skills sector. It is worth highlighting their consultation and final reports. What aligns as well as differs with findings in our sector should be of interest to review.

In 2021, they started with a sector consultation which resulted in the report:

Eight strategies for equitable, sustainable and effective digital literacy development in Ontario’s LBS system.

"Based on extensive review, consultation and our first-hand experience working with programs, we have identified these eight strategies to build a more equitable and inclusive LBS system that can provide learners with lifelong and lifewide digital instruction opportunities. We have taken a comprehensive approach, recognizing how elements within the LBS system interact and create conditions that both suppress and support digital literacy and technology integration.

The report contains details of each strategy along with examples of possible changes. We also frame the strategies with a research informed rationale focused on broader digital inequities.

  1. Collaborating to ensure affordable data and devices for all learners.  
  2. Developing an integrated and informative learning framework.  
  3. Developing a blended learning approach and various models.     
  4. Sharing diverse knowledge and innovation.  
  5. Making sustainable investments in e-learning infrastructure.
  6. Building people’s capacity for technology integration.
  7. Designing responsive and equitable services, data collection and reporting.
  8. Choosing performance measures (success indicators) that work for everyone."

AlphaPlus and Contact North | Contact Nord were contracted by the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) to:

  • Engage and collaborate with the Literacy and Basic Skills (LBS) stream and sector support organizations and educators, tutors, and learners to identify gaps and priorities for digital services and tools for learners, educators, and organizations.
  • Provide a road map for enhancing the LBS system’s capacity to deliver more services remotely and expanding blended learning opportunities to serve more learners.

The goal of the digital capacity building consultation was to enhance the LBS system’s capacity to deliver more services remotely and expand blended learning opportunities to serve more learners. It would support and inform a broader ministry objective to develop a digital learning strategy that responds to the opportunities and challenges created by the program structure, streams and sectors.

The consultation, research and analysis are summarized in a series of reports, available on an online hub AlphaPlus has set up.

Enhancing the Literacy and Basic Skills Program Through Integrated Digital Delivery: An Opportunity and Needs Assessment (March 2022)

Ultimately, technology is intended to make education more efficient, scalable and accessible. To support and enable province-wide optimization of online and blended learning across a decentralized system, collaboration and knowledge sharing are critical to prevent duplication, support innovation and consistent learner experience. Although strengthening opportunities for collaboration is discussed in opportunity area four, this infrastructure and capacity will enable and support each of the other opportunity areas as well. The four thematic areas of opportunity and potential action identified include:

  1. Provide access to technology devices, digital skills and tech support across the province to increase access and remove barriers
  2. Provide a shared repository of vetted, high-quality, open-sourced curricula, assessment and online learning teaching resources and a comprehensive learning management system
  3. Provide accessible provincial professional development and structured forums and methods for knowledge sharing focused on online and blended learning best practices.
  4. Strengthen the enabling environment for system-wide effectiveness and coordination.

Designing a Roadmap to Build Ontario’s Capacity for Digital Learning - Highlights of consultations with LBS system stakeholders (March 2022)

This report presents highlights from consultations with stakeholders of Ontario’s literacy and basic skills (LBS) system. It is intended to support Contact North | Contact Nord and AlphaPlus in making recommendations for a digital and blended learning roadmap for LBS in Ontario.

Vision for the future:

Blended LBS programming that advances digital literacy for all The pandemic revealed that digital literacy is an inseparable and indistinguishable part of adult literacy. LBS programs can and are delivering instruction and support for learners to develop these essential skills. Blended and fully online digital learning experiences have now become part of adult literacy programming.

While most LBS providers intend to resume some in person instruction and support when it is safe to do so, all the providers we consulted intend to combine this with remote/online instruction and support. The vision for the future is a LBS system where learners can access digital learning experiences that are appropriate to their needs and are delivered through a blend of in person
(on site) and remote/online instruction and support. Support is needed at the program and system level to make this vision sustainable.

Designing a Roadmap to Build Ontario’s Capacity for Digital Learning - Consultation with e-Channel providers and LBS support organizations (March 2022)

This report summarizes a meeting with representatives from e Channel providers and LBS Support Organizations.

Participants contemplated three questions:

  • What do learners need to make the most of digital/blended learning?
  • What do educators need to make digital/blended learning work for learners?
  • What do programs need to make digital/blended learning work for learners?

Their responses to these questions provide a starting point for a vision for expanding digital learning in Ontario’s LBS system. Participants emphasized that there are significant differences between digital program delivery and program delivery that is largely face-to-face (F2F). Expanding digital learning opportunities is not merely a matter of putting resources online. To provide meaningful and quality programming that supports the needs and goals of learners, significant investment in infrastructure, resources, and capacity is needed.

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