Sunday, March 24, 2013

When Free Sites are Really Parasites

I love free online learning tools.  What better way to help an adult ed student then to point out the resources that are freely available so they can get what they need on their own - and the only cost is their time.  It's probably a great relief to a learner after dodging all the online scams and diploma mills.  Of course, they say there is no such thing as a free lunch and there's often a catch.  In fact, the whole proposition of pro-bono publishing is probably too good to be true. Only, being such a needy field, adult educators are so attracted to the free solution that we can't see that it's a mirage, or worse - a trap, and we're leading our learners right into it. 

One example are those gigantic databases of free test-prep resources that really just serve to lure poor desperate learners to consider clicking on enticements to ditch their test-prep and buy a degree online.  The site that I see teachers using most often is

It seems innocuous enough on the surface, but that changes with a click. The attraction of free online GED(r) prep leads you into Ashworth College's "get your degree without having to take the GED exam" trap. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Crowdfunding Innovation in Adult Education

I don't know how I'd missed out on Brenda Dann-Messier's keynote speeches at so many of the conferences that I've attended in recent years. But I made it to this year's Virginia Literacy Leadership Conference this year, and I'm so glad I did. conference brings together community based literacy organizations (CBLOs) from across the state of Virginia, and here I was exhibiting for a product called GED Academy and another called Computer Essentials. Most people just walk on by because CBLOs typically handle literacy-level and ABE learners and refer GED learners to their local adult ed programs.  But, there's always room for innovation.  The new GED calls for a stronger foundation of basic skills and pretty wide range of computer skills, and these things are going to affect CBLOs.
Dann-Messier speaking in Virginia

Making Technology Transformative 

Dann-Messier talked about her work with Dorcas Place in Providence, Rhode Island.  Early in her talk she mentioned that her organization made great strides helping people learn well beyond the GED, and they were able to do this by embracing innovation at every turn.  Whoa. Most adult educators are struggling with the idea that very many of their GED students are interested in studying for a goal beyond their high school equivalency credential.  But how about embracing innovation at the same time?  Bigger gains and more ambitious goals can be an outgrowth of innovation... that is, if the innovation prioritizes the needs of adult learners and rewards motivation.  But that's not been the experience of most adult educators.  And there are more pessimistic views on this, of course.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

How Do YOU Promote Online Learning?

Rather than talk about any one prescription for the best way to expand adult education into the the online environment, I'd like to turn it over to YOU.  This is not optional extroversion.  This is a basic function of any adult education program: promotion. Marketing. Advertising.  Spreading the word. Let's see some examples, either from your program or one that's caught your attention.   They say people need to see something seven times before they react.  Surely you can come up with one.

Send me an email at jason(at)essentialed(dot)com with your website, a flier, an ad, a story, anything that puts online learning on the radar of prospective ABE/GED/ESOL learners.  It can be an example of something that needs improvement, that you want input about (but try not to post someone else's thing as "what not to do" ...unless it's a giant faceless corporate ad).

Here on the left is a flier from the window of  a community based literacy organization storefont.  It's supposed to grab people on the street and bring them inside and from there, launch them out onto the web. But who will respond? Probably more people with internet access and personal computers than those who aren't online (though even that's a starting point).  It creates buzz. People might tell other people. It creates urgency, noting the need to finish before 2014.  What do you think about it?

I look forward to adding your examples so we can discuss them and hopefully inform our future promotional efforts to attract great candidates for online learning.