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How technology empowers adult learners in One91

How technology empowers adult learners in One91

The One91 School for Adults, also known as Adult Basic Education (ABE), helps adult learners in the Burnsville, Eagan and Savage communities reach their academic and career goals by creating a bridge between where they are now and the pathways they want to pursue. 

For some of these adult students, many of whom have recently immigrated to the United States, a variety of barriers may make it more difficult for them to pursue their goals. Whether it’s learning a new language, conflicts with childcare or a lack of reliable transportation, there are many reasons why it’s difficult for adult learners to realize their dreams. One of the biggest reasons, however, is the digital divide that exists for these individuals.

Adult Basic Education (ABE) teacher Elizabeth Bennett, who’s been teaching in District 191 for three years and teaching in adult education since 2016, says the “digital divide is very real.” 

Devices & applications

Through the generous support of the One91 community, students have access to personal learning devices, Chromebooks, to aid in their learning. Bennett’s classroom has a set of Chromebooks to use, but that doesn’t mean that one is always available. To complete coursework, students sometimes have to borrow a device from a family member or go to the library, if they are able to. 

“The majority of students have smartphones, but that may be their only internet-connected device that they own to access information,” said Bennett. “They also don’t always have reliable internet service or service at all.”

The One91 School for Adults, also known as Adult Basic Education (ABE), helps adult learners in the Burnsville, Eagan and Savage communities reach their academic and career goals by creating a bridge between where they are now and the pathways they want to pursue. 

Bennett designs coursework and learning around the devices and connections that students do have access to. She works with each student to learn about their situation and finds a way to meet their learning and technology needs. Whether it’s a smartphone, tablet or laptop, Bennett ensures that all of her students learn how to use Google applications and are able to navigate them on whatever device they own or have access to.    

When students enroll in the program, they are set up with Google accounts and can access all the apps in the interface. Since Google apps are widely used both in higher education and many workplace settings, it’s important for students to learn how to navigate them, especially individuals who plan to enroll in a college class or get a job where those apps will be used. 

Whether it’s using Google Sheets to make a budget or Google Slides to create a presentation, technology is absolutely essential to education, skill enhancement and career advancement. 

“Even for my students who are getting their GED or focused on taking care of their kids, they need to build digital skills and have digital literacy,” said Bennett. “You need digital skills for basically everything – managing your healthcare, personal finance (online banking), getting a job and so much more.” 

Bennet also uses WhatsApp, the most-used messaging app that allows users to send free messages to people all over the world and does not require a data connection, as calls and texts can be sent over Wi-Fi. Since the majority of her students are already familiar with the app, Bennett uses it to connect with her students, share homework and answer questions.

Flexible class options

Bennett teaches a Level 4 (low to intermediate) English as a Second Language (ESL) hybrid-flexible (HyFlex) class. She also teaches a multilevel (beginner & intermediate ESL) online-only evening class.

The HyFlex class, an innovative practice that was born out of the COVID-19 pandemic, has helped adult learners be more successful. The class allows students to choose how they want to join class each day. It’s typical for some of Bennett’s students to be at home learning while some are in class. 

“It’s a model that, while K-12 was forced to do during the pandemic, has really helped my students thrive,” said Bennett.

Offering this flexible class model is another way of being culturally proficient. Improving access to education is an equity issue. For many students, it’s not really a choice of online or in-person class. Rather, it’s more of a choice of online class or no class at all because they aren’t able to attend in person. 

Some teachers are worried about not having a sense of community or relationships with students because of online class. However, Bennett is very intentional about getting to know her students. She has gotten to know each of her students very well online and is able to connect with them even though they’re not in the same physical space.   

The addition of online adult education classes over the last few years has had an incredible impact on learning. 

“It’s just fantastic for adult education,” Bennett said. “Online learning is amazing for adults, allowing them to access learning even with their busy schedules, jobs, transportation issues and more. I am so thankful that we can offer these flexible options for learners.”

By the numbers

 

  • In 2023-2024, One91 School for Adults attendance hours are at an all-time program high. The program has seen a 17% increase in attendance since the 2022-23 school year and a 61% increase since the 2021-22 school year.

  • 34% of attendance is from hybrid classes, where students attend online once a week and in-person three times a week. These are mainly the daytime ESL classes.

  • 26% of attendance is from online-only classes, including synchronous online classes that use Google Meet, which includes morning, afternoon and evening ESL classes, as well as classes that are program-wide, distance-learning platforms that students can attend asynchronously.

  • 20% of attendance is from in-person only classes, which include all evening ESL and GED classes as well as the adult drivers education and computer classes.

  • 18% of attendance is from HyFlex classes, which give the students the option to attend class online or in-person. Some of these classes include daytime ESL, GED and citizenship classes.

“We know that our adult students have many responsibilities outside the classroom that include work, childrens' schedules and family obligations,” said Susan Edmonson, coordinator of One91 School for Adults. “The combination of providing a variety of class options and the use of technology to be able to attend these classes has opened the doors for adults, enabling them to juggle their responsibilities while also attending school and progressing toward their goals.” 

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