by Shayne Thomas
12 May 2020
ProLiteracy Amplifies Adult Literacy By Centralizing Its Learning Resources
Since its founding in 2002—and with firm roots dating back to the 1950s— ProLiteracy has had a singular mission: to change lives and communities through the power of literacy. By constantly striving to be the leading resource and champion for adult education and literacy worldwide, this life-changing non-profit organization has left an indelible mark on the lives of hundreds of thousands of adults through content development, programs, and advocacy. It goes without saying that learning is the driving force behind ProLiteracy.
- Course content was historically print-heavy, making it less interactive by nature and also challenging to adapt to new media formats that people use to learn today.
- ProLiteracy’s small and mighty team of 40 employees—managing 1,000+ adult literacy programs supported by 90,000+ volunteers who teach 230,000+ adult students—was spread thin; this caused bottlenecks to emerge around the development, review, and production of new course content.
- The non-profit organization’s primary customers, its volunteer corps of instructors, were reluctant to begin using new technologies to go about their work; this required ProLiteracy to dedicate a lot of time, attention, and support to getting its volunteers comfortable using new digital tools and digital content formas.
- Historically, ProLiteracy has not had a direct link to end-users—the students taught by these volunteer-led literacy programs—signaling a new opportunity to leverage technology even more to close this gap.
Before implementing Cornerstone, ProLiteracy’s Education Network was run primarily off of two different websites: one for downloading print resources and the other, which consisted of five different URLs, for accessing the organization’s learning management system (LMS) where all coursework lived. One of the biggest pain points was that these two platforms were not integrated in any way and, on top of that, “the LMS was not intuitive or user-friendly at all,” says Evans. “In fact, it was quite ugly and did not invite people in to actually want to use it.”
ProLiteracy was, therefore, in dire need to consolidate all of these resources into a central hub that could not only be easily accessed by all users—and encourage them to use those resources regularly—but also to make it easier for the non-profit organization to manage and update course content over time. Additionally, they needed the account creation process to be simple, making it possible for the right resources to be attached to each user’s account automatically upon sign-up. And lastly, they needed a system that worked, so they could spend less time troubleshooting and more time providing educational resources that make a difference.
Fortunately, through a powerful combination of Cornerstone Learning and Extended Enterprise, ProLiteracy was able to say good-bye to all of the challenges stemming from its once loosely connected ecosystem of platforms and, instead, focus more of its attention on speeding up innovation to get better and more interactive content out to its users.
Freed up resources. “The biggest benefit of Cornerstone is that it always works the way it’s supposed to work,” explains Evans. “There’s no downtime whatsoever.” This has actually been a boon for ProLiteracy because, as a secondary benefit, it has reduced the number of customer service email requests to troubleshoot tech-related issues, freeing up the team’s time to focus more on delivering great educational content to its programs and instructors. “This is so incredibly important when you work with people with varying levels of tech savvy,” continues Evans. “Our volunteer instructors need things to work the same way every time, otherwise they won’t come back—and that’s a missed opportunity to help someone learn to read.”
Enhanced user experience. “It goes without saying that the Cornerstone user experience is truly beautiful,” says Evans. “Not to mention, it is highly customizable, which can sometimes be frustrating because the possibilities of what we can do with Cornerstone’s platform are endless; there just isn’t enough time in a day to do it all!” A great example of this is the creation of customized login and self-registration workflows for the partner programs, making it easier for the volunteers within those programs to get up and running quickly. There are nearly 70 programs already benefiting from this simplified workflow.
Increased engagement. “One of the reasons why we moved everything over to Cornerstone was to be able to create new teaching opportunities and launch new programs quickly,” explains Evans. A good example of this is ProLiteracy’s digital tutor-training program, a face-to-face online workshop that trains volunteer instructors in a completely online format that leverages the same course content that would normally be used in a classroom environment. A total of 890 unique users downloaded these materials, representing an additional 71,000+ new teachers trained! Since launching the program in July 2018, which is free to member programs, ProLiteracy has also been able to onboard nearly 200 new literacy program members and 10,000+ new Cornerstone users. “This could never have been possible without Cornerstone!”
Better content optimization. “We invite our volunteer instructors to provide open-ended feedback to help us improve current coursework and to provide guidance for new coursework to be developed,” says Evans. To do this, the ProLiteracy team has baked reviews into its training modules, allowing volunteer instructors to weigh in whether the content was “too easy,” “too hard,” or “just right” before receiving their certificates of completion. “Additionally, we pay close attention to pass rates on our exams,” explains Evans. “We want to gauge what our instructors are really learning versus what they’re able to demonstrate on exams; if there’s ever a moment when specific exam questions get too low of a pass rate, it signals to us that we need to go back and improve those questions to ensure we’re measuring mastery of the coursework accurately.”
This is just the beginning of ProLiteracy’s journey with Cornerstone. In the very near future, the non-profit organization hopes to accomplish the following :
- Putting more knowledge in the hands of its local programs, by enabling program administrators to build dashboards and run reports at the program level.
- Getting 50% of programs switched over to the customized login and self-registration workflow by the end of 2020, with the goal of all programs onboarded in 2021.
- Closing the gap between ProLiteracy and its end-user students, creating more opportunities to engage with them directly (vs. indirectly through its literacy program partner members).