PSU project gets $3.3M to lead digital literacy effort
Author: David Santen, Office of University Communications
Posted: October 5, 2010

PSU project gets $3.3M to lead digital literacy effort

Program will teach and train economically disadvantaged adults in six states as part of national Sustainable Broadband Adoption effort
(Portland, Ore.) October 4, 2010 — A research-based online training tool for adult education, developed at Portland State University (PSU), will be used in six states to implement a national initiative to increase Internet and computer literacy among low-income, minority and other economically vulnerable populations.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration awarded Portland State University’s Learner Web Partnership $3.3 million. The grant is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program.

Even as communities and economies become increasingly reliant on broadband internet access, many in the U.S. remain estranged from this technology. This “digital divide”—created by a lack of web and computer access and computer literacy—puts many minority and low-income adults at even greater economic and social disadvantage.

The Learner Web software platform was first developed by Stephen Reder, a professor of applied linguistics at Portland State University, and the grant’s principal investigator, as a way of supporting literacy and educational development among adult learners around the country. Learner Web offers innovative ways of blending individually paced online work with learning supported by tutors, teachers and counselors.

“Our community partnerships and innovative technology together will broaden digital bridges leading into sustainable communities,” said PSU’s Reder.

Learner Web has already been adopted by government, private, and nonprofit organizations in the U.S. and beyond as a proven way of delivering numerous programs in literacy, English language education, GED preparation, workforce and professional development, and other initiatives.

Over the next six months, Portland State University and its partners will develop Learner Web content called Learning Plans for adult learners as well ones for the on-site tutors who will assist the adult learners in public access computer labs across the country. During the subsequent two years of the project, these trained tutors, many of whom are volunteers, will actively support an estimated 23,000 individuals to learn how to use computers, how to access the Internet, what types of services such as career and health are available online, how to use email and other online assets. Services will be delivered in English and Spanish.

The Learner Web Partnership will be implemented in California, Louisiana, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Texas in collaboration with these primary partners and their 70+ community anchor institutions:
•    Minnesota Literacy Council
•    Cayuga (N.Y.) Community College, Regional Adult Education Network
•    ProLiteracy Worldwide (Syracuse, N.Y.)
•    Literacy Coalition of Central Texas
•    South Texas College
•    Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Louisiana
•    Richmond (Calif.) Public Library

These partners plan targeted outreach campaigns to increase awareness of these training opportunities among Hispanic, African American, Asian Native American, disabled, low income, unemployed, senior, and at-risk youth populations, all of whom tend to report low levels of broadband access and subscribership.

The grant is part of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, a multi-year, $4.7 billion federal stimulus package supporting the new broadband infrastructure, enhancement and expanding public computer centers, and encouraging sustainable adoption of broadband services.

“In a globalized 21st century economy, when you don’t have regular access to high-speed Internet, you don’t have access to all the educational, business and employment opportunities it provides,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. “These critical Recovery Act investments will create jobs and lay the groundwork for long-term sustainable economic growth in communities across America.”

Additional Resources
Learner Web:
Broadband Technology Opportunities Program:

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By: David Santen, Office of University Communications, Portland State University,, 503-725-8765
Source: Stephen Reder, Professor, Applied Linguistics, Portland State University,, 503-725-3999