The Literacy Council of Northern Virginia (LCNV) is delighted to report that its Distance Learning programs are up and running with tremendous success and creating “joyous” environments. COVID-19 created an evolving situation with serious impacts around the world and across Northern Virginia. As you know LCNV has class sites covering all 450 square miles of Northern Virginia, which had to stop meeting in person in March to comply with social distancing. LCNV staff worked diligently to determine the best avenues to continue providing instruction for our learners, whose lives and wellbeing are vastly impacted by their ability to read, write, speak and understand English.
LCNV decided to extend its current semester from April 23 to June 30 at no additional cost. Instruction will continue through a two-pronged approach, synchronous and asynchronous learning, to aid students based on their technological and time restrictions. Synchronous learning is provided primarily to those with internet and computer access. LCNV is offering virtual instruction in the form of live real time classes online in group sessions with teacher-led instruction, interaction, and white board capabilities. As of this writing 15 classes are running for 2 to 5 days a week and offered at different times of the day for our Beginning English, Family Learning and Destination Workforce®programs with another 2-4 to be added this week. Five asynchronous learning opportunities are provided at this time (e.g., assignments emailed or texted to students to complete and return to the teacher for feedback) for Beginning English and Destination Workforce® programs. For those with cell phone and data capabilities, LCNV is offering two forms of asynchronous distance learning instruction through Cell-Ed and USA Learns, both approved by the Virginia Department of Education. For those that only have voice capabilities on their phone, some instructors are scheduling sessions with students for one-to-one conversations.
To get to this point, we needed to grapple with the challenge of informing our learners who understand English at a 6thgrade level or lower of their instructional options and then get them going. It all started with our instructors and volunteers! We contacted each instructor and many volunteers to see their capacity and time availability. We received an overwhelming response of devotion from new and long- tenured instructors eager to help our students and plugged them into our two-pronged approach. As these strategies have gotten underway, and to support the expansion of our offerings to more classes, LCNV holds Professional Learning Communities (PLC) virtual sessions each week for teachers to discuss their classes, pain points, and best of all, successes.
We then moved our endeavors to our students. For synchronous virtual instruction, LCNV created mini videos for teachers and students to help them navigate how to sign up and utilize the new virtual platforms. Then teachers, class aides, and other volunteers called students individually to walk them through the process. Many students in turn contacted fellow classmates to guide them through the process as well. Teachers started with one-to-one virtual sessions, reinforcing each student how to use the technology and getting them comfortable with it before slowly moving to small group instruction and eventually to larger classes. For asynchronous (e.g., cellphone, text-based instruction), staff members called students and walked them through the process of signing up and getting started. All platforms allow LCNV staff to follow learners’ instructional time and progress. Many students that are enrolled in our online platform are also taking advantage of our one-to-one voice conversation sessions.
An added benefit of these virtual learning experiences is LCNV’s ability to aid students in this confusing time to navigate resources in their communities. LCNV created a resource page on its website (www.lcnv.org) for information on food banks, financial aid, healthcare and more. Equal to the benefits of instruction that students are receiving is the sense of community and connectedness that is created during this time of isolation. Teachers are reporting that students are feeling classes are a “joyous time” that gives learners (and instructors) an opportunity to socialize and concentrate on something positive--something we all need at this time! Literacy is a survival skill and is essential to our learners to access information, manage their health care, and support their children’s learning at home.