Opening Access to Adult Education One Call at a Time
November 5th, 2021 | Blogs
November 5th, 2021 | Blogs
Massachusetts is known for its numerous, venerable education institutions. What is much less known is that the state is also home to more than 800,000 adults in need of adult education classes because they lack a high school credential or cannot speak English well or at all. Through our Massachusetts Adult Literacy Hotline, World Education has been tasked with the challenge of connecting these adults with adult education programs. In addition to searching for education and training programs, visitors to the Hotline website can find links to programs with child care, state-licensed child care providers, and MassHire centers. The Hotline also provides the valuable service of connecting volunteers with programs that need them.
Starting with a landline phone and three-ring binders filled with printed program descriptions, the Massachusetts Adult Literacy Hotline was designed 26 years ago to connect adult learners and educators to low- and no-cost classes and resources. Now with a searchable online database system and a call center that can provide translation services in more than 200 languages, the Hotline has continued to put adult learners at the center of its evolution. Thanks to funding from the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, we are able to offer these resources at no cost to Massacuhsetts residents.
For Learners: The Hotline has grown in demand over the past decade. Services include a searchable database at www.mass.gov/edu/literacyhotline and a toll-free number at 1-800-447-8844. Call center staff are available seven days a week from 6 am to midnight with third party translation available in over 200 different languages. Throughout the pandemic, some learners shifted educational goals to pause, while others embraced the expansion of online learning options, tools, curriculum, and even homework via mobile app. Through it all, the Hotline has been working to find resources for both learners and educators.
For Educators and Programs: The pandemic forced many in the adult education field to adapt, shifting to a completely online world. The Hotline met the pandemic with similar flexibility. Among the many challenges program staff reported was needing support with learner recruitment. In response, we launched the “We’re Open” email recruitment campaign. Knowing that so many were working from home, we researched and sent regional-based program information to more than 1300 staff at local agencies throughout the state, such as YMCA’s, housing developments, food pantries, churches, public school parent information centers, libraries, Mass Hire Centers, unemployment offices, city government human service departments, community health centers, and community based organizations. Now in our second year of this email-based recruitment campaign, the number of programs participating in this campaign has increased by 44%.
As programs began opening offices after almost two pandemic years, learners and educators prepared for more experimental arrays of hybrid, online, in-person, mobile apps, tutoring, conversation classes, and Zoom counseling. The pandemic pushed learners, educators, and the Hotline to continue to grow and adapt. As an example of the Hotline’s responsiveness, newly branded MassSTEP programs that offer job training programs and workforce development resources are being added to the database so adults can get connected to these valuable services.
As the Hotline enters its 27th year, its services continue to be in high demand. In the past three months alone, there have been more than 8,000 visits to the Hotline website and call center. Last year, there were more than 48,000 visits to the Hotline call center and website. Policymakers should take note of the thousands of adults who continue to seek education opportunities to improve their lives.
The MA Adult Literacy Hotline is a project of World Education, Inc., funded by the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Hotline Coordinator Ruby Reyes manages the Hotline website, oversees the call center, and supports efforts to connect adult learners with the programs they seek. For more information, you can reach her at Ruby_reyes@worlded.org.