Tutor-Facilitated Digital Literacy Acquisition in Hard-to-Serve Populations: A Research Project

The Institute of Museum and Library Services

Supported by a National Leadership Grant from the The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), Portland State University (PSU) and partners in five states across the country are conducting a three-year basic research study of tutor-facilitated digital literacy acquisition in hard-to-serve populations.  With guidance from two national advisory groups, the research project will design the study and translate its findings into recommendations and resources that libraries and other community-based organizations can use to help underserved populations to cross the digital divide, utilize broadband Internet services, and acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed for personal, social, and economic success in the wired world of the 21st century.

The research study will closely examine the learning processes underlying tutor-facilitated digital literacy development among adult participants in an ongoing project funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s  Broadband Opportunities Technology Program (BTOP).  In the BTOP program, the Learner Web technology is being used by public libraries, adult basic education programs, social service agencies, workforce development centers, and other community-based organizations in California, Louisiana, Minnesota, New York, and Texas to provide tutor-facilitated digital literacy training in English and Spanish. The research project will analyze the rich and extensive data on adult learners and tutors being collected by the Learner Web system in the BTOP project. This system-collected data will be complemented by qualitative data the research team will collect through indepth interviews and focus groups of learners and tutors as they participate in the tutor-facilitated digital literacy training.

Partner organizations in the research project are Richmond Public Library (California), Loyola University (Louisiana), the  Minnesota Literacy Council, Cayuga Community College (New York), the Literacy Coalition of Central Texas (LCCT) and South Texas College (STC). Findings from the study will be used to make recommendations for increasing the capacity of libraries and community organizations to tailor digital literacy services more effectively to the individual needs of adults facing barriers associated with poverty, low levels of education, limited English language proficiency, and other factors and circumstances.