Thanks to RSU 3 for sharing this information with the Maine DOE for publication.
The RSU 3 Adult & Community Education Program has been awarded the 2013 United States Conference in Adult Literacy Award for Program Innovation and Collaboration. This award will be presented to the program in October 2013 at the national conference.
In 2011, the RSU 3 Adult & Community Education Program and Students & Parents In Cooperative Education (SPICE) Family Literacy program, in partnership with the RSU 3 Information Technology Department, created and implemented a virtual learning center for residents in the 440-square-mile, rural school district in western Waldo County. This center was created in order to meet the demand of first-generation high school and college students to become lifelong learners and obtain post-secondary workplace skills to move ahead in their chosen careers and in life. It was also created to alleviate some rural isolation issues that students reported to the Maine Department of Education during an evaluation of the SPICE Family Literacy Program.
Research has shown that interaction in electronic environments has some advantages over live discussion in terms of engagement in learning, depth of discussion, time on task, and the promotion of higher-order thinking skills. However, it is a combination of face-to-face meetings and virtual meetings that promotes increased student success over time. In 2013, RSU 3 has seen a breakthrough with students who have first met in the center, and then have ventured out to meet in-person to learn needed skills together.
Many collaborations and partnerships needed to be in place for this virtual learning center to work. Presently, there are Memorandums of Understanding or contracts with: Maine Department of Labor; Maine Department of Health and Human Services; Maine Children’s Growth Council; Barbara Bush Foundation; Financial Authority of Maine; four Maine Adult Education Programs, including MSAD 27 (Fort Kent), MSAD 11 (Gardiner), MSAD 38 (Maranacook) and Lawrence Adult Education (Fairfield); and the Kennebec Valley Community College to offer services to our students through the center. This collaboration effort has created four “levels” in the virtual center, including high school, college, career and advising or workforce solutions, and the Maine Parents Place for DHHS to offer positive parenting classes for court-mandated families to allow their children to return to their homes.
This center has started to open the doors for first-generation high school completers to advance to post-secondary education and employment. In June 2012, Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen visited the RSU 3 Adult & Community Education Program as part of his tour of programs that effectively showed progress in the new Maine DOE strategic plan. “A virtual program meets the needs of families in this rural community because students who cannot physically come to school are no longer denied the education they deserve,” Bowen said. “The SPICE Family Literacy Program is leading the way in Adult Education and gives students the tools they will need to be successful in the modern-day workplace.”
All classes and services in this center are offered at no cost to learners who attend. For a demo of the virtual center, visit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEBETQKmiBI&feature=youtu.be.