Literacy and Lifelong Learning Project (N2R-LLL)


Partners demonstrate a model program for delivering literacy services through a cost-effective regional net coordinating multiple community nets and serving 15 predominantly rural counties in California and Nevada. Over thirty partners use existing infrastructure to create NET at TWO RIVERS, (N2R). Multiple uses of the net are demonstrated and opportunities for lifelong learning are provided for all residents of the region (e.g., preparing for disasters, learning a new job skill, or preventing communicable diseases). Fifty community access sites are established throughout the region, with standardized training and support for literacy trainers, coaches, and end users. Project services provided to the 996,000 basic and functionally illiterate adults living in our region increase their ability to contribute to the economic capital of our nation and demonstrate a model for using technology to address the problem of literacy.


Clear explanation of the problem and needs. At some point in everyone's life, a new skill is demanded (e.g., programming a VCR, using a computer or ATM). Futurists predict that everyone entering the workforce today will change jobs five times during their lives. Clearly, the task of retraining millions of workers for as-yet undreamed-of jobs is a problem in search of a solution. Potentially, every citizen in our region and nation is a lifelong learner. The problem is even more critical for illiterate adults. They are most in need of information and training, yet are the ones most likely to be left behind on the dirt roads of the National Information Infrastructure (NII).

Adult Literacy in the nation. In 1988, the U.S. Congress commissioned a major study on adult literacy through the Department of Education. California was one of the states that participated in the national survey. California's results show that:

  • Over 5.3 million adults (25% of the population) lack basic literacy skills to read, write, and do simple math at the lowest level.
  • Another 4.8 million (additional 23%) of adults lack the functional literacy skills to cope with routine tasks, such as work reliably on a job, function independently to buy a home, seek health care, or help their children with homework.

Nationally, according to Jaleh Behroozi of the National Center for Literacy in Washington, D.C., about 40-45% of adults fall into these first two levels of illiteracy. Thus, California data exceeds the national average (Nevada was not surveyed).

Existing knowledge about illiterate adults. Comprehensive studies have given us a clear picture. Illiterate adults are a hidden population; they don't seek help because they are unaware that they need help, or, they hide on purpose because of their feelings of being stupid or a failure. Personal interviews in 4/95 with illiterate adults in Sacramento (see Appendix 1, N2R Survey) confirm the results of the State Adult Literacy Survey.

Research shows us how to improve the skill level of this population. According to the concepts of Functional Context Education (Thomas Sticht, 1987), literacy skills are acquired most effectively in the process of learning skills specific to the learner's community, family, job or personal interests. The adult is motivated by personal interests, and thus learns literacy skills in the process. Because communities vary regionally, and the economy is changing rapidly, functional literacy and lifelong learning skills vary from community to community.

The current approach is insufficient. Our current adult education programs are not adequately reaching illiterate adults. Those most in need do not participate because of seat time reimbursement mechanisms. This project is urgently needed to create a new way of reaching illiterate adults. We must motivate illiterate adults by providing community information that they want. We must also develop models for reimbursement in adult education, and, address the issue of lack of literacy resources reaching people in rural areas. These problems can be addressed appropriately and cost-effectively using information infrastructure, and in ways not provided through any other means. Only through technology can we create an on-line, self-paced interactive literacy tutorial program, available at any time, which: a) invisibly assesses a person's progress and b) immediately adjusts to appropriate levels of instruction, and provides systematic feedback on successes. Only through the power of computer technology can quantitative measurement be used to determine comprehension, track an individual's progress, and keep records of the amount of time spent on task.

Summary. Through technology we can deliver services instantaneously to remote and isolated areas. Through the mass distribution of the NII, we can provide literacy services to almost half of the nation's population and, at the same time, address the needs of all citizens for information for lifelong learning.


Critical issue. The widening gap between the information haves and have nots is a problem of national and global concern, as noted at the Group of Seven (G7) conference in Brussels in 1995. Communities can build an opportunity bridge for information have nots to become information haves by addressing the needs of the illiterate adults, who are most likely to be left behind. The online basic and functional literacy content of our project presents a methodology for narrowing the gap. This technical methodology can be adapted to serve the information needs of individual communities and distributed instantaneously. It will serve rural and isolated regions as well as urban centers suffering from blight and economic hardship. Nationally, the cost estimate in hard dollars to the U. S. economy attributable to illiteracy is $5.2 billion. The lost opportunity costs of not addressing this issue are inestimable.

Reducing disparity of access. The problem is worse in the rural regions. In our project's target area (15 counties in California and Nevada) there are only 17 cities with 25,000 population or more. Over 70% (1.5 million) of our citizens live in rural areas, and the vast region is larger than the states of Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey combined. Due to the distance between towns and scarcity of population, people cannot readily access information about jobs, literacy, or services. And, because these areas cannot attract corporate resources, they are being left further and further behind. The Northern Sierra/Tahoe (NS/T) partners in California and Nevada serve an area of 8,000 square miles, which has limited Internet coverage.

Ability To Serve As A Model. This project provides many highly replicable, high impact models, including the following two technical models:

  • Model Distance Learning Technology, Remote Coach. A tool developed at the University of California at Davis (UCD), the Remote Coach, provides a seamless, platform-independent mechanism for on-line interaction between students and instructors, using the Internet as the communication medium. Students seeking assistance click on an icon indicating they need help, are placed in a queue, and are ultimately connected with an on-line instructor, on whose screen is displayed a snapshot of the student's screen at the time help was requested. The instructor can then interact in a typed or voice messaging dialogue, modify and retransmit the student's screen with help annotation, invoke other learning materials to be placed on the student's screen, or control the student's computer in a shared mode to demonstrate points more explicitly (see Appendix 2, Distance Learning Tools).

  • Model Roaming Access technology. This is an innovative technology for the purpose of sharing resources. Roaming access will be used by telecommuting users who want local call access when they travel outside of their own local call radius, but are still within the N2R region. Roaming access will demonstrate a shared authentication service. The Terminal Access Controller Authentication System/Kerberos and RADIUS will be used.

    In addition, three program models will be demonstrated through this project:

  • Regional cooperation. This project demonstrates a model for collaboration among a broad cross-section of organizations resulting in a methodology for reducing the gap between information haves and have nots. It demonstrates a way of providing additional resources to both disadvantaged inner city residents and rural areas, and using urban resources to bring services and access to remote and isolated areas (see Appendix 4, History of N2R Regional Network). The NS/T group will provide a cost-benefit analysis and comparison of two organizational models, private sector and non-profit, for efficacy in Internet delivery. This will provide a model for other rural regions of our country.

  • Alternative delivery of literacy instruction. We will be redefining how literacy services are provided and how they are measured. Through this redefinition, we will be able to develop a new funding reimbursement model, in which we measure skill attainment instead of time in a school chair. It offers a superior way to apportion limited educational dollars, because the measurement more accurately measures skills. Our goal is to measure learning, not the ability to sit.

  • Technical program model for lifelong learning, economic and social services. N2R demonstrates a distributed, decentralized, interoperable systems network used to serve illiterate adults or any other subgroup which a community or region may wish to reach. It can be used by other communities as a blueprint to follow and as a catalyst for solving other community problems (e.g., on-line tutorials for job skills for those impacted by cuts in welfare reform). It will be extensively evaluated. The results will guide decision making by the NII, other federal, state, and local government agencies, and local communities.

    Sustainability. The sustainability of N2R derives first from maintaining N2R's niche as a community builder. Our competitors, the large commercial networks, cannot focus on local community needs and remain consistent with their primary purpose of making a profit. Our N2R dispersed, decentralized network serves the information needs of individual communities, though at the same time promotes the development and linking of other community nets within the larger whole. The NS/T partners will work with eleven local businesses and two non-profits to access state and federal databases and provide Internet access through the Tahoe Basin Network.

  • Short-term sustainability. For any nonprofit, survival based on model program funding is foolish, but especially so with a technology-based endeavor which is expensive. For N2R, the funding base has been jump started with services and donations available from existing business and community partnerships. It will be augmented through monies available in other funding programs involving telemedicine, telecommuting, education, and distance learning. We have had significant interest and support in developing this application from both funders and major corporations in California, and anticipate their increasing support.

    N2R is a member of a coalition which is seeking funding from the Department of Education through a Challenge Grant application which will provide additional resources for five years. This application is also being submitted by SCOE, and is titled, Meeting the Challenge: Integrating Technological Solutions for Teaching and Learning in California (ITS TLC). In combination with this application, it completes the lifelong learning cycle by targeting school-age children, infants, and preschoolers (see Appendix 5, N2R Lifelong Learning Cycle).

  • Multi-use of the net. For both short-term and long-term sustainability, multi-use of the community net is a key. N2R connects every segment of the community, and covers all domains listed by TIIAP (see Appendix p. 6, LLP-N2R Partners. Partners will be placing varied information on the community net (see Appendix 7).


    Technical Implementation model. The N2R project is consistent with the vision of a nationwide, seamless, interactive network of networks, in that it is a regional, distributed, interoperable approach. There are three levels of technical infrastructure: 1) a regional network of locally-based Internet access servers, 2) both centralized and distributed information servers, and 3) public access sites (see Appendix 8, Regional Network Configuration).

    The advantages of this innovative approach are both economic and technical. The design is modular, permitting incremental expansion, which addresses the issue of equipment obsolescence. It is sustainable, because costs are distributed throughout the region. And, high costs of entry in rural areas are mitigated by using existing Internet service providers, and sharing resources, as well as through subsidies (see Appendix 9, List of Technical Deliverables).

    Persons at all parts of the system can easily communicate throughout the region, because locally based Internet access servers are required to support Internet protocols and services. The system is scalable, and will permit growth in numbers of sites, numbers of institutions connected, and the range of information and communication services provided. The N2R model builds on existing infrastructure by connecting SCOE, California State University, Sacramento, Davis Community Network, as well as other partners (see Appendix 10, Map of Regional Network; and Appendix 11, Internet Implementation for Capital Services Region 3, i.e. LATA 3). The partners are also working with Pacific Bell to explore their new service offerings and incentive packages, including Knowledge Net. The system is highly redundant, allowing for better operation and recovery during physical emergencies and disasters. The technical descriptions of the N2R network are contained in Appendix 12, Technical Infrastructure Description.

    Approach to the problem. The Outreach and Technical Assistance Network (OTAN), a division of the California Department of Education (CDE) Adult Basic Education program, is a major partner, and is affiliated with N2R through its location at SCOE and its presence on the SCOE LATA 3 net. OTAN provides on-line information resources, technology training, and communications services via a commercial carrier, Gopher, and World Wide Web (WWW) to support literacy and language development. The project will expand the existing OTAN on-line literacy tutorial model, which serves over 400 adult schools in California, and apply it in community and K-12 sites via WWW. It will reach new populations of the adult illiterate/lifelong learner through providing public access for those who are unlikely to enroll in adult education programs.

    OTAN will make available through the WWW the entire California Adult Education materials and data base for literacy providers. Additionally, Mac ESL, a program to teach reading to non-English speaking adult illiterates (who know as few as 100 spoken words of English) will be made available through N2R. This intelligent software program's evaluation results are exceptional (see Appendix 13, Beta Test). All services provided by OTAN are through existing federal resources under the Adult Education Literacy Act.The value of this contribution to N2R-LLL is considerable, though it cannot be counted as Matching Funds due to its Federal origin.

    OTAN will deliver a unique product, using functional information enhanced and extended for interactive delivery via WWW. OTAN will assist partners in placing useful, user-friendly information in an on-line tutorial (e.g., voter registration, tax forms, building permits, health and safety information) on the N2R server. These resources will be available within the region for both illiterates and lifelong learners. N2R-LLL is for every resident of the region.

    The program will be implemented in three phases. One, a beta site test to occur in 10 carefully selected sites which represent the diversity of our region; a second phase expansion to 20 additional sites, following evaluation and correction of the implementation plan; and a final phase implementation which will continue to refine the implementation plan (see Appendix 14 for the Project Timeline, which provides detail regarding activities to be accomplished; see Appendix 16 for List of Sites).

    We believe this plan will succeed due to the rigorous evaluation activities which are built into every phase of the project, the strict guidelines to be maintained for administrative and project oversight at each community site, the required match from all sites ($3:$1 for in-kind, $1.15:$1 for cash), and the rigorous training for all participants which will be required for participation. Evaluation, including user feedback, will result in the monitoring and correction of the three phases of the project. Though the project will be accessed by hundreds of Adult Literacy Centers connected to OTAN, 50 sites is a reasonable evaluation goal, given the available resources to provide this highly labor-intensive project. User feedback will help to spell success in reaching the population as well as serving them.

    The organizational structure of the N2R also promotes success. Two N2R co-directors will manage the Sacramento hub and sites, and a third director will manage the NS/T remote sites. Both will have support personnel and a Training Coordinator on staff. Evaluation, quarterly program and fiscal reports, and technical committee participation will be provided through SCOE.

    N2R is also confident of succeeding because of its leadership in linking the project to existing NTIA infrastructure, by:

    ** Continuing enthusiastic discussions with Susan Prince, Director of Programming for KVIE public television regarding the Get Connected Sacramento campaign to promote the use of the NII in Sacramento. KVIE is eager to explore opportunities for partnership and participation with N2R.... including media events and the following potential information resources: Learning Link (also utilizing fringe via the KQED educational services node), connecting with PBS Mathline multi-media service, and to PBS Online service in late 1995.

    ** Broadcasting through Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium (SECC) will broadcast N2R training over two channels. SECC will provide live interactive distance learning training classes, town meeting style, from five production studios; public relations through the Consortium which makes all district level decisions for education; and through monthly mailings to 7,000 cable subscribers and 3,000 schools. Sallianne Fortunado of NTIA e-mailed interest in cooperating on the Get Connected Sacramento project.

    ** Implementing N2R as the National Public Telecomputing Network (NPTN) affiliate for Sacramento. N2R has the NPTN exclusive status as Sacramento's organizing committee, and will work out technical and unique content offerings, and prepare the affiliate agreement to move from organizing committee into affiliate status. A primary reason for believing our plan will succeed is that N2R will use the results of the End User Survey to develop interesting materials to be placed on-line, develop appropriate marketing tools to attract end users to the net, and provide training to help users be successful. Another reason is the strong commitment and financial support of the partners. The co-directors of the project are donating their time to the project without any compensation for the first six months, and partners are providing their services in-kind during the same time. The partners have already set the first meeting to plan for implementation for May 23, 1995.


    Experience and expertise. Sacramento County Office of Education, the primary applicant and fiscal agent on behalf of N2R and the partners, serves as the intermediate level of governance for schools, between the State Department of Education and the 16 school districts in Sacramento County. In addition, it serves as a leader in technology in the ten counties of Region 3. SCOE provides the Local Area Network (LAN) potentially to connect all County Offices of Education, as well as districts and schools, to the Internet. In addition, SCOE has established a computer training facility using State Lottery funding of $450,000 to provide training in technology and information literacy for teachers and parents in Region 3. This lab will be used for education site training under the N2R project, and features 30 computer stations in Mac and PC platforms, interactive video, sound, CD-ROM, and other multi-media components.

    SCOE conforms to state and federal rules and regulations for budgeting, maintaining separate accounts for all grant programs, requiring standard accounting practices, and performing annual audits of all accounts. SCOE at any point in time has over 70 federal and state grant and contract programs in effect, totaling at present $20,000,000. A Grants Management Unit has been established by the Assistant Superintendent of Business Services to monitor these grants and contracts.

    Key Personnel. Appendix 15 contains short resumes of the many key personnel who will help guide the project to completion. These include SCOE, N2R, OTAN, NetLink, UCD, NS/T, community nets, and the evaluator for the project.

    Qualifications of participating organizations. OTAN and the Staff Development Institute (SDI), California Department of Education programs, provide on-line support and training for all 400+ adult education sites in California. OTAN was recognized by the United States Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, as a model for the delivery of essential information to literacy providers. Both of these programs are located at SCOE and use the SCOE LATA 3 network.

    N2R provides a stellar example of a grass-roots approach to forming a community network. The newly formed net has garnered sufficient business and community support to be able to commence the net with volunteer staff beginning April 20, 1995. Every organization will be participating by providing information and services for functional literacy or lifelong learning.

    Community Support. Broad community support has been generated over the past four months to create N2R (see Appendix 4, Letter from Partners, and 18, Miscellaneous Items). Every domain listed by TIIAP is represented by the various partners and by the project. Collaboration over the past four months has focused on creating mutually beneficial partnerships, with win-win arrangements required for all parties involved. Care has been taken to assure that everyone who has participated in the planning process will receive benefit from the community net and from the N2R-LLL project.

    N2R is aware of eight other groups in the region who are planning applications. Three of these groups joined our effort, and are included in this application.

    Long-term sustainability (see Sustainability on page 3 for a further discussion on this topic). In an ideal world, everyone would have complete Internet access and pay no taxes or charges. In real life, someone foots the bill for universal service. N2R, the hub, deals with this dilemma by providing totally free on-line community information in public access sites and via Internet. The fees for this service are subsidized by a public/private partnership, in which persons who already have Internet access are charged no fee. People needing connection to Internet may purchase the service through N2R's service provider, with a portion of the fee rebated to N2R. Eventually, as the net grows, revenue will be generated through this means.

    Major businesses in Sacramento are already interested in N2R. Several have offered their distribution channels to carry for free the information of the collaborating partners. Tax dollars are not enough to sustain this project or the NII long term. Eventually, as the net grows, revenue will be generated through this means. The Co-Directors are negotiating with local Internet Service Providers to provide revenue back to N2R from revenue increase due to increased sales generated from association with N2R. The revenues from Roaming Access fees, after expenses, will be pooled for common use for the regional participants to meet the needs for training and user support. OTAN is interested in obtaining proprietary rights to some of their materials and software, and negotiating an agreement with N2R to market them through N2R's domain server, with a portion of the fee going to N2R. These and similar commercial interests are expected to provide the revenue needed to sustain N2R long-term.


    End users to be served. Even though our focus is on adult literacy, every person in the region could benefit by accessing user-friendly, community based, lifelong learning information. In effect, the project is designed to serve everyone.

    Community support for the project. Letters of support have been received from the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction; the Director of Charlotte's Web, a previously funded TIIAP community net; officials of the City and County of Sacramento; Chief of the California State Department of Water Resources; Sierra Net; VFR, Inc.; Tahoe-Truckee Regional Economic Coalition; Tahoe Center for a Sustainable Future; Director of the CDE Department of Technology; Sacramento Public Library Literacy Service; Sacramento Chamber of Commerce; and Sacramento Area Literacy Coalition, representing 100 community-based literacy programs (see Appendix 17 for five selected examples of these letters of support).

    Strategies for addressing end user needs.

  • Training. A trainer of trainers model will be used in this project in a three-tiered approach. Training Coordinators will coordinate and provide training to site trainers; site trainers will provide training and support to coaches. Coaches will support end users at each public access site. On-going training will be available from the Remote Coach and from PC User's Group or MacNexus User Group, who will provide assistance on technical questions. SCOE will provide a half-time in-kind trainer to support K-12 sites in the 10 counties of LATA 3. N2R will support end users by providing follow-up training, public demonstrations, and workshops.

    How end users will use the services provided. End users will use the information and skills they acquire through this demonstration project to participate more fully as productive workers, community members, and citizens. As a result of the project, the economic health of our region will improve, because we will have developed a more globally competitive workforce.

    End user privacy. Security and privacy are a priority, and will be the responsibility of the host sites and end users, and not the carriers. Locally-based Internet access servers will be required to support access control and caller authentication. Support for Password Authentication Protocol/Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol with Point to Point Protocol will be required. In addition, two Security Guidebooks will be developed, one for locally-based Internet access servers, and another for individual users.

    Protecting the confidentiality of individually identifiable information. Public domain software to support user security to the extent possible will be included in the software bundle, and user and system administrator training will explicitly address security and privacy issues.

    Reducing disparities of access. The entire project is designed to provide a model for reducing disparities of access. The need section on page two addresses the problem, and the entire project is designed to increase access for disadvantaged persons and to use resources of the urban area to bring services and access to remote and isolated sites.


    Evaluation strategy. Program evaluation will occur in three phases: Beta at six months after funding begins, Implementation at twelve months, and Final at 18 months. The independent evaluation contract with Carla Lane, Ed.D. (see Resumes, Appendix 15), will cover program implementation, quality, models for regional cooperation, alternative delivery of literacy instruction, and the technical program model (see Appendix 12, Technical Deliverables).

  • Criteria for measuring effectiveness of the project toward reaching goals defined. Criteria for determining whether end user goals have been met will include measuring time on task, the user's pathway through the software to determine their beginning and ending levels of proficiency, and access to and pathways through lifelong learning materials. These measurements will be performed electronically by OTAN, and will be presented to N2R without charge. Criteria to be used for determining effectiveness of the program models will include impact, accomplishments, and participation.

  • Evaluation instruments to be employed. Instrumentation for the project evaluation will consist primarily of interviews and surveys of partners and end users. Questionnaires and interview format will follow a concerns-based model drawn from The Concerns Based Adoption Model (Hall, 1979)

    Project dissemination plan. Dissemination will occur in a variety of ways. The Distance Learning projects of OTAN and UCD will be used to reach others in the region, state, and nation with project information, models, and materials. N2R and KVIE are currently exploring the Public Broadcasting System Learning Link network as a means of disseminating project information. This will attract new children and parents. The Literacy Data Base will be made available on the WWW,as well as full and unrestricted Internet access for all originally designed literacy web pages. Project summaries will be distributed via Freenet and Communet Listserves and to NTIA award recipients from 1994-95. UCD will provide a web server to provide access to reports about the project for wide dissemination.

    Parent education will be made available in Region 3, designed and based upon the outcomes of the project. Basic and functionally illiterate adults will continue to receive literacy services from partners such as the Sacramento Area Literacy Coalition, with increased access to materials made available through this project. Community partners plan to increase access for the community.

    Finally, the on-line literacy tutorial model developed for the project will yield three months of Beta evaluation results which will be supplied to Congress in July 1996, when the Adult Literacy Act is up for renewal. The N2R model for school funding apportionment will be of particular interest to lawmakers.