Web-Based Literacy Programme (WBLP)

Country Profile: Turkey

Population

73,640,000 (2011)

Poverty (Population living on less than 2 USD per day)

5% (2010)

Official language

Turkish

Other spoken languages

Kurmanji, Zaza, Arabic, Laz

Total youth literacy rate (15–24 years, 2011)

Total: 98.6%
Male: 99.4%
Female: 97.9%

Adult literacy rate (15 years and over, 2011)

Total: 94.1%
Male: 97.9%
Female: 90.3%

Statistical sources

Programme Overview

Programme TitleWeb-Based Literacy Programme (WBLP).
Implementing OrganizationAnne Çocuk Egitim Vakfi (AÇEV, Mother-Child Education Foundation)
Language of InstructionTurkish
FundingFor project development: JM Morgan Chase Foundation, Ashmore Foundation, Empower Foundation. The programme is currently self-financing.
Annual Programme Costs60,000 TRY (approx.)
Date of Inception2011

Country Context and Background

In the last decade, Turkey has experienced a marked rise in the use of technology in everyday life. With an estimated 30 million users, the country is presently ranked sixth in the world for overall Facebook subscription. The Turkish government is also increasingly adopting Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) as a means to interact with the general population and facilitate administrative processes, using an ‘e-government’ system. In 2008 this system was used for 22 bureaucratic procedures such as obtaining social security paperwork; by 2011 this number had increased to 292. Turkey’s ascent into the information communication age has meant that adults now increasingly require computer skills as well as basic literacy proficiencies. Under the current centralised healthcare system, for instance, hospital and doctor’s appointments can only be made online.

However, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute there are 2.8 million adults who cannot read and write in Turkey (2012), 80% being women. In addition, 3.8 million adults have not completed primary school. These individuals often have difficulty taking part in routine daily activities or meeting their basic social needs. Turkey has made great efforts towards improving access to education. In 1997, the Turkish government introduced an eight-year compulsory education system, and it extended compulsory education to twelve years in March 2012. The net enrolment ratio for primary school participation as of 2011 was 98% for males and 97% for females. Nevertheless, high levels of school absence in formal education are an issue. According to a recent Situation Analysis and Need Assessment report published by the Turkish Ministry of Education, the average annual absence of students is 73 days. Facilities and structures to encourage school drop-outs to return to school and get an education are also lacking.

In order to tackle these problems, and in response to Turkey’s technological shift, the Mother Child Education Foundation (AÇEV) developed the ‘Web Based Literacy Programme’ (WBLP) in 2011 to reach adults seeking to improve their literacy and numeracy skills. WBLP mainly targets adults who have had no access to learning opportunities but have the will to learn. WBLP operates mainly through a learning portal (http://www.acevdeokuyaz.org) where users can login from anywhere and at any time provided they have access to a computer and an internet connection. The learning portal contains 5,500 exercises geared to impart basic numeracy and literacy skills including reading, writing, and comprehension. Using distance learning as a learning form supports the implementation of AÇEV’s main principle of ‘equal opportunities for all’.

Overview

AÇEV’s Web-Based Literacy Programme was designed around a distance-learning model with the aim to make literacy education accessible to individuals through an internet portal. The portal’s purpose is to support young people and adults who are just beginning to learn to read and write, who want to refresh their skills, and who are preparing for literacy-qualification exams. In Turkey there are currently 970 Adult Education Centers (AECs), which are municipal institutions providing first level and second level literacy courses throughout the country. In order to return to open schooling, adults need to pass two levels of literacy courses or exams. Open schooling is an alternative learning system for people outside the age of compulsory education (those aged 15 years and older). Using the WBLP learning portal, adults can acquire the knowledge and skills that they need to pass the first and second level literacy exams in AECs.

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The learning portal is currently the only free adult learning online platform in Turkey. As the most comprehensive adult literacy programme of AÇEV, the WBLP contains the entire content of AÇEV’s existing face-to-face adult literacy programmes: the Functional Adult Literacy Program (FALP), and the Advanced Literacy-Access to Information Program (ALAIP). After participants in these classes had shown a willingness to learn how to use the internet and computers, AÇEV carried out a study of 196 learners to better understand their technological requirements. Though 83% of learners reported using cell phones and 58% had a computer at home, only 10.5% knew how to use a computer or access web resources. After an overwhelming majority (96%) stated of their desire to develop computer skills, AÇEV decided to create the WBLP as an online version and extension of its existing curriculum.

One of the features of the portal design is that it allows students to keep track of their own progress independently. The website content and exercises are clearly structured and user-friendly, which ensures they can be easily navigated by those with very limited literacy and computer skills. An important feature of the portal is its text-to-speech function, which allows users to hear both what they read and what they write.

Aims and Objectives

The main objectives of the programme are to:

Programme Implementation

Using a platform developed by the Swiss company, Avallain, the WBLP was designed by a Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Minnesota Duluth and an educational scientist and social psychologist. A team of specialists – consisting of an adult educator, psychological counselor, primary school teacher, literary specialist and programme developer – collaborated to develop the learning content of the WBLP.

The online curriculum consists of two main modules:

  1. Basic Literacy and Math, consisting of four learning areas:
  2. School Preparation, also consisting of four learning areas:

The majority of the exercises within the Basic Literacy and Math module are based upon the existing content of AÇEVs FALP and ALAIP programmes. The contents of both of the main modules are updated regularly, at the end of each term. Each year is divided into 2 terms.

The Basic Literacy and Math module is further broken down into Foundations of Literacy, Comprehension (oral, written, digital) Expression (oral, written, digital) and Math sections, while the School Preparation module contains Language Arts, Science & Technology, and Social Studies units. In total the Basic Literacy and Math module is structured in seven hierarchical levels (Foundations of Literacyhas four, while Comprehension and Expression each have three levels). In total, thirty-four different types of exercise are made available via the portal.

The WBLP also contains innovative content not yet featured in AÇEV’s existing face-to-face learning programmes. The Comprehension and Expression components of the Basic Literacy and Math module, as well as the School Preparation module, for instance, are completely new developments. AÇEV created the content of these new developments according to WBLP’s standard content framework.

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The learning portal consists of 5,500 screens with up to 360 hours of instruction. Learners take several online placement tests upon their subscription to the portal, enabling them to begin learning at a level which reflects their existing proficiencies. In order to finish all levels in the portal, a learner needs to work for 360 hours. To date, 83 learners could finish all the levels in the portal (starting to learn from the first or second level of the literacy module).

The curriculum of WBLP is based upon the knowledge, skills and competencies typically acquired in elementary school (the first four years of compulsory education). A learner who finishes all the levels is expected to be successful in the primary education examination for open secondary school. Taken in Adult Education Centres, the exam is called the ‘Second-Level Adult Literacy Programme Exam’. It tests learners’ knowledge and skills in 4 subjects: Language Arts, Math, Science & Technology and Social Science. Practicing the School Preparation module – the most advanced of the learning portal – gives learners the competencies and confidence to take this test. Those who pass are then able to progress to open secondary school.

In addition to acquiring basic literacy skills, learners who have used the learning portal are expected to improve their higher-order cognitive skills and their skills in communication and digital literacy.

Enrolment of Learners

WBLP has been developed mainly for adults and young people who cannot attend classes on a regular basis due to various reasons, such as work, family obligations, distance and disability. Users of the portal who do not or cannot attend any face-to-face classes are known as anonymous learners, as they are not known personally to classroom tutors. They are supported by a special group of online tutors who cater only for their needs. The anonymous learners account for three-quarters of the portal’s total users.

The learning portal is also being used by the participants of AÇEV’s face-to-face literacy programmes, who account for the remaining quarter of the total users. In AÇEV’s face-to-face literacy programmes, the learning portal is used in two ways: both as a complementary tool to regular face-to-face literacy programmes, and as an integrated part of the curriculum in ‘technology supported literacy courses’. In the regular face-to-face literacy courses, the participants are introduced to the learning portal by their tutors and encouraged to use it during classes and after their course time if they have internet access at home.

In locations where the participants have access to computers and internet, the courses are conducted as ‘technology supported literacy courses’. In this course modality, the web-based resource is being used as an integrated part of the existing curriculum, instead of a support system. These courses last for thirteen weeks, and consist of six hours of face-to-face classroom work and three hours of activities on the learning portal each week.

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Recruitment and Training of Facilitators

Within the portal there are two groups of online tutors. The first group consists of adult literacy tutors who already teach AÇEV’s face-to-face literacy courses. These tutors are only responsible for the students they teach in the classroom who use the web portal. The second group of tutors is responsible for the online users. They are mostly experienced adult literacy tutors who are not able to conduct a literacy class anymore for various reasons, but who want to continue to volunteer. The first group of tutors receives a one-day training course and the second group receives a two-day training course. Both trainings are provided by a ‘master trainer’ team set up by AÇEV, which consists of experienced online tutors who already serve learners on the web-portal.

Programme Support Structures

The tutors regularly check on the learners' progress and support them in overcoming technical or content-oriented problems. Among the tasks of the online tutors is to assist users in becoming more responsible for their own learning and raising their self-esteem, which helps to increase their level of autonomous learning. There are currently 116 online tutors and they are always available to assist learners with corrections and explanations. Upon their employment, online tutors sign an agreement which states that they must check their messages in the learning portal on a daily basis, and respond within two days when they receive any questions from their learners. Each online tutor is responsible for 300 general users. Another tool available to users is the online forum (shown below). Using this medium, learners and tutors form a community, helping and encouraging one another:

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Assessment of Learning Achievements

The learners’ progress is monitored automatically through the system. Using a learning map facility (pictured below), learners are able to keep track of their progress independently. They have a path which displays where they are and how much work remains to be done. Learners are only allowed to advance through the curriculum when they have successfully completed the respective learning units.

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Monitoring and Evaluation

The learning portal has a system which assigns each user an online tutor during the registration process. The frequency, length of use and performance of the users are all monitored on a weekly basis by the online tutors and administrators of the system. Tutors are therefore able to see if a learner is struggling with a lack of knowledge or needs to improve certain skills, at which point he or she can intervene to provide support. Tutors can assign homework, for example, to learners in areas requiring further practice.

Programme Impact and Challenges

Impact and achievements

The learning portal had 6800 registered users as of November 2013. The majority of the users are female. Male users account for only a quarter of total use, demonstrating the suitability of AÇEV’s programme in tackling the high level of gender disparity for literacy levels in Turkey. 56% of the users are between 15 and 44 years old. 19% of the total learners are aged between 15 and 24 years old, and the rest are aged 45 years or older. 52% of the programme users have never gone to school, indicating AÇEV’s success in reaching people outside of formal education.

The impact of WBLP on regular users of the learning portal was also measured by a pilot study in 2012. In the study, a technology supported group had a third of their adult literacy classes replaced with web-based activities, while a control group had classes as usual without using the learning portal. Both groups received pre- and post-tests of Math, Word Recognition, Spelling and Comprehension. The results showed that the technology supported group performed equally as well as the control group. This indicated that learners could maintain their literacy and numeracy proficiencies whilst also developing their digital competencies – without a drop in performance.

In total, 10% percent of anonymous learners use the portal for at least one month and sign in to the portal at least twenty times a month. This continuous use has had noticeable effects: of this group of frequent users, 82% typically move up at least one level in the system. Additionally, 19% of the total users have made progress in the system by moving up two levels, 19% have moved up three levels and 11% have moved up four or more levels. AÇEV are currently developing a tool for the learning portal which will collate the various reports of user performance and allow for an internal analysis of the results.

That many of the portal’s users have taken the Second Level Adult Literacy Program Exam to enroll in open secondary school is also regarded as an indicator of success of the programme. AÇEV are working on the creation of a follow up mechanism to track the future development of WBLP participants.

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Challenges

The biggest challenge was, and still is, to create conditions for the widespread use of the learning portal. Negotiations with the General Directorate of Lifelong Learning of the Ministry of National Education (MoNE) are still ongoing in order to promote a nationwide use of the learning portal. In the meantime, and to achieve a more extensive use of the learning portal country-wide, new partners and channels of advocacy have to be found. There is currently no certification provided for participation in the WBLP. The existing national legal framework surrounding adult literacy education has no provision for the regulation of an online certification system. This issue is being negotiated with General Directorate of Lifelong Learning of the MoNE, but there is unfortunately no progress as of November 2013.

Lessons learned

Sustainability

At present AÇEV is looking for the financial support to further develop and maintain the existing programme. Even if this cannot be sourced in the short-term, AÇEV is committed to providing the WBLP as one of its main learning initiatives, and the technology supported literacy courses will be adopted in all provinces where AÇEV’s adult literacy programmes take place.

References

Contact details

Programme Coordinator
Ms Hilal Gençay
Address: Mother Child Education Foundation (AÇEV) Büyükdere Cad. Stad Han No:85 Kat:2
34387, Mecidiyeköy/Istanbul, Turkey
Phone: +90 (0)212 – 2134220
Fax: +90 (0)212 – 2133660
Email: hilal.gencay (at) acev.org
Web site: http://www.acevdeokuyaz.org