The Use of Technology-Based Learning for Basic Skills in Job Corps
This report discusses the use of technology-based learning (TBL), i.e., educational technology or digital learning, for raising reading and math skills of students in the Job Corps, a residential academic and occupational training program offering an intensive set of services and supports to some of the most disadvantaged youth in the U.S. Job Corps services are delivered in over 100 Centers by provider organizations. The Centers typically have rolling admissions of students, who have different academic skills at entry, including a portion of students with significant deficiencies in reading and math skills. Remediation is thus an important step in preparing students to pursue occupational training and improve their employability and self-sufficiency.
The report systematically documents and analyzes the use of TBL for basic skills remediation on site at Job Corps Centers in 2017. The report discusses the prevalence of TBL use, types of software used, perceptions as to TBL's effectiveness, as well as challenges, barriers, and best practices for TBL, as identified by the instructors, managers, and directors. The data for the study was from three sources: 1) a web-based survey administered to every Job Corps center around the country, 2) semi-structured interviews with Job Corps center directors, academic managers and staff at seven sites, and 3) focus groups conducted with students at those same seven sites. The report found that a large majority of Job Corps centers (86 percent) used TBL resources for remediation of reading and math skills. Centers' use of these resources varied and challenges included software security requirements and limited Internet connectivity and bandwidth. A small share of centers reported challenges associated with instructors' and students' technological literacy and general capacity to use TBL. Most center directors reported that TBL resources could be as effective or more effective than traditional methods for remediation of reading and math skills. Staff and students views on TBL were mostly positive. Many students found that TBL was more engaging, particularly when it involved competitive learning games, and allowed them to work at their own pace. Still, at each center, at least one student reported a preference for the traditional classroom environment, often because TBL instruction seemed isolating and unfamiliar. Overall, the report confirmed that TBL was able to provide students with a platform for personalized and independent learning, adapted to individual skill levels, and at the same time provide information on progress in skill attainment to instructors.