A really nice lady showed up at my reading at Magers & Quinn bookstore in Minneapolis last night (well, everybody was really nice, it was Minnesota) and spoke about a new approach to using technology to bridge the gap to postsecondary education for bottom of the pyramid populations. Learner Web started in Portland and is being implemented in regions around the country. It consists of a software environment with a set of “Learning Plans” based on open educational resources organized around specific goals, from GEDs to adult literacy to college readiness to becoming a citizen. The online resources, which are free, are designed to be integrated with existing local education programs and promoted by community based organizations. Best of all, anyone can sign up as a “telephone helper”–a virtual volunteer tutor who works from your home or anywhere with a phone and Internet connection to help people get through the learning plans.
I’d be willing to bet that there are far more people who have time to be tutors in this fashion than have time to meet with people every week. That means more community resources devoted to the least resourced learners in the community. While Dean Dad and others have raised kinda spurious objections as to whether the “DIY U” future is really helpful to people who are not already elite students, Learner Web proves them wrong.