Looking to Virtual Digital Literacy Education
Cara Connects had to look with new eyes in order to change their traditional in-person digital literacy classes in a virtual world.
Over the past several decades, digital skills have become more and more in demand from employers. As we equip our job seekers with the knowledge and experience needed to get and crush the job, we sought out new ways to provide digital literacy to new communities.
Thanks to a grant from UnidosUS and Verizon Wireless, Cara Connects, our mission-driven staffing firm, partnered with our friends at Northwest Side Housing Center to start a Latinos @ Work program called Adelante, the Spanish word for “Forward.”
Since Adelante’s launch in October 2019, we have taught three cohorts of job seekers in the Belmont Cragin community how to competitively enter the workforce with digital skills that lead to gainful employment. Three days a week for eight weeks, students came to Northwest Side Housing Center for classes on everything from creating an email account to learning Microsoft Office and Google suites.
But when the COVID-19 pandemic started earlier this year, we had to look at our program with new eyes. Our classes couldn’t be led by traditional in-person instruction. How could we continue our training when — to even log into class every day — Adelante students needed to use the very same digital skills we were going to teach them? Many students faced additional hurdles brought on by the Stay at Home Order, such as not having internet access at home in order to take the course.
Despite challenges, our Adelante students stayed determined to enhance their digital skills and seek new opportunities. Inspired by their resilience, we adapted how we taught our curriculum to a virtual format and ensured everyone received or had access to a laptop. We also figured out how to help our students get internet access or find places with free Wi-Fi.
Our first virtual Adelante graduation
Since the shift to a virtual curriculum, 22 students have graduated from the Adelante program and 12 are already gainfully employed.
Students are not only able to learn in this new virtual way but also build friendships and community through their screens. “I see our students completely transform,” says our Staffing Site Manager Mariel Corona, who leads our Adelante program. “Adelante is designed to build people up from day one. At the end of our eight-week class our students not only have the digital skills but the confidence and self-esteem to succeed.”