2012 NACo Achievement Award

You Can Make a Difference as a County of Orange Volunteer!

National Association of Counties (NACo)
2012 Achievement Award
OC Community Resources/OC Public Libraries

READ/Orange County
Blended Tutor Training Program

Begun in 1970, the NACo Annual Achievement Award recognizes innovative county government programs.  Awards are given in a number of program categories such as arts & historic preservation, children & youth, community development, county administration, emergency management, environmental protection, health, human services, libraries, parks & recreation and volunteers.

"We are honored to have been recognized by NACo and appreciate the opportunity to share innovative County programs that best demonstrate our efforts to provide efficient, quality services to the residents of Orange County," said Chairman John M.W. Moorlach, Orange County Board of Supervisors.

Introduction:

There has always been a demand for literacy services in our community, but the need has increased dramatically during the economic downturn. On the one hand, many workers have found that their skills are not sufficient to find or keep a job in a shrinking labor market. Many have turned to tutoring to learn the literacy skills necessary to succeed in the workforce.

READ/Orange County, the County’s literacy program, has implemented the Blended Tutor Training Program.  This Program is a new type of adult literacy tutor training program, blending traditional face-to-face instruction with self-paced training through alternative technologies. This has allowed us to increase our volunteer base, while maintaining the high caliber of our tutor training. With more trained tutors, we have been able to assist more adult learners with their reading, writing, and English literacy needs.

Need for the Program:

An estimated 400,000 adults in Orange County do not read or write English well enough to fill out a job application, read a bedtime story to their kids, get a driver’s license, fill out a voter registration form, or complete any of a number of tasks that are expected of adults in our society. One of the most effective ways to help these individuals meet their literacy needs is through intensive individual tutoring. For the past twenty years, READ/Orange County (READ/OC) has provided such tutoring through highly trained and qualified volunteers. Due to various reasons, READ/OC was in short supply of volunteers. Due to this reduction, there were over 80 learners on the waiting list as of January 2012.

Although READ/OC has always offered a high quality training to help prospective volunteers prepare to be successful tutors, the intensity and time commitment of the training was an obstacle for some tutors. Furthermore, some tutors had partial knowledge of the information covered in the training through their previous experiences with children’s literacy, ESL training, formal teaching, informal tutoring, or other experiences, and they were reluctant to attend a full training that was partially a review for them. These limitations meant that some potential tutors were lost before they could even come into the program.

As more and more learners continued to wait for assistance, we needed to find a new way to balance our demand for high quality training for our tutors, with our volunteers’ experiences and time constraints.

Program Description:

In order to reduce these barriers to training, READ/OC has implemented a new “blended training”, which shortens the time commitment for all trainees and offers a self-paced training option for those tutors with some prior experience. Now, instead of 23 total hours of face-to-face training time, tutors can choose one of two options. For volunteers new to literacy, those who learn best in a traditional training setting and those who feel that their volunteer experience will be enhanced by the insights, camaraderie, and collaboration of the group, we offer a shorter and more intensive face-to-face training, which includes one orientation, two full day trainings, and a half-day, follow-up workshop. For those with two or more years of teaching or tutoring experience in a related field, the self-paced option offers an opportunity to study literacy tutoring techniques on their own time through readings, videos, and review questions. In order to create a sense of belonging with the group, and to evaluate learning gains, self-paced trainees still attend the same orientation, one day of face-to-face training, and the follow up session.

This new approach lowers barriers to training for all new volunteers, resulting in larger training classes, more trained tutors, and more adult learners served. Although the self-paced option is currently intended as a review, it is made available to all volunteers who prefer a non-traditional approach or who need to accommodate their own personal schedule. The self-paced readings and videos are modular, meaning that any tutor could access an individual training topic at any time that they need it.

The blended training was developed and produced entirely by members of READ/OC’s regular training and outreach team. Production began in March 2011 with the filming of the training video. Over subsequent months, the self-paced and face-to-face training components were fine-tuned until they were ready for the first class starting in September 2011. Since then, there have been three workshops completed using the new blended training approach. Modifications to the training continue to be made after each workshop, based on volunteer feedback and trainers’ experiences.

While this training directly serves our volunteer literacy tutors, it ultimately benefits our adult learners. By making it easier for citizens to become volunteers, the blended training allows READ/OC to match more low-literacy adults with a tutor who can help them meet their reading and writing goals. Through the expert help of a highly qualified volunteer, our adult learners are able to become more productive workers, contribute more to their community, help their families be healthier and more successful, and meet dozens of other personal goals.

Results/Successes of the Program:

There has always been a demand for literacy services in our community, but the need has increased dramatically during the economic downturn. On the one hand, many workers have found that their skills are not sufficient to find or keep a job in a shrinking labor market. Many have turned to tutoring to learn the literacy skills necessary to succeed in the workforce. At the same time, other more traditional venues for adult education, such as adult schools and community colleges, have seen their funding cut back drastically. As fewer classroom educational opportunities are available, more learners have sought the free individual tutoring offered by READ/OC volunteers. Also, many tutors have chosen to use volunteer activities to boost their resumes. The blended training has helped both of these groups meet their needs.

Worthiness of an Award:

The Blended Tutor Training Program is worthy of the National Association of Counties Achievement Award.  By eliminating some of the obstacles to becoming a tutor, the new Blended Tutor Training Program has allowed READ/OC to increase the level of citizen participation. In so doing, it has enabled us to reach more Orange County adults with literacy services. Although it has only been put in practice for a few months, the blended training has already had measureable success, resulting in significantly more new tutor/learner matches. The innovative use of technology in blending face-to-face training with alternative self-paced options has allowed more tutors to access our initial training. It has also offered us the opportunity to expand our visibility into other online platforms in the near future, at virtually no cost to the program.

Congratulations to the READ/OC Intergenerational Literacy Program for the distinguished honor of being selected as a recipient of the NACo 2012 Achievement Award!

Click here to find out how you can volunteer with READ/OC.