Leading the way in online learning

February 3, 2022

New report shows tells the story and shows the impact of NALA’s eLearning website from 2008-2019

Since the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) was set up in 1980, we have constantly looked at ways of improving access to education for adults.  These include the time and location of a course which may not suit because of family or work commitments. Over the years NALA innovatively delivered teaching and learning through radio programmes and 13 television series.  More recently we began offering telephone tuition and online learning to those who want to learn at home.

Leading the way in online learning

A new report Leading the way in online learning was launched on Monday 31 January tells the story and impact of NALA’s eLearning website writeon.ie from 2008 – 2019. Over its eleven-year existence, WriteOn was a unique, powerful and empowering teaching and learning resource. It not only reduced barriers to access, supported greater participation, but it also provided learners with opportunities to recognise their prior learning, work towards learning new skills and have these certificated initially at Level 2 and subsequently Level 3. Read the full report

It all started back when the results of the first OECD International Adult Literacy survey was published in 1997 which showed that 25% of Irish adults had literacy difficulties.

Further research done by NALA confirmed that there was a huge gap between those who needed support and those availing of it. At that time, only about 5,000 adults participated in adult literacy classes out of a potential target of 500,000. While at the same time the Irish Government’s Green and White papers, highlighted the need for enhanced access and raised participation rates.

That’s when NALA first identified the serious need and potential for other solutions. Doing something on Radio was an obvious and cheap solution to the access issue. NALA’s very successful Read Write Now radio series – where teaching and learning content was broadcast on national radio – was born.

Distance learning moves to television

When the radio’s distance learning programmes proved successful in attracting an audience of learners, NALA got even more ambitious and before long we moved our distance learning efforts to TV. After all everyone in Ireland had a TV.

From 2000 we developed 61 hours of broadcast content in 13 prime-time TV series with our broadcast partner RTÉ, funded through the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

This included 5 ‘Read Write Now’ TV series that ran from 2000 to 2004, attracting audiences of up to 293,000. During this time an amazing 20,000 workbooks were posted out for each series. In 2006 and 2007, The Really Useful Guide to Words and Numbers was broadcast and accompanied by print materials, freephone and web support.

And in 2008 NALA developed ‘Written off?’, a fly-on-the-wall, eight part television series that followed 11 adults who returned to learning, and showed the benefits it has had on their lives. It was broadcast on RTE One and attracted weekly audiences of 200,000 viewers.

It was at this time that NALA really embraced what we now call eLearning.

Although radio and TV proved popular there were limitations too.  The format of TV lent itself more to motivation and awareness raising than actual teaching.  That’s when NALA needed to develop an eLearning platform to provide learners with unlimited access to learning and at times which suited their lives.

Developing WriteOn

And so Writeon.ie was developed with Avallain, a Swiss company, who had previously built a similar German website, ich-will-lernen.de. The aim with writeon.ie was to improve the learning experience of students and this involved simplifying the certification process, creating more personalised learning and providing freedom of access for learners.  We also wanted learners to recognise themselves in the materials on the site and for it to reflect Irish culture.

So WriteOn was launched by NALA in September 2008 to provide free online learning across the country, to facilitate literacy development and certification for adult learners at Level 2.

Over its eleven-year existence, WriteOn was a unique, powerful and empowering teaching and learning resource. It not only reduced barriers to access, supporting greater participation, but it also provided learners with opportunities to recognise their prior learning, work towards learning new skills and have these certificated initially at Level 2 and subsequently Level 3.

Recognising prior learning

The Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) tool used online assessments, mapped to learning outcomes at levels 1-4 on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) and allowed learners to obtain qualifications for previously uncertified learning.  This facility was the only method of RPL available to adult literacy learners in Ireland and WriteOn provided the first and only ‘end to end’ online learning provision for adult literacy learners in Ireland.

Every year in its existence it continued to build on its success, informed by national and international research, and at its core, the needs of adult literacy learners in Ireland.

It also has conceptually transformed adult literacy distance learning provision. WriteOn challenged and replaced the view of distance learning as deficit learning to a competency based approach by providing a way to confirm and certify what they already learned.  Many students who have used and benefitted from WriteOn actively chose distance, online learning over face-to-face provision. It was a flexible option that allowed them to fulfill their learning ambitions, have a positive educcational experience and even receive accredition if they wanted.

WriteOn in numbers

Data from the site and learner testimonies present a very positive picture of learner engagement with WriteOn.  Learners using WriteOn studied either independently, as part of an ETB or in in centres from the community and voluntary sector such as special schools blended learning programme or as part of NALA’s distance learning service.

And to date 12,000 people have received 42,000 national QQI qualifications with NALA.

Learn with NALA

Learn with NALA is our latest offering that we have no doubt will continue to provides adults with a unique opportunity to access quality learning, work towards learning new skills and get certification.

It takes place at a time when online, distance and blended learning is high on the agenda.  The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for digital literacy for both teachers and students who need to take advantage of learning opportunities.  The forward pivot to digital learning is unlikely to go backwards, and we welcome the opportunities it will bring.

Find out more

You can find out more by reading the Leading the way in online learning report

If you would like to brush up on reading, writing, maths or technology call NALA on Freephone 1800 20 20 65 or visit our eLearning website learnwithnala.ie

Stay up to date

Most recent news

Sign up to be kept up to date on our latest campaigns.