For the past 6 years, ALTA has been engrossed in the development of ALTA Online, our web-based programme of literacy instruction built around Caribbean life skills content and designed for independent use by persons aged 10 and over who have low-level reading and spelling skills.
In 2020, our readiness to place this tool in the hands of real-life users was put to the ultimate test – a pandemic which necessitated school closures and stringent adherence to physical distancing.
A unique approach overcame these challenges to bring ALTA Online free of charge to residents of Enterprise Chaguanas. Through a series of virtual meetings starting in November 2020, ALTA established a partnership with the community police and Unicomer (Trinidad) Ltd to offer ALTA Online at Chrissie Trace Recreational Facility, Enterprise as part of the NGC-funded Alta Online pilot.
This four-way partnership involving the T&T Citizens Alliance mobilized by Unicomer, Enterprise Community Police, NGC and ALTA has established a successful community implementation model, ready for replication and expansion once community spaces re-open.
Working with the TT Citizens Alliance, Unicomer sourced and installed at Chrissie Trace Recreational Facility 25 desktop computers with full internet connection. Unicomer also plays a coordinating role, acting as godfather to the project and making the critical initial link between ALTA and the community police.
With their finger on the pulse of the community of Enterprise, the outreach efforts of Sergeant Jacey Small, Officer Arnold Richards and the entire Central Division Police team raised awareness and interest in ALTA Online in January 2021. Officer Richards stressed that it is crucial for officers to know their area, with the key being building trust between officers and community leaders – and of course doing the footwork!
Coming out of this effort, some 33 students were assessed using ALTA’s online assessment tool, 29 of whom were placed into ALTA Online Book 1. Two opted to access ALTA Online from their web-enabled computer at home.
ALTA planned and managed the delivery of ALTA Online, trained eight community police officers as mentors and provided ongoing support and weekly check-ins.
On Tuesdays or Thursdays, Officer Arnold Richards opens the facility and provides support to the 17 students, children and adults, who regularly login to their ALTA Online account at Chrissie Trace. Officer Richards has shown an exceptional level of commitment and engagement, even providing a Wi-Fi hotspot with his mobile phone when the Wi-Fi was down at Chrissie Trace.
Officer Richards describes the ALTA Online experience like this: “When you interface with ALTA Online you realise how simple it is to use. People come with two phobias – reading and using the computer. When they start the assessment they might want to go after five minutes, but once you encourage then they see that they can do it. Everyone is very comfortable with the programme now.”
He points out that while support was needed in Week 1, especially with login (usernames and passwords) and navigation, by week 4 users knew what they had to do from the time they entered the centre to when they completed their lesson for the day. Younger users, who are the primary target group for ALTA Online, understood ALTA Online quickly. The biggest challenge for older users was learning how to use the mouse.
While the NGC pilot ended on 30 April, users continued to access ALTA Online at the Chrissie Trace facility. Covid-19 spike forced the temporary closure of the recreational facility. However, ALTA Online allows students who have access to their own web-enabled personal computers to continue using the programme at home.
The success of ALTA Online at Chrissie Trace assures us that ALTA Online is on track, as an effective mode of delivery for the ALTA programme. ALTA thanks the community police, Unicomer and NGC for bringing ALTA Online to Enterprise, and Republic Bank for supporting the long process of software development to produce ALTA Online.
With sponsorship, this promises to be a game-changer for ALTA’s expansion into communities never before served by our community class model and students whose schedules never permitted them to attend scheduled classes.
If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a tutor, joining a class, or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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