E-learning aimed at migrants

A University of Wisconsin e-learning program, financed with a four-year grant from the U.S. Education Department, will provide online courses to migrant working families, who lack access to continuous education.

The program will enable the children of these families, who often miss the beginning and end of school years, to maintain a year-long study schedule through online courses at any of the schools they attend, as well as using computers at work camps. In particular, high-school students will be able to acquire credits towards their eventual graduation.

Adult members of the families will be able to take skills-boosting courses that increase their chance of full-time employment.

The migrant families move each year between Texas and Wisconsin to work in food processing and packing plants. Food processing companies, who have to pay for retraining migrant workers each year, hope the e-learning programs will provide the workers with good enough English language and workplace skills that they can be hired full time.

"The processors are trying a cooperative approach that will guarantee year-round work to those migrant families that choose to settle in Wisconsin and be a real part of the state's economic effort," said Salvador Carranza, director of the university's Reach Out program for migrant families. "They'll be able to contribute to their communities, which they can't do now by living in their temporary campsites."

The Reach Out program uses an application services provider solution from Saba Software Inc. The company supplies e-learning and other human resources solutions to companies around the world, and its system can track the progress of students using the online courses and analyze where students fall short in their learning.

Saba customized its solution for the Reach Out program. It also helped set up computer labs for the migrant families at their campsites.

The Education Department grant was awarded as part of the Fund for Improvement of Secondary Education and Learning Anytime Anywhere Partnerships program.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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