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Verizon Launches First Online Literacy University

The first online university dedicated to literacy, Verizon Literacy University (VLU), was launched in May as a national online training program for people interested in supporting and volunteering their efforts toward literacy causes. The university is a collaboration of Verizon Communications, the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) and ProLiteracy Worldwide. It was made possible by a $5.5 million investment by the Verizon Foundation over five years through the Verizon Reads initiative.

VLU offers a variety of free courses that vary in length depending on subject matter, though most can be completed in less than 30 minutes. Furthermore, VLU students are not required to have a background in a literacy-related field, as one of the main goals of the university is to encourage those who are considering volunteering to take action. The online courses are grouped by a user's level of experience: potential volunteer, existing volunteer, or program director and staff. The user can then choose from one of three styles of instruction: self-paced, instructor-led or blended, which combines online coursework with face-to-face training.

Besides the courses, VLU offers additional information, including the VLU Campus Center, which contains information and links to other Web sites, a bookstore of informative literacy materials, a bulletin board for news and upcoming events, and volunteer information that highlights available volunteering opportunities. It also provides a link to "Ask Verizon Reads," a network of information about literacy in America and local literacy organizations.

More than 92 million American adults (almost 48% of the population) have "very low" or "low" literacy skills, according to the National Adult Literacy Survey, which makes it difficult for them to read and help their children with schoolwork. The survey also determined that if a child can't read well by the third-grade, chances for later success are significantly diminished. In addition, it verified that one of the strongest predictors of school success in children is the educational achievement of the parents in the home.

"VLU is available for anyone who wants to learn more about supporting literacy through courses, tools, advice and links to organizations in need of volunteers," says Sharon Darling, president and founder of NCFL, in a press release. "It contains a wide range of online courses and other resources to support volunteers, families and program staff working to create a more literate nation."


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This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2003 issue of THE Journal.

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