The EdTech Center at World Education led a field test of the Learning Upgrade smartphone-based ESOL and basic education program. The field test was conducted by Jamie L. Kreil, Ph.D. (Cedar Riverside Adult Education Collaborative) and Jen Vanek, Ph.D. (EdTech Center @ World Education). This field test demonstrated how and with whom our e-learning platform is being used and for whom it holds educational promise, including for refugees and immigrants in the United States.

Analysis of the interview data from this field test showed seven common themes about how Learning Upgrade was able to keep students engaged, improve their language skills, and contribute to their learning retention. Generally speaking, the participants had much to say about the media used to support learning and the ease of use with both the learning content and reporting features. Outlined below are the seven common themes that participants outlined that were beneficial:

  1. Non-Traditional Delivery and Appearance: Some teachers participating in the study were at first skeptical about learning through a nontraditional-looking app, but reported that competition between learners, music videos, and its informal appearance increased learner engagement and contributed to content retention.

  2.  Music: Interviewed students reported that the music in LU helped them develop learning strategies for vocabulary, strengthened their concentration, and improved organizational and language skills.

  3. Competition: Students reported that competing against one another in LU kept them engaged in learning.

  4.  Game-Like Appearance: While this feature of LU reportedly appeals more to beginning-level and ESL learners, the stated benefits include an appreciation for the “gamified feel” of the design, a unique learning experience, engaging activities, and content that is differentiated from most ESOL and ABE online curricula.

  5.  The Mobile Imperative: For adult learners, mobile access to content became increasingly important as programs shifted instructional models during the pandemic. Adults who are smartphone-dependent for internet access (32% of adults with less than a high school diploma, Pew Research Center), can still complete Learning Upgrade’s lessons and tests on their phones.

  6. Organizational Strategy/Structure: “Learning Upgrade may be a useful tool for informal programs looking to provide more clarity in the scope and sequence of content they offer, particularly in a tutor-operated, one-room schoolhouse, or multilevel contexts.”

  7. Linear Pathway: The linear progression of LU’s courses, the organization of its resources – linked to CCR standards, and the content presented within Learning Upgrade “helped motivate learners; they could not easily lose their place in the content and were aware of what an instructor had viewed and provided feedback on.”

In conclusion, this field test illustrated how the unique features of Learning Upgrade addressed programmatic, instructional, and learner needs across different ABE contexts. The gamified feel, mobile flexibility, organizational structure and layout, and reporting features facilitated learner success in multiple settings such as in-person and remote education.

Programs seeking to supplement existing curricula, provide an alternative mode of content delivery, or foster independence among learners at multiple levels may benefit from the addition of Learning Upgrade.

To sign up for a free 3-month pilot, please visit our Pilot Request Page.