Three years ago, business and community leaders in Dalton-Whitfield County, Ga., were alarmed by the results of a state study showing more than half of the area's adult populations had never graduated from high school and 20% of them were functionally illiterate.
Like many other industrial-based American cities today, Dalton was in urgent need of a skilled and educated workforce to run the increasingly sophisticated computerized manufacturing equipment in the area's textile mills, which produce 65% of the nation's carpet.
This concern led the Dalton-Whitfield Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with local businesspersons, to form the Education Is Essential (EIE) Foundation, Inc., which recommended the integrated learning system (ILS) developed by Computer Curriculum Corp., based in Sunnyvale, Calif.
Computer Curriculum has been creating personalized, computer-based learning systems since 1967. Its products are currently used by more than 750,000 students.
* Guaranteed Results
Computer Curriculum's ILS provided a software literacy and skills program that met both the employers' and employees' learning requirements: the curriculum is broad and thorough; the instruction is individualized; and results are guaranteed.
Since Computer Curriculum's first ILS labs were installed in Dalton in 1990, adult students have consistently advanced one full grade level for every 18 hours of instruction. By September of 1990, 457 users of the ILS stations had earned their General Education Development (GED) certificates. In fact, according to Janet Bolen, EIE's program coordinator, in 1991 more than a third of all students completing high school in the area were adults receiving equivalency diplomas.
Bolen attributes the success and popularity of Computer Curriculum's computerized learning program to the fact that it is a private, discrete and confidential method of learning. "There's no more fear of being embarrassed by being called on in front of your peers," Bolen explains. The effectiveness of this system of instruction continues to be demonstrated in schools throughout the U.S.
Computer Curriculum's ILS program includes 3,000 hours of multimedia instruction for K-12 and adult students. It offers over 20 courses on math, reading, science, language arts, English as a Second Language (ESL) and computer science. Just this last November, the firm also debuted a brand new version, entitled SuccessMaker, which features full-motion video and digitized sound plus includes the unique guarantee of results.
* Labs in Demand
Demand for the computerized learning labs has steadily increased in Dalton-Whitfield. In the first year of operation, attendance at the lab sites tripled, prompting EIE to establish three more ILS stations at a local welfare office. Soon lines began to form at the welfare office--not of people waiting to get their welfare checks, but of people eager to gain access to the ILS equipment
Currently 22 Computer Curriculum workstations are in place at a dozen business and community locations throughout the county, with an average of two new lab installations going in per month.
At this rate of expansion, Dalton's business and community leaders may achieve their goal-for every adult in the area to obtain the equivalent of a high school diploma by the year 2000---ahead of schedule. Such a commitment to upgrading the literacy and skills level of the community has made Dalton, as an Atlanta Constitution article recently put it, "a model for how America must reeducate its workforce to compete in a global economy."
The use of Computer Curriculum's innovative and effective computer technology, adds Bolen, goes a long way toward solving the problem of adult illiteracy. "Perhaps," she asserts, "Dalton is on its way to becoming the adult literacy capital of the world as well as the 'carpet capital of the world.'" …