Digital Equity

Learner does worksheet while seated at laptop
Bridging the digital divide

Digital Equity

Literacy Minnesota understands that digital equity requires access to a device, the internet and digital literacy. Our longstanding commitment to values of accessibility and inclusion has put us at the forefront of digital equity in Minnesota and across the nation as digital literacy learning experts.

The American Library Association defines digital literacy "the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills." Digital literacy skills include basic computer skills and email as well as career search skills, résumé writing and much more.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Literacy Minnesota's digital literacy programs included Northstar Digital Literacy, Technology Services and Tutor Tips as well as digital equity projects at Open Door Learning Centers. In 2020, Literacy Minnesota led three projects funded by the the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by the 116th U.S. Congress in response to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and recession.

Literacy Minnesota is recognized as a national leader and a driving force behind the latest developments in literacy learning, including developments in digital literacy learning. Our strong roots in Minnesota inform our national leadership. 

Local Projects in Digital Equity help Minnesotans in need gain access to a device, the internet and digital literacy skills. The Projects show collaboration with county governments and state agencies in response to COVID-19 as well as earlier navigation innovation at Open Door Learning Centers.

Six Open Door Learning Centers in Minneapolis and St. Paul offer English, GED, computer, citizenship, job-readiness and other basic-skills classes for adults. The Arlington Hills location in Saint Paul also has a preschool program for children of adult students. Student-centered learning and trusting relationships between Literacy Minnesota staff, volunteers and participants is essential to the success of the Learning Centers.

The Digital Navigation project helps learners access a device, the internet and digital literacy skills. The Digital Navigator also helps learners set and achieve goals with respect to digital equity and literacy.

The Digital Navigator at Open Door also:

  • Provides training and support to technology volunteers.
  • Distributes technology to learners and assists with set-up.
  • Trains learners on how to operate their technology, including computer basics as well as Zoom for digital literacy, high school diploma and ESL instruction.
  • Connects learners to available community resources and refers them to classes.

The Digital Navigation project at the Learning Centers is informed by years of experience in staff and volunteer-led navigation. Navigation helps adult learners express and identify pathways to achieve their academic, professional and life goals, and Digital Navigation incorporates digital equity.

The Hennepin County Digital Literacy Access Project trained organizations who received laptops as part of Connecting Hennepin - Eliminating the Digital Divide. The trainings offered were both live and recorded webinars on "Digital Navigation Best Practices." 

The training covered:

  • Digital Equity – components and importance.
  • Definition of Digital Navigation.
  • Making the most of Device Distribution.
  • Digital Navigator Training and Support.
  • Next Steps  - referrals, digital literacy assessments and instruction.
  • And finding additional resources.

Hennepin County distributed devices and digital literacy skills training from Literacy Minnesota to 37 community-based organizations.

The Minnesota Department of Education selected Literacy Minnesota to create a Community Needs Assessment Report (the Report) that identifies and assesses actions taken to close the digital divide across the state since March 2020. The Report was funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and completed in December 2020.

The Report draws on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, extensive outreach, an original Digital Equity Community Needs Assessment survey and Literacy Minnesota’s nearly 50 years of work in Adult Basic Education.

The Report answers the following questions:

  • What counties have high digital access, economic, education and English language learning needs? 
  • How have organizations adapted to the pandemic and addressed digital access needs in their communities, who do they serve, and which counties are served?
  • How would a statewide Digital Navigator Program complement available resources and sustainably solve persistent problems?

The Executive Summary can be found here, and the full Report is hosted on this site.

The Ramsey County TechPak Initiative provided computers, internet and digital literacy training to more than 500 Ramsey County residents impacted by COVID-19. TechPak was a partnership between Literacy Minnesota, PCs For PeopleRamsey CountyTech Dump and the Saint Paul Public Library in 2020. 

Digital Literacy Navigators from Literacy Minnesota supported each participant in the Initiative. Navigators facilitated computer pick-up, digital literacy assessment and learning on Northstar Digital Literacy and information technology (IT) support. They also referred participants to ABE classes, job searches and workforce training. Ecotone Analytics projected a social return on investment of $2.40 for each dollar invested in the Initiative. 

The Ramsey County TechPak initiative was part of the Ramsey County Investment and Support Efforts (RISE) program. In 2020, RISE invested $72 million of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding in the Ramsey County community.

TechPak Journey Infographic


Literacy Minnesota advances equity through digital literacy learning across the nation. Access to literacy education, including digital literacy education, lays the groundwork for a more equitable world.

Literacy Minnesota starts learners on a journey toward self-sufficiency, self-advocacy and full participation in society. We share the lessons learned from direct service and local projects in Minnesota through our National Programs in Digital Equity.

The Educator Resources Library organizes all of our curriculum and teaching resources in a searchable and downloadable format. The library makes the many resources we offer more accessible to those who make use of them (teachers, tutors, volunteers, etc.). It also allows us to better identify those who are utilizing our resources so we can connect them to more tools that are relevant to their work. This has been especially helpful for sharing information about remote teaching and learning.

Resources include:

Northstar Digital Literacy helps individuals around the world master the digital skills needed to work, learn and participate fully in daily life. Northstar assesses digital skills and provides classroom curriculum and self-directed online learning.

To best serve digital learners and testing sites during COVID-19, Northstar adapted in the following ways:

  • Self-directed online learning in the areas of Basic Computer Skills and Career Search Skills was made freely available on our website.
  • Remote Teaching Guides for classroom curricula were developed.
  • Digital Literacy Skills Volunteer Tutor Plans were created to help volunteers work virtually with learners.
  • Remote proctoring guidelines were designed and distributed.

You can take an assessment, find a Northstar location and learn how to host Northstar here.

Technology Services trains hundreds of teachers on classroom technology integration each year. Prior to COVID-19, Literacy Minnesota led the way by improving and expanding the use of technology through educator professional development. In 2016, Literacy Minnesota trained 507 Adult Basic Education (ABE) professionals in technology integration and instruction. Literacy Minnesota's longstanding commitment to values of accessibility and inclusion has put us at the forefront of digital equity in Minnesota and across the nation. Previous training topics include:

  • Blended Learning.
  • Distance Learning Platforms.
  • Digital Literacy in the ABE Classroom.
  • Educational Technology. 
  • Online Resources.
  • And more. Reach out to Susan Wetenkamp-Brandt with inquiries.

The training department seeks to remove barriers for tutors who are unable to attend in-person trainings due to disability, geography or time. We piloted our first webinar training in February 2020. Since transitioning all tutor trainings online in March 2020 due to COVID-19, we have welcomed tutors, teachers and volunteers from all over the world, attracting attendees from states including Rhode Island, Iowa and Washington as well as international attendees.

Webinars topic include:

  • Remote Tutoring 101.
  • Lesson Planning for Adult ESL Virtual Classes.
  • Using WhatsApp for Teaching Conversation to Adult ESL Learners.
  • Teaching Phonics Virtually to Adult ESL Learners.
  • And more. A full list can be found here

Online trainings include:

  • Volunteer in the Adult ESL Classroom - This training prepares new volunteers to work in an adult ESL classroom, and provides ongoing development for experienced classroom volunteers. Topics covered include volunteer roles, culture and cultural awareness, responding to errors and effective floating in the ESL classroom.
  • Reducing the Stigma of Mental Illness - This course is for Adult Basic Education practitioners to learn strategies to reduce the stigma of mental illness. This course offers three Continuing Education Units (CEUs). 
  • Citizenship Tutor Training - Citizenship Tutor Training educates teachers and tutors to assist students in preparing for United States citizenship through naturalization. This course offers three Continuing Education Units (CEUs).
  • Computer Literacy Curriculum Planning - This course will provide resources and tools for planning and implementing a computer literacy course for adult learners. This course offers six Continuing Education Units (CEUs).

Sign up for an online training.