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Diverse Contexts

Find examples of implementations of Digital Navigator services at adult education and training agencies, community colleges, libraries, rural communities, and at state and city levels.

Digital Navigation services models have been appearing and evolving since March 2020 in a variety of settings. Below you find examples of implementations at adult education and training agencies, community colleges, libraries, rural communities, and at state and city levels. The elements in bold, refer to best practices identified across setting and implementation models. Most of these programs have been active participants in our online Digital Navigator Community of Practice, sharing the needs of their diverse contexts and strategizing together on how best meet them.

Adult Education and Training programs

Adult Education and Training programs adapted in 2020 to develop digital navigator services, and many have incorporated them as an essential part of their day-to-day activities. For example, JVS -Boston’s digital navigator services support adult learners with access to internet-connected devices and assist them in using apps such as WhatsApp and Zoom in order to learn online. JVS recruited their digital navigators from outside their usual volunteer pools as the role needed a higher level of digital fluency. A key feature of this program has been the recruitment and onboarding of bilingual navigators, with volunteers being recruited beyond the city limits, which they were able to achieve by using a nationwide volunteer recruiting platform to help support their virtual digital navigator services. Other programs like Literacy Minnesota’s digital navigator services also have as a goal enrolling learners in adult education classes and other support services. ByteBack’s digital navigator services expanded career training opportunities by offering their advanced students, already familiarized with technology and graduates of their certification program, hands-on customer service experience to help their IT trainees jumpstart their tech careers by supporting peers and others in the community, including seniors, with their digital inclusion needs.

Community Colleges

Community Colleges have also implemented navigator services both to close digital divides faced by their students but also to give college students service-learning opportunities. Sitting Bull College’s digital navigator services is leveraging Americorps volunteers as digital navigators to assist learners pursuing GED preparation online through the tribal college in North and South Dakota. Their digital navigators support learners to onboard to loaner devices, set up emails, and familiarize them with software and online programs such as Microsoft Word. Drexel University’s digital navigator services provide a civic engagement opportunity for their undergraduate students in Philadelphia to obtain hands-on experience in work in tackling systemic social problems like the digital divide.

Library Systems

Library Systems quickly embraced the digital navigation services model and many were already providing digital inclusion services to some extent. Some examples include the Tech League in Salt Lake City providing digital literacy and resources to patrons. Connect Arizona is a collaborative digital equity strategy supporting Arizona Libraries to increase the capacity of libraries and programs to support digital inclusion, and the Nebraska Library Commission developed a Digital Literacy Guidebook to help libraries meet the growing digital needs of the community by providing easy to access information and resources to librarians.

Rural Communities

Rural residents are less likely to have broadband service at home (Pew 2019). The strategy of Rural LISC digital navigator services in nine sites in Appalachia is to partner with human services agencies. These have included community action agencies, affordable housing programs, health providers, financial opportunity centers, and community-based organizations, in which they add a “technology layer” to the services that these agencies are already providing. Rural LISC has demonstrated that bringing digital navigation to the agencies people already know and trust in the community ensures that digital access is better integrated with the lives of individuals.

Citywide Strategies

Citywide strategies have also flourished during this time. The City of Philadelphia secured funding through the Mayor’s Fund and launched a fast-track grant cycle that funded digital navigators to be embedded in community organizations to help residents access affordable internet and technologies. This effort catalyzed additional funders and donors to support digital navigators in three more organizations, increasing the number of agencies providing digital navigation services across the city. IATS, a community-based organization, focuses explicitly on helping Philadelphia residents with disabilities to get connected.

Digital Charlotte’s digital navigator services help Charlotte residents access multiple digital needs in one place, such as signing up for affordable home broadband internet service, purchasing affordable technology, resolving device and connectivity issues, and engaging in digital skills learning opportunities.

Statewide Strategies

Statewide strategies include the Equity in Education Coalition (EEC) initiative in Washington state with its strategic approach to closing the opportunity gap that takes into account the effects of systemic and institutional racism, the trauma of poverty, homelessness and hunger, family instability, and the hurdles faced by children and parents whose first language is not English. Their strategy involves targeted funding by soliciting proposals and issuing contracts to support the development of programs to directly address people’s barriers to digital access and providing online assistance for residents with their digital inclusion needs. The North Carolina Community College System is also supporting grantees including CBO’s across the state to embed digital navigator services within existing roles to increase program capacity and support ongoing sustainability of these critical services. California’s Department of Social Services (CDSS) has made a large investment to embed digital navigator services into provision of social services to meet adults where they are. Eligible CDSS clients enrolled in CalFresh E&T, and CalWORKs Welfare to Work will receive laptops and then be able to access basic training in how to use them through bilingual training on their cell phones provided by mLearning company Cell-Ed or by reaching Cell-Ed coaches by phone or on the Cell-Ed app.