Learning Ally Expands Its Educational Technology and National Virtual Volunteering Program to Support Struggling Readers

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National education technology nonprofit to transform its volunteer-driven audiobook production to an entirely virtual model by 2018

“Our volunteer community is scalable and there are almost no limits to how fast and far it can grow... to transform outcomes for millions of students who struggle to read.

Learning Ally, a national nonprofit educational tech organization, announced that it will transform its audiobook production operations to an entirely virtual model by 2018 -- a major technological shift to meet the needs of students, schools and educators nationwide.

Learning Ally works with educators across the country to provide access to grade level content to students who struggle to read and learn because of learning differences and visual disabilities. Its cloud-based library of human-narrated textbooks and literature aligns with core curricula and can transform education for struggling readers. Learning Ally gives teachers a tool to educate students with different reading capabilities in a mainstream setting -- by providing students access to the books they want and need in a format they can absorb, so they can build knowledge, comprehension and critical thinking skills alongside their peers.

For decades, the organization’s audiobook production has been powered by thousands of volunteers based in recording studios around the country. Three years ago Learning Ally pioneered technology advances that allowed volunteers to work virtually. Through a cloud-based platform, volunteers can narrate, record and ensure quality control for audiobooks – anywhere and at any time. This technology is now available at scale and brings dramatic benefits for students: virtual volunteers with subject matter expertise can produce higher quality content aligning to school curricula, deliver it to schools faster and more efficiently to better support the needs of struggling readers.

“Our staff used technology in new and innovative ways to build a new model of virtual volunteering that is uniquely suited to the 21st century needs of students – there is nothing like it anywhere,” says Andrew Friedman, Learning Ally’s president and CEO. “The volunteer community is scalable and there are almost no limits to how fast and far it can grow. We used to be limited by the walls of our studios. We now have the technology, talent pool and expertise to produce best-in-class materials and transform educational outcomes for millions of students who struggle to read, by enabling volunteers to support us anywhere and at any time.”

As the virtual community has developed, it has reduced Learning Ally’s dependence on studio-based production. By 2018, the organization will close studio-based recording facilities and shift all of its studio operations to a virtual model.

Learning Ally is extending every opportunity to its traditional studio volunteers to transition them into the virtual model. “We cherish our volunteers’ dedication, and will continue to leverage their talents in evolving roles and service opportunities,” says Friedman. “If they have an internet connection, we can tap their passion to continue to support success for millions of students.”

Many studio volunteers have already made the leap to the virtual community. “I always enjoyed coming into the studio to do my recording, and then the virtual volunteering became a possibility,” says Barbara Mavro, who became a Learning Ally volunteer after teaching math for 30 years in New York City public schools. “I was hesitant at first, but was surprised at how quickly I became part of this virtual effort. Our goal to help students achieve and succeed holds our community together, and I very much enjoy being part of it.”

For information on joining Learning Ally’s virtual volunteer community and enabling success for millions of students with print and learning differences, contact volunteer at learningally dot org.

About Learning Ally
Learning Ally is a national nonprofit ed-tech organization proven to help students with learning differences and visual disabilities succeed. Its cloud-based library of high-quality human-narrated audiobooks, including many with synchronized on-screen text, bridges the gap between students’ decoding skills and their cognitive ability, allowing them to become engaged learners and reach their academic potential. Through its extensive teacher resources and student progress monitoring platform, Learning Ally enables learners of all ages to thrive and succeed.

As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, Learning Ally is partially funded by grants from state and local education programs, and the generous contributions of individuals, foundations and corporations. For more information, visit LearningAlly.org.

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Doug Sprei
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