Tale of two studies: Challenges in field research with low-literacy adult learners in a developed country

Munteanu, C., Molyneaux, H., Maitland, J, McDonald, D., Leung, R., Lumsden, J., and Fournier, H. (2012). Tale of two studies: Challenges in field research with low-literacy adult learners in a developed country. Proc. ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) 2012 Extended Abstracts


Efforts to address the problems of literacy are often focused on developing countries. However, functional illiteracy is a challenge encountered by up to 50% of adults in developed countries.

In this case study we:

  • Reflect on the challenges we faced in trying to design and study the use of a mobile application to support adult literacy with two user groups: adults enrolled in literacy classes and carpenters without a high school education enrolled in an essential skills program.
  • Elaborate on aspects of the evaluations that are specific to a marginalized, functionally illiterate, group in a developed country – aspects that are less frequently present in similar studies of mobile literacy support technologies in developing countries.
  • Conclude with presenting the lessons learnt from our evaluations and the impact of the studies' specific challenges on the outcome and uptake of such mobile assistive technologies in providing practical support to low literacy adults in conjunction with literacy and essential skills training.

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Related publications

  • Munteanu, C., Molyneauz, H., Maitland, J., McDonald, D., Leung, R., Fournier, H., and Lumsden, J. (2014). Hidden in plain sight: Low literacy adults in a developed country overcoming social and educational challenges through mobile learning support tools. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing Special Issue on Educational Interfaces, Software, and Technology, 18(6), pages 1455-1469.
  • Munteanu, C., Molyneaux, H., McDonald, D., Leung, R., Fournier, H., Lumsden, J., and Maitland, J. (2011). “Showing off” your mobile device: Adult literacy learning in the classroom and beyond. Proc. International Conference on Human computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services (MobileHCI) 2011.