TRAIL is an online education organization dedicated to bringing people their first experience with the Internet. We partner with libraries, schools, social services offices, workforce development centers and other trusted public institutions to offer our courses and features online for free. TRAIL’s platforms, JobScout and HealthScout, have allowed thousands of learners to become Internet savvy. With users in over 12 countries, TRAIL is on its way to becoming the “first stop” on the Internet.
Our vision is to make sure our online learning tools get into the hands of the people who need them most, the over 60 million people in the United States who do not know how to use the Internet. Moving forward, our goal is to do the same for the over 5 billion people who face this issue worldwide.
TRAIL is committed to digital literacy, whether you are learning what a URL is and creating your first email account or you are ready to code in HTML. At TRAIL, we create interactive and relevant web-based platforms, like JobScout, that help users and organizations alike learn how to use the Internet to enhance their lives and improve their community based programming.
As founder and CEO, Christina Gagnier, put it best in a piece for the The San Jose Mercury News:
“We need a national focus to end the remaining digital divide so that the Internet can provide an economic boost to all Americans. The return of American ingenuity and the American spirit in the 21st Century will be directly connected to whether people are able to effectively use simple tools to send emails and submit online jobs applications. Let’s not rest on our laurels until all Americans have the ability to utilize the essential tools that are available on the Internet.”
Our goal is simple: to make digital literacy a national and global priority. TRAIL works to be a voice for those not yet online. We do this through our four point approach to offering direct services to our community.
We run campaigns like "It's Easier Than You Think to raise awareness about the issue of digital literacy and digital inclusion. 20% of Americans are impacted by this issue - it's too sizeable to ignore.
We have built platforms and mobile applications in iOS and Android, like JobScout and HealthScout, that have taught people how to use the Internet. We have also built analytics tools, like COMPASS, to track use and progress of learners.
We are working the local, state and federal levels to get digital literacy policy adopted. Only California has an Executive Order calling for California to take measures to make sure digital literacy is a priority.
We work with government agencies and non-profit organizations, like the California Parent Teachers Association, to create curriculum to teach people how to use the Internet. Our specialization is in curriculum development.
This number surpasses 5 billion people worldwide.
What would it be like to not know how to use the Internet?
At TRAIL, a question that is top of mind in our design and content creation is, “What would it be like to not know how to use the Internet?” We created a short video, part of an advocacy campaign for National Digital Literacy Month in September 2013, that highlights the issue.
Statistics show stark demographic disparities in digital literacy. Senior citizens, Spanish speakers, adults with less than a high school education, and those living in low-income households are the least likely adults to have Internet access. Ten percent fewer Hispanics and African-Americans use the Internet than whites. Fortunately, the digital divide is beginning to receive more national attention, through recent coverage in the New York Times and through news of Facebook’s collaborative effort to spur connectivity called Internet.org. A recent piece in PBS’s “Media Shift” rightly asserts that the popular concept of big data doesn’t hold water given the fact that it excludes the 20 million Americans still offline.
Only 6 in 10 Americans go online wirelessly with one of their own devices, so public institutions are serving a crucial need in providing access to the American public. Organizations are beginning to invest in digital literacy programming, and while best practices are emerging, digital literacy is often taught in an offline manner that does not allow for the effective use of data or the introduction of platforms from which users can manage their own learning. The question still remains: do these organizations have the resources and the tools to provide Internet literacy trainings to those who need it most?
TRAIL helps people discover the Internet.
Online learning has become a revolution, but one that has left many learners behind. Amazing learning experiences, provided through MOOC’s, allow Internet users to have transformative educational experiences.
We asked ourselves: “Why is the same type of experience not available for someone new to the Web?” Democratizing education also means democratizing access to information for the first time. Our goal was to build a platform that was well-designed and easy-to-use.
Our lesson content is currently mapped to the State of California Basic Digital Literacy Skills Framework. TRAIL started as a project with the California State Library, so we find our roots in the community’s need for Internet skills learning opportunities.
The lessons themselves use an interactive model, reinforcing lesson content with quizzes and simple games, so that our users retain the Internet skills they have learned. We further help our learners apply these skills by providing easy-to-use features on our platforms so they get some experience navigating an online platform.
Lessons on TRAIL’s platforms are designed to be engaging and give the first time Internet user a supportive learning environment. Too often, those who seek help to learn how to use the Internet are directed to platforms with bad user interface design and outdated skills. Many of these people are also afraid to ask people to give them a hand or have no one that can sit down and teach them how to navigate the web.
Our lessons cover everything from Internet basics, like using a browser to setting up an email account, to more advanced life skill specific content. Our JobScout platform teaches basic Internet skills in the context of finding a job. Our HealthScout Beta platform teaches these same skills in the context of managing health and wellness online.