Lost contacts are those learners you cannot reach by telephone, mail,
in person or by other means of communication. MTCU requires literacy programs
to record the number of lost contacts at exit and at follow-up (remember,
as of March 2005 you are only required by MTCU to follow-up with students
who met their goals on exit).
Some students leave literacy programs without
telling anyone that they don't plan to return for a number
of reasons. Perhaps an urgent family crisis or other personal
issue arose, and contacting
the literacy agency just wasn't a priority. Some students
don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, so instead of telling
you that they aren't happy
with the program, they just don't come back. Sometimes
a student will find a job or even move to a new town but
not think it is important to
let anyone know.
When learners leave without telling anyone,
the literacy program will try to contact them. Sometimes
phone messages, e-mail messages
or written letters will go unanswered. Even though you
may have explained at intake why you
will contact learners after they leave, some learners simply
will not want to talk to you. You should make reasonable
efforts to contact them,
but after three or four attempts you will have to accept
the fact that these learners are now lost contacts.
Community Literacy of Ontario asked literacy practitioners
for their ideas about how to reduce the number of lost
contacts reported to MTCU.
You can find these suggestions in CLO's February 2004 newsletter, or review them here:
- Enhance the orientation process to include an overview of the
importance of follow-up.
- Update learner contact information
more frequently and reiterate why it is important for
the agency to have current information
- At intake obtain more than one contact number
and ask for contact numbers from family or friends.
programming to support students - for example, offer
- Let learners know upfront about follow-up procedures and
clearly explain to them why their participation in follow-up
is so important.
- Follow up on
absences quickly - this may prevent the learner from becoming a lost contact.
referral information on other services suited to students'
current needs when they exit - this may encourage them
to keep in contact.
- Work closely with learners and try
to see what is happening in their
lives that might affect their learning or their desire/ability
learners sign a contract that asks for additional contact numbers and spells
out their commitment to the program, including follow-up
- Allocate a set time each month for follow-up
- Invite past students to agency special
- Highlight to learners the importance of letting
the agency know that
they are planning to leave.
- Try to get an e-mail
address for the learner - while
many learners do not have computers, many have a Hotmail or Yahoo address.
a sense that the agency cares about what happens to the
students after they leave the program.
- Mail a stamped,
self-addressed envelope to bring
- Mail a "we miss you" note from staff, volunteers and learners.
down tutor/instructor/student barriers - if the student
feels that the agency really cares, he/she may be more likely
to keep in touch.
Bay Literacy Services Planning Committee adopted a Lost Contact Strategy in
2004 that includes some great strategies for reducing the
numbers of lost contacts:
- Update contact information more
frequently (on the assumption that
learners will move/change telephone numbers and not think of keeping the
- Improve the student orientation process,
i.e student/program commitment to program/student,
Learner Satisfaction Survey, 3 and
6 month follow-up process,
and other information forms, etc.
- Have all learners complete the Learner
Satisfaction Survey prior to Christmas and summer break,
rather than waiting until they
the program, since many learners exit themselves by simply not returning.
mid-year stats to assess progress made in reducing
- At intake, obtain more than a single
phone number; obtain phone numbers
of friends and/or family members.
Ideas for tracking follow-ups
Be sure to establish a reminder procedure
to ensure that follow-up happens. You can set up a dated
file box with the names of people
who need to be followed
up with in a particular month. Or you could use a system of coloured flags
on learner files or a series of coloured files. Whatever
system you choose doesn't
have to be elaborate, but it is easy for time to slip by so you need to
set up a method to make sure you do follow-up on time.
simple method is to set up a spreadsheet or a chart
listing the dates students leave and the dates they should
be contacted for follow up
- you can also
include a column to record their status. It could look
something like this:
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