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In 1972, Utah State University, with the support of competitive federal funding, initiated a research and development program concerned with the development of effective instructional materials for at-risk learners. The program was entitled, “The Center for Information Technology at Utah State University.”
During the 33 years the Center was in existence, it received considerable national and international recognition. To foster the development and dissemination of effective instructional materials, a national body, the federal “Program Effectiveness Panel,” provided recognition and awards to those instructional programs that met the highest standards of cost effectiveness.
The Center for Information Technology had more instructional programs recognized by the federal Program Effectiveness Panel than any other university. The Center’s research and development efforts include language arts, math, and science programs. Additionally, the Center has designed a wide range of delivery vehicles, including print, computer technology, cable television, video, and DVD. In 1992, the Center director, Alan Hofmeister, received Emmy recognition from the National Academy of TV Arts and Sciences for his role as the “Chief Scientist in an Instructional Television Series, Produced by The Learning Channel.”
In 1990, the Center initiated a long-term, programmatic research and development effort in beginning reading instruction. After surveying a wide range of different approaches to reading instruction, the Center selected the Beginning Reading Program developed by the Southwest Regional Laboratory for Educational Research and Development (SWRL). The SWRL program was initially released in 1972. In terms of the theoretical base, the available longitudinal research with at-risk learners, and the comparative cost-effectiveness data, the Center researchers felt that they should build on the SWRL products and findings rather than try to initiate another approach.
During the past 15 years, the Center has systematically and progressively revised and built on the SWRL reading program, and the program is now referred to the Reading for All Learners "little books". These “little books” have been supplemented with a “Phonemic Awareness” program to precede the first “little books.” A fluency program has been added to follow the "little books" and incorporate more recent research findings on fluency. The Center continues to recognize and support the contributions of the education professionals responsible for the initial SWRL Beginning Reading Program. Present new research and development efforts are focusing on programs such as “Reading Instruction For Adolescents and Adults,” which was developed to address national priorities concerned with adolescent reading failure. In keeping with Utah State University’s efforts to move campus research programs into off-campus, independent enterprises, key Center personnel and products formed the basis for a company entitled, Academic Success for All Learners.