Grad Student Darcey Altschwager with a Program Participant

RETURN Project

Our interdisciplinary team, composed of professors and graduate/undergraduate students at KU and UMKC and led by Professor Hyunjin Seo at KU, received a $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2019 to offer STEM education for women recently released from jail or prison in Kansas and Missouri. The three-year NSF project includes empirical research and evidence-based technology education.

Over the last 40 years, the number of women in U.S. state prisons has increased by about 800 percent — more than double the rate of growth among men. But prison education and reentry programs in general are not well prepared to respond to this influx of women. In addition, over half of the 1 million women under criminal justice supervision on a given day have a child under the age of 18, so for them especially, it is crucial to have the tools needed to find jobs or to further their education once they leave prison. However, their time in the criminal justice system delays such educational opportunities and restrict them from using the Internet and other technologies. As the U.S. becomes more dependent on digital technologies, it is important for them to have opportunities to gain relevant knowledge and skills.

Our interdisciplinary team, composed of professors and graduate/undergraduate students at KU and UMKC and led by Professor Hyunjin Seo at KU, received a $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2019 to offer STEM education for women recently released from jail or prison in Kansas and Missouri. The three-year NSF project includes empirical research and evidence-based technology education. The technology education program for women in reentry is tailored for these women’s interests and needs as informed by solid research studies. Topics covered include standard office programs, website creation, information privacy, online security, basic coding skills. The program is designed to support the women in job applications and post-incarceration adjustments. This project has the potential to serve as a template for building evidence-based workforce preparation efforts in informal settings, and the concurrent online peer networking and app development may also facilitate adaptation for and scaling to other regions and other similarly digitally disadvantaged populations.

Below is more information about our program and the learning phases that we offer. 

The Technology Education Program is grant funded and offered by the University of Kansas and University of Missouri - Kansas City. The program is for women who have been recently released from jail or prison. The program teaches computer skills that are important for job participation and career advancement such as Microsoft office, personal branding, and website creation and management. The program is free to participate in and in order to qualify participants must: 

  1. Identify as female 
  2. Be 18 years of age or older 
  3. Have served time in jail or prison 
  4. Live in Kansas or Missouri or served time in a Kansas or Missouri jail or prison

Our Technology Education Program takes place completely online. We use a learning management system (LMS) website where participants will access everything for our program. Each week participants will have access to lesson videos, activities, and places to submit the activities for feedback from the instructor. There is also a chat feature on the website so participants can send their instructors messages. Details on the LMS are covered during a participant's orientation to the program.

Our program requires participants to have access to a laptop or desktop computer and the Internet. participants will be asked to access these devices about 1-2 hours per week. 

Participants should plan to spend about 1-2 hours per week on the lessons. This class is taught on your own time which means that there are no live sessions or set days and times that participants have to be online. Participants can view the videos and do the activities on their own time and at Their own pace. Participants can watch the videos and do the activities just once or as many times as they want.

The Technology Education Program is grant funded and offered by the University of Kansas and University of Missouri - Kansas City. The program is for women who have been recently released from jail or prison. The program teaches computer skills that are important for job participation and career advancement such as Microsoft office, personal branding, and website creation and management. The program is free to participate in and in order to qualify participants must: 

  1. Identify as female 
  2. Be 18 years of age or older 
  3. Have served time in jail or prison 
  4. Live in Kansas or Missouri or served time in a Kansas or Missouri jail or prison

Our Technology Education Program takes place completely online. We use a learning management system (LMS) website where participants will access everything for our program. Each week participants will have access to lesson videos, activities, and places to submit the activities for feedback from the instructor. There is also a chat feature on the website so participants can send their instructors messages. Details on the LMS are covered during a participant's orientation to the program.

Our program requires participants to have access to a laptop or desktop computer and the Internet. participants will be asked to access these devices about 1-2 hours per week. 

Participants should plan to spend about 1-2 hours per week on the lessons. This class is taught on your own time which means that there are no live sessions or set days and times that participants have to be online. Participants can view the videos and do the activities on their own time and at Their own pace. Participants can watch the videos and do the activities just once or as many times as they want.

Phase 1 Microsoft Office / Google Drive: Covers introductory skills in online security, Microsoft Office Programs (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), social media, and online information assessment. You will complete lessons and activities on things like creating and formatting word documents, using formulas in Excel spreadsheets, creating resumes, and more.

Phase 2 Intro to Website Building: Focuses on personal branding and on creating personal or professional websites. You will complete lessons on creating personal websites, social media, and at the end of the session you will create your own website using Google Sites or Wix.

Devices needed to participate: Access to the Internet and access to a Smartphone or Tablet or Laptop or Desktop Computer. Access to a laptop or desktop computer required for the final two lessons.

Recommended Comfort Level: For those with some experience using Microsoft Office programs and computers.

Length of Session: 1 week orientation for participants brand new to our program + 5 weeks of lessons

Phase 3 WordPress: Used by more than 60 million websites WordPress is the most popular website builder used. In this phase you will learn how to create a personal and a business website using WordPress.

Devices needed to participate: Access to the Internet and access to a Laptop or Desktop Computer.

Recommended Comfort Level: For those who are very comfortable using Laptop or Desktop Computers on a regular basis.

Length of Session: 1 week orientation + 7 weeks of lessons

Phase 4 Advanced Spreadsheet: Many now require that their employees have the skills to use Microsoft Excel for keeping track of inventory, budgets, client data and more! This course will teach you how to enter data into spreadsheets, basic excel functions, creating charts and functions for handling larger sets of data.

Devices needed to participate: Access to the Internet and access to a Laptop or Desktop Computer that has Microsoft Office installed. 

Recommended Comfort Level: For those with some experience using Microsoft Office programs and computers.

Length of Session: 1 week orientation + 6 weeks of lessons

Phase 5 Digital Storytelling: Story telling is one of the most effective methods in marketing, communication and business to getting noticed. In this course you will learn how to create visual and written stories about yourself or a subject important to you.  

Devices needed to participate: Access to the Internet and access to a Smartphone AND a Laptop or Desktop Computer. 

Recommended Comfort Level: For those who have some experience using digital devices and Microsoft Office Programs. 

Length of Session: 1 week orientation + 5 weeks of lessons 

Phase 6 Advanced Digital Storytelling: Focuses on interviewing techniques and skills needed for a variety of digital storytelling applications. In this phase you will learn about practical uses of digital storytelling through interviews, podcasting, vlogging, and animation. Special focus lies on the use of digital storytelling applications for public relations, business, and entrepreneurial aspects. You will complete lessons and apply your skills through activities such as writing reflections and producing content for a podcast, vlog, or an animation. 
 
Devices needed to participate: Access to the Internet and access to a Smartphone, Tablet or Desktop Computer.  

Recommended Comfort Level: Prerequisite is Phase 5: Digital Storytelling. Please complete Phase 5 before starting on Advanced Digital Storytelling.  

Length of Session: 5 weeks of lessons 

Phase 7 Business Communications: In this phase you will learn about different business communication methods including email, digital collaboration sites such as Teams and Google Drive, video conferencing, and how to use business communication skills to solve problems. You will complete modules and apply your skills through writing reflections.

Devices needed to participate: Access to the Internet and access to a Smartphone, Tablet or Desktop Computer.

Recommended Comfort Level: Prerequisite is Phase 1: Technology for Employment, Phase 2: Online Personal Branding, Phase 3: Business Website Building Using WordPress, Phase 4: Advanced Spreadsheet, and Phase 5: Digital Storytelling. Please complete these phases before starting on Business Communications.

Length of Session: 5 weeks of lessons.

Phase A Computing Introduction: This course is designed to help you feel more comfortable with computers. You will learn not only how computers work but also the hardware components for computers. 

Devices needed to participate: Access to the Internet and access to a Laptop or Desktop Computer. 

Recommended Comfort Level: For those who have some experience using a Laptop or Desktop Computers. 

Length of Session: 1 week orientation + 5 weeks of lessons 

How to Enroll

  • If you feel you meet the program eligibility and are interested in learning more about the educational program, please complete the enrollment form linked in the sidebar below. A member from our team will be in contact with you within 24-48 hours.

  • If you are an organization interested in learning more about our program on behalf of your clients, please contact Kim Bruns, Program Coordinator, kbruns@ku.edu 785-864-1561.

Center for Digital Inclusion