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May 23, 2024

In the wake of society’s rapid transition to online services, the old idea of waiting in line for hours at places like the Motor Vehicle Administration and other government offices for your number to be called is now a thing of the past. However, there are many who have difficulty navigating the internet or other digital platforms, and for them, accessing government services in the digital age remains a challenge. 

To help these individuals adapt, a new collaboration between the University of Maryland College of Information Studies (INFO) and the University of Maryland Extension (UME) Marylanders Online initiative has launched a new eGovernment curriculum to assist state residents in learning how to use online government services, like applying for food stamp benefits through SNAP and Temporary Cash Assistance programs.

The eGovernment curriculum is a repository of self-guided training modules that focus on improving accessibility to eGovernment services. A 2022 Stakeholder Needs Assessment Survey conducted by INFO Associate Dean of Faculty Dr. Mega Subramaniam, along with  Ph.D. candidates Jane Behre and Alison Harding, revealed a scarcity of resources related to government services, a gap that became most evident during the recent challenges posed by COVID-19. As people shifted towards online interactions, there was a pressing need to navigate digital services effectively, but there were barriers in the accessibility and usability of these online systems, and gaps in knowledge for those who are required to use those systems. 

Residents can now find user-friendly resources to help them navigate Maryland Health Connection enrollment or energy assistance, among other social services. The project made a deliberate effort to add resources that also support workforce development, including modules that guide users on how to easily register for the Maryland Workforce Exchange.

"Our curriculum is like a blueprint, guiding users through each step of the learning journey," explains the curriculum’s instructional designer Uhjin Sim, the main lead in the instructional design process and a key catalyst for bringing this project to fruition, along with Nitzan Koren, a Ph.D candidate at INFO. The resources were developed using effective instructional design,  known to employ learner-centered, justice-oriented principles grounded in learning sciences. This design philosophy prioritizes understanding how humans learn and ensures that the educational methods are appropriate and optimized for the users' learning experience.

"We're immensely proud of what we've achieved, building everything from scratch to meet the needs of our community," said Dr. Subramaniam.

While these eGovernment resources were founded in Maryland, the project team hopes that it will inspire other states to adopt these methods and adapt to the changing needs of their residents. As technology and eGovernment resources continue to evolve, Maryland's approach is intended to serve as  a blueprint for other states looking to bridge the digital divide and empower their residents. 

A full list of these eGovernment courses are available in the resource library on the Marylanders Online website

About Marylanders Online

Marylanders Online is an initiative through the University of Maryland Extension (UME) and the College of Information Studies (INFO) with state funding that aims to bridge the digital divide throughout the state by promoting digital equity. Marylanders Online aims to advance digital equity in Maryland by helping people get connected with devices, affordable internet, self-directed and guided training curricula, and ongoing technical support. To connect with Digital Navigator for live, one-on-one support, Marylanders can dial 1-866-206-8467, Monday through Friday, 10 AM- 8 PM and Saturday from 10 AM to 5:00 PM, or email to schedule an appointment. For additional resources and information, visit