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UMD Launches Guides for Marylanders to Navigate Online Government Services

By Julie Slivka

A series of free, online e-government courses launched by the University of Maryland College of Information Studies and University of Maryland Extension will help state residents learn how to use online government services, like applying for food stamp benefits through SNAP and Temporary Cash Assistance programs.

The repository of self-guided training modules targets people who have difficulty navigating the internet or other digital platforms. It also focuses on workforce development, including modules that guide users on how to easily register for the Maryland Workforce Exchange, and provides help accessing Maryland Health Connection, the state’s health insurance marketplace.

“Our curriculum is like a blueprint, guiding users through each step of the learning journey,” said Digital Literacy Instruction Designer Uhjin Sim, who spearheaded the project with information sciences doctoral candidate Nitzan Koren.

The project is part of Marylanders Online, a collaboration between the extension and college supported by state funding to bridge the digital divide throughout Maryland by promoting digital equity. It helps people get connected with devices, affordable internet, self-directed and guided training curricula, and ongoing technical support.

A 2022 Stakeholder Needs Assessment Survey conducted by the college’s associate dean of faculty, 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 COVID-19 pandemic. People shifted to online interactions, but there were barriers in their accessibility and usability, and gaps in knowledge for those who needed them.

The project team hopes that the new e-government courses will inspire other states to adopt these methods and adapt to their residents’ changing needs.

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