MOOC Time Instead of Jail Time

A young defendant avoided jail on drug-related offences this past week after successfully completing a free online course on ALISON, a leading global free learning platform. “The pioneering use of free online learning could open up a wide range of new educational sanction options to judicial systems and breathe hope that this new positive sentencing instrument can keep minor offenders and others out of jail” says ALISON CEO, Mike Feerick.

PRESS RELEASE: Lockport, NY, March 12thnd 2016

Dylan Lewis, a 22 year old drug-offender stood before Judge William J. Watson of the City Court of Lockport, NY, in the 8th Judicial District of New York at 9.30am, Tuesday, March 1st. He was released from the threat of incarceration due to his having completed two business courses on the ALISON free online learning platform.

The proceedings were witnessed by Chuck Diemert, Literacy Coordinator for Orleans/Niagara BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services), who organized the diversion exercise mandated by Judge Watson two weeks earlier. Lewis completed the courses through home study and at the ONBOCES facility where he took course tests. 

Speaking of his decision to use free learning as a diversion instrument rather than commit the defendant to community service or jail, Judge Watson stated: “If we are to seriously consider how we can help young men and women not to re-offend, we must look to remedies that change minds, not just physical circumstances. Free online learning offers an instrument unavailable to courts to date and it must be explored.”

After court, Mr. Lewis stated that he had enjoyed the courses and would continue learning online. “It’s cool,” said Lewis. “I’m learning stuff beyond my high school education that I did not think was open to me. It gets you thinking of what you could do.”

Applauding the court’s landmark action, Mike Feerick, ALISON’s CEO who travelled from the company’s headquarters in Ireland to attend the court session, stated that: “Using free learning in such an innovative way opens a new world of understanding and capability for offenders, and most importantly, it does so at almost no cost to the state as the learning and basic certification process is free to access. It is a remedy that can be added to many correctional situations worldwide, helping to reduce recidivism among offenders.”

Orleans/Niagara BOCES representative Mr. Diemert said “As a literacy professional, what is most exciting about the ALISON solution is how quick and easy it is to administrate. Once you have the defendant’s email address you can assign them a free course. They can study at home, at a public library, or at facilities such as we provide. You then monitor their progress online and as the courses suggested are workplace skills based, a test can be administered in minutes to confirm compliance – and it’s an entirely free system to use. At Orleans/Niagara BOCES, we see widespread applicability for this solution and it is something our organization is pleased to help pioneer.”

Karen Cator, CEO of Digital Promise, non-profit organization originated by the U.S. Congress which introduced ALISON and Orleans/Niagara BOCES stated: "The partnership between Orleans/Niagara BOCES and ALISON is a great example of how the technology and adult education worlds can collaborate to serve learners who are often ignored. It is challenging to create specialized digital solutions and incentives for learners within the correctional system, and we are honored to help by bringing together developers like ALISON with adult education experts like ONBOCES to do just that.”




ALISON is one of the world’s largest free online learning platforms with 6 million learners and 750,000 graduates of its courses worldwide. Pioneering the MOOC (Massive Open Online Courseware) movement, ALISON provides 750 free courses at Diploma and Certificate level. It was founded by Mike Feerick in 2007 as a for-profit social enterprise. In July 2015, ALISON launched with the assistance of the US Department of Education and the US Workforce Board Community an Advanced Diploma for Work-Force Re-Entry. To learn more, please visit For further details about this Press Release, please contact Caroline Duggan, ALISON Media Relations at [email protected] or +353-87-997-1570

ONBOCES - the Boards of Cooperative Educational Services were created in 1948 by the New York Legislature (BOCES) to provide school districts with a program of shared educational services. The mission of the Orleans/Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services is to be the premier provider of innovation and effective solutions for the evolving needs of our component districts and other learning collaboratives. For further information contact Chuck Diemert, +1-716-

Digital Promise, also known as the National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies, is a non-profit organization originated by the U.S. Congress as part of the 2008 re-authorization of the Higher Education Opportunity Act. Its mission is to spur innovation to improve the opportunity to learn for all Americans. For further information about this press release or DP, please contact Erica Lawton at [email protected]