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Digital skills

Evaluating online and computer skills projects
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Digital and ICT (information communication technology) skills are an increasingly important aspect of everyday life. In fact, digital literacy has been highlighted as a key emerging need in our Foresight work. We’ve been supporting communities to develop these skills through a number of programmes, including:

By evaluating these programmes, we’re able to see how our programmes help people. We’ve also learnt what works and what the main challenges are. This learning helps us to target our funding to create the greatest impact going forward. It can also help you to plan your projects. Read on to find out more.

Benefits

Improving digital access and skills can bring a number of wider benefits, such as:

  • personal and social benefits -
    this can be as a result of maintaining personal contact through email, for example.
  • learning -
    learning new skills can help with job applications and employment itself
  • access to e-Government and internet-based information services -
    as more information and services go online, it’s important to ensure access for all
  • confidence -
    gaining new digital skills increases self-confidence.

Planning for success

Our evaluations have highlighted some of the important factors in building successful digital projects. These include:

  • ensuring training is well-aligned to day-to-day skills needs
  • involving users in developing projects
  • targeting needs and community objectives - successful projects need to do more than just provide access to information and learning opportunities. They need to meet the needs of target audiences
  • robust institutional partnerships
  • strong project direction and management
  • effective, knowledgeable project teams
  • recognising the importance of learner support and on-site technical support.

Challenges

Recognising challenges helps us to address them clearly in future projects. Some key challenges our projects have faced include:

  • the time involved in careful planning which can delay projects
  • relying on short-term contracted staff to deliver projects which can make continuity more difficult after funding finishes
  • working as a consortium can have challenges - time-tabling joint activities and building consensus can lead to delays. The increased bureaucracy and compromised decisions can also be problematic.

More about the research

Here we’ve highlighted just some of our learning from our digital skills research. We have a variety of research reports focused on our digital programmes. Below is a little more about the research. Further details are available under Publications.

Community Grids for Learning

Launched in 2000, the Community Grids for Learning programme helped people use ICT. We invested £5.2 million in the programme which encouraged lifelong learning. It used new community-based web content to help people access learning opportunities.

Digitisation of Learning Materials

We launched Digitisation of Learning Materials in 1999. This was a £50 million investment that helped make learning materials available, free of charge, online.

In 2004 we commissioned Education for Change to evaluate our Digitisation of Learning Materials and Community Grids for Learning programmes.

The People’s Network

We invested £100 million in the People’s Network programme. This supported ICT learning in public libraries by providing ICT equipment and internet connections. We’ve also supported public library staff to use ICT themselves and to support library users.

In April 2002, we appointed the Tavistock Institute to evaluate our ICT training for public library staff programme and our People’s Network programme.

Publications

Digitisation of Learning Materials evaluation
ICT programmes evaluation
ICT programmes second year report
ICT programmes second year report summary
The People’s Network evaluation summary

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