Earlier this year, Carers Support Merton (CSM) asked Superhighways to put together an 8-week course of basic online skills training to teach a group of members some essential skills that would help them to better access the organisation's digital services, like signing up to CSM e-news. 

We thought a short blog post would be a good place to discuss some of the issues raised and the learning from delivering a digital skills training course which would be a useful resource for any organisation considering a similar project.

  • Three in five people will be carers at some point in their lives in the UK.  Out of the UK's carers, 42% of carers are men and 58% are women.  
  • The economic value of the contribution made by carers in the UK is £132bn a year.  
  • By 2030, the number of carers will increase by 3.4 million (around 60%).   

Carers as learners can be:

  • Overwhelmed by duties of their role as carer.
  • Concerned about the impact of their respite care arrangements for the session.
  • Unable to fully justify to themselves and their dependants, why they need to take time off from their role to learn a new skill. 
  • Unable to continue to commit to complete the course due to any or all of the above.
"I am so sorry I am late again.  I come here because.... it is something I like doing. I tell everyone 'I won't be available for one and a half hours on a Tuesday, because I am doing something for me that I like doing.' I tell them it is my time... but still they don't listen. "

Quote from one of our learners at Hestia's Age Activity Centre in Wandsworth.

Simple adjustments you can to make as a trainer

Flexibility is key - standard classroom management faces great opposition.

 IssuesPracticeSolution
 

All mobiles to be switched off during training

It is difficult to insist mobile phones are turned off as per standard guidance.  

It has to be recognised that there is an element of co-dependency in carer/relative relationship as well as the additional risk that the phone call might be an urgent one.

Phones on silent is the best compromise.

 

Concentration and focus

This is always evident with students who have been away from either a work place environment or formal learning for any length of time. 

Use blended learning approaches and differentiation.

Change activities frequently

Show rather than tell 

 

Chatting

Carers need opportunities to talk about anything and everything outside their caring role. 

However this does not make for an easy teach. 

Create opportunities, but keep learners on topic and sharing their learning, and excitement

Allow for outbursts of frustration at the 'pesky skills' you are trying to teach.

It's all good stuff.

 

Scaremongering 

Encourage the sharing of Internet related 'horror scam/scandal stories'. 

Use the stories to myth bust

 

This last point around busting myths through some of the stories your learners share, opens up a rich area for conversation, and importantly gives everyone one a chance to express their own views.

And for you as the trainer or digital champion, it means you can steer the topics - unpicking the myths from the facts, and provide some advice and the safe steps to take in each scenario. 

  Tip Roundup: 

  • use these sessions engineer opportunities for learners to share their knowledge through pairs work, research and discussion 
  • Make sure everyone has the opportunity to feed back to the group 
  • Focus on issues related to your chosen topic for the current session or the next one

Use reliable, interactive, relevant training sites & resources

Learnmyway e-learning platform

As a member of the UK Online Centre Network since 2015, we have always used the excellent training resources available from Learnmyway to reinforce learning.  Each learner is signed up for an account early in the course and, subject to access to a PC,  can follow up after a training sessions at home or in the library on Learnmyway online learning platform.

Explainer videos rock

Superhighways has a licence to use Common Craft explainer videos - they are great resources to kick start discussions.  These are my current favourites:

Online basics - digital lifestyle

Explained by Common Craft

Part of becoming more digitally literate is adopting a digital lifestyle. That means using computers, devices and the internet to communicate and create. This video explains the basics of living a digital lifestyle.

Online basics: online identity

Explained by Common Craft

There are 2 basic versions of most websites, the version that anyone can see and the version that can only be seen by logging in. This video focuses on online identity and how it can be used to unlock the most powerful tools and services on the web.

One to one training sessions

Give follow up support by offering a one to one training session for each learner after the end of the course, to consolidate learning. This is also a great opportunity to signpost to other local training opportunities. And with your Digital Champions in place, provides continuity of support from your organisation. From experience of delivering one to one training sessions,  they also provide an opportunity to collect audio feedback ask well.

Get ongoing support for your learners - recruit and train your own digital champions

It is crucial to support any basic digital skills training you commission for your charity or community group, by training up some members of the staff team and/or volunteers, so that they can continue to support members and service users after the project is finished.

Carers Support Merton nominated two members of staff to support the 8 sessions. This worked brilliantly because all our learners already knew and trusted the staff, so were more relaxed from day one in the training room. 

Thanks Debbie and Newal for your amazing help and support.  Both have completed the Learnmyway Become a Digital Champion online learning and there is a plan to train the whole staff team before the next training.

Evaluation

Carers Support Merton were very keen to measure the impact of this digital skills training on their members in order to evidence learning to fund more training to support more members.  Fr

In order to provide a baseline to monitor progress and achievement, we used the recently agreed Essential Digital Skills framework which you can find on Gov.UK.  We started our assessment baseline using the Foundation Skills level, which everyone needs to have before they can start using these essential skills to: 

  • Communicate
  • Handle information and content
  • Transact 
  • Solve problems
  • Stay safe and legal online

 As the course progressed, we collected feedback after each session, which enabled us to tweak the content of the upcoming sessions. In practice while the digital skills for each session remained the same, the subject matter and context might change, so researching holidays becomes researching the cost of white goods like fridges. 

Analysis of feedback

One key indiciator of success from CSM perspective was that by the end of the training each attendee had a working email account and the skills to use it.  Another was that all the carers should sign up for CSM's e-news updates and bulletin.  On both counts the training worked, and if there have been any difficulties since these can be rectified at the one to one training sessions.

Having reviewed our data collection process, we will make some tweaks to the collection methods moving into a more digital format. 

  • Firstly we will ditch paper and use Office 365 forms to collect the responses. Obviously providing beginners with a tablet and a stylus will mean support on hand to help with using an online form and ticking the boxes.  This presents a great opportunity for the tutors to give a context to the digital skills and suggest different things this might apply to.
  • We will use ongoing, recorded observation in class by tutors to document learners completing skills and tasks.  This might be done either in screen shots or photographs or even an audio recording.