As we have done before, we will be applying the lessons learnt from previous rounds to help projects maximise their effect. Key areas to consider include:
- Engagement and reach
- Participants’ barriers and support needs
- Length and style of delivery
1. Engagement and reach
Challenges have been reported in engaging the right participants and maintaining attendance throughout the project. When evaluating their activity, the marketing and promotion of opportunities was the most common thing previous projects said they would do differently.
Solutions have included offering short information sessions in advance of the actual course. These can be evening talks, brief presentations at other organisations, etc. One group suggested pop-up events in coffee shops. Partnerships with other organisations and more formal referral routes are seen as fruitful ways of reaching the right people to support. In particular, referrals from Jobcentre Plus have been identified as the best way to reach unemployed people. ESOL classes have been suggested as an appropriate source of referrals for people also facing English language barriers.
For older people, we have consistently recorded the importance of digital sessions being embedded within other activities they are already doing in order to alleviate fears and make digital more attractive and accessible.
2. Participants’ barriers and support needs
Practical barriers to participation, alongside those of digital exclusion, have been identified, such as childcare or transport issues. “The three most common barriers, however, were language, confidence, and motivation. As a result, the overwhelming feeling amongst projects is that one-to-one support, or support to a small group of people in similar situations, is necessary.”
Language barriers amongst participants for whom English is not their first language necessitate both bilingual workshops – i.e. led by trainers who can speak participants’ first language – and close support, either one-to-one or in small groups.
Two areas to overcome confidence barriers have been identified as important. Meeting people ‘where they are at’, both in their skills and their confidence, and ensuring that participants are at similar levels of skills and confidence when they start the training. This ensures that classes are pitched in the right way, but also creates “a positive learning environment in which they could bounce ideas off each other without feelings of inferiority or embarrassment.” In order to do this, many projects shared the view that “an initial assessment of learners’ needs and existing skills is essential to setting the appropriate pace of learning for individual learners.”
Beyond lack of confidence, people might have little desire to acquire digital skills. In some cases, this is out of fear or mistrust of the internet. The solution, many projects found, was twofold. Firstly, explicitly, to tackle worries about security with digital security training and secondly, to highlight the usefulness of digital skills to those that are unconvinced.
1 to 1 or small groups necessary
A quarter of all groups explicitly identified one-to-one (preferably) or small group learning as the necessary approach to digital inclusion training for vulnerable or digitally excluded groups, from ‘day one’.
Within this, different approaches have been used:
- One-to-one sessions combined with a group session
- One-to-one sessions initially, then progressing to a group session
- Group sessions plus one-to-one peer mentoring
Projects feel strongly about the need for one-to-one support. One commented: “In the beginning we did classes of 3-4 volunteers but after discussions our tutor relayed back that our volunteers were reluctant to discuss their IT knowledge and abilities among their peers. We then reduced the classes to one-to-ones and found volunteers were more open when discussing their abilities and with their questions, and concentration levels were raised.”
3. Length and style of delivery
There is no consensus for appropriate length for learning sessions, however shorter sessions (maximum 60min) are seen by many groups as being conducive to better concentration and engagement by participants.
Participant input has been recognised as important to ensure that the delivery of the training is tailored to participants’ needs and preferences. Whilst this is easier within the context of one-to-one training, it can also be done in a small group level. For example, by:
- Delivering courses at the request of members (particularly in embedded training)
- Using self-assessment questionnaires
- Participants setting their own goals
- Self-guided learning
Using familiar devices
Linked to the above preference, where possible, has been orientated towards using participants’ own devices, or ones that they can access more easily outside the training environment. They should of course be matched to the type of activity required. Laptops would be more appropriate for text heavy activities such as learning how to complete a Universal Credit or Job Application form. Tablets, with greater levels of inbuilt accessibility, bigger screens, cameras etc. make them more appropriate for social inclusion activity.
It was recognised by projects that learning and confidence-building must be reinforced outside the formal training. In particularly successful projects, some participants asked for this themselves and even took the opportunity to carry on with informal out of group meetings or social media contact. This is more likely if there is an additional motivation, such as the continuation of personal and group projects.