Back to Basics

by | Sep 2, 2010 | Articles

1/5th of the UK population has never been online – How does this impact your e-learning strategy and what can you do about it? 

Internet adoption in increasing at a staggering pace and a national collective confidence is growing in the use of a communication medium that was relatively unknown less than a decade ago. This has to be good news for those looking to bring the benefits of the internet to workplace learning.
When employees are already using the web to browse for ideas on how to improve their home, connect with fellow enthusiasts around their favourite hobby or share photos or ideas with friends, it shouldn’t be such a great leap to start to use the web to search, learn, connect and share to build performance in the workplace. I am not denying that it is a challenge to make that leap but the majority of our audience has at least overcome the first hurdle of getting involved in new ways of communicating, even if it is outside of work.

However there are over 10 million of the UK’s residents who have never used the web. Unsurprisingly, the government are very interested in this as it impacts social mobility, unemployment and the extent to which they can migrate to providing services online. As a result they have invested £30 million to address the issue through programmes such as Race Online 2012. The more society can operate online, the more benefits we have for individuals, families and the economy as a whole, for example did you know that research shows that :

  • People with good ICT skills earn between 3% and 10% more than people without them.
  • If every non internet user in employment got online, each of them would increase their earnings by an average of over £8,300 in their lifetime and deliver between £560 million and £1,680 million of overall economic benefit
  • The cost to business (or government) for engaging with customers shows that it can cost  £18 for a face to face interaction , £3.30 by phone, £12.10 by letter  but only 8p online.

Poor ICT skills are still a  barrier to successful e-learning adoption!

But if a  fifth of the UK’s population has never been online, what is the knock on effect for those of us who work in learning and development? It’s true that a significant proportion of the 10 million are unlikely to be in our current audience – for example the, the unemployed or retired. But when e-learning is the fastest growing training medium for UK corporates  and learning technologies are  increasingly being used for company wide initiatives such as induction, compliance and collaborative performance improvement , this statistic must start to take effect on the uptake & success of our work.
We are seeing evidence of that already- over the past 6 years, through our Towards Maturity Benchmark we’ve been tracking the barriers to e-learning adoption and whilst poor ICT skills for staff has never really made it into the top 3 barriers to adoption, it is a factor that still contributes .18% of organisations participating in our 2010 benchmark citing poor ict skills amongst top barriers to successful e-learning adoption.

On the other hand overall reluctance by users to learn with new technology is one of the top barriers – a lack of confidence in the very basics of using technology may contribute to that reluctance.  When a number of staff have never had an email account , opened a web browser or even used a mouse- they are likely to be highly skeptical about learning new skills online! So what can we do about that?

Getting staff to first base

When it comes to supporting general IT and web user skills, our latest benchmark  shows that over 80% of us provide staff with training (including email and internet safety)  and most of them are using e-learning to help with the delivery. But is this enough to encourage reluctant first time users to get online & experience the web for themselves? Probably not

Government research shows a number of reasons why people don’t get online – 59% of  just people don’t see a reason to an a quarter of people say that they just don’t have the skills.  I don’t think that these statistics can be ignored in business and given the need to keep skills up to date and the investment we are currently making in learning technologies to achieve our goals. Maybe it’s time that we revisit how we can encourage staff to get online for the first time.
4 areas to address

One of our challenges in getting staff on line for the first time is that we can’t really use the web which means that we need to think about other ways of engaging with staff. There are probably 4 areas that need to be considered as we approach the challenge – how do we improve staff confidence in using the web? What do we need to do to address staff motivation? How can we get other staff to help and support? how can we increase access to technology?

The high profile of the government agenda to help get 10 million people online has resulted in a number of initiatives  that provide ideas and resources that can be shamelessly plagiarised to support business!

At the end of this article, there are some links to some of the more high profile initiatives that you can tap into but we have also produced a simple checklist of ideas that can be introduced in the workplace  . Here are just a few ideas from that list to help you get started:

Improving staff confidence

  • If online confidence is to improve we need to be able to engage staff, refer them to resources that can really help them and support them on their journey.  There is a certain amount that the L&D department can do by itself
  • Run regular lunchtime sessions for a season that will allow staff to be open about their needs and explore the opportunities of the web.
  • Don’t take on all the responsibility on yourself – who else is connecting your staff? who is trusted and shares your vision?- Union learning reps are a great example , if they haven’t already got a programme in place, work together to provide local advocates with basic coaching skills resources to help them engage with staff..

Improving motivation

Providing relevant  incentives can really contribute to staff motivation

  • for new staff who may not be computer users, why not build links to supporting resources  into your job offer letters?
  • Once on board, build free resources & available support into your induction
  • Recognition of achievements is a powerful motivator – City & Guilds provide an Award in Online basics for £6 which can be used as credit towards Foundation Learning or ITQ qualifications

How can we get others involved?

Poor basic online confidence doesn’t just impact the learning & Development department, it has a knock on effect throughout business . It isn’t an agenda to tackle alone- why not

  • Engage with snr execs, PR and marketing to launch internal awareness campaign
  • Create an information kit for line managers so they know where to point people to
  • Leverage opportunity of national campaigns, for example why not use the National Get Online Week in October to focus attention internally on the issue – see box out for more ideas

Improving access

Get creative about improving awareness about where staff can to access the internet – if they can’t access it at work, help them to find alternatives such as uk online centers  or public libraries. Does your company recycle and refurbish old IT – is it possible for staff with no access to take advantage of that scheme?

The current resources from programmes like Pass IT on will be tremendously useful for those in L&D looking to build basic online skills in the workplace. I am also an advocate of using really great e-learning content as a means of  engaging staff to go online and have written about this several times in this magazine. For example we covered a story a while back that looked at how a facilitated online programme on parenting not only helped to address the participants parenting skills but also introduced computers for the first time and led to many wanting to improve their computer skills. Perhaps that is one area where our government can leverage the skills and expertise from the L&D professionals !

Get involved nationally

Race Online 2012

Race Online 2012 is the national challenge to bring people and organisations together to to make the UK the first nation in the world where everyone can use the web. Championed by Martha Lane Fox, the UK digital champion, Race Online 2012  are looking for partners who will pledge to get active in getting individuals online and have plenty of research and resources to help. http://raceonline2012.org/.

Pass IT On

This site a range of free resources to help individuals get someone started online. The whole idea is to get someone interested, introduce them to a computer and then help them build their online basic skills. Pass IT On resources can be used by staff to help each other, their family members, customers and wider community to get online. Lots of free marketing collateral and toolkits at www.helppassiton.co.uk/

UK Online

UK online have over 3,500 centres in the UK where individuals can go to get support in getting online – they also have developed a range of free online basics courses which can be used by advocates as part of an internal campaign to get staff online.

www.ukonlinecentres.com

National Get Online Week – 18 – 24 October

National Get online week takes place between 18 and 24 October, and aims to give anyone and everyone the chance to get started with computers and the internet.  More than 3,000 local events will be taking place across the country.  If you want to get involved then contact www.ukonlinecentres.com/getonlineweek to find out more details

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