Instructors from the Vermont State Colleges (VSC) offered a range of basic digital skills workshops in e-Vermont communities. VSC presented more than 60 workshops, supplemented with a webinar series and basic tutorial videos.
Although their workshops ultimately reached 450 Vermonters, VSC also saw a need to address basic digital skills in a way that better incorporated elements of:
1.) Emphasis on 1:1 assistance: Across the board beginners preferred individual attention.
2.) Instruction offered when the learner has a particular question – like looking for a job or communicating with grandchildren. These hooks don't only drive beginners to find instruction, they also keep them practicing online so that the instruction translates to actual learning.
3.) Attention to options for self teaching: Many adult learners will not have time for a series of structured classes in digital literacy. There are effective tutorials online for learning Internet basics, which means that if a new learner in a 1:1 setting can master the threshold skills required to get to those tutorials they can continue to learn on their own.
The Community College of Vermont developed two new programs, Internet Interns and iConnect, to better provide these elements. The reach of CCV academic centers, within 25 miles of 95% of Vermont residents, allowed for a quick roll out of these new programs during the project's second year, reaching e-Vermont communities and the network of organizations working with e-Vermont.
An indirect outcome of this digital literacy work was the beginner friendly web design toolkit, a guide to making sites that are easy for Internet beginners to navigate.
Through the Internet Interns program, VSC placed trained student interns in 14 libraries in e-Vermont towns. Interns provided over 360 hours of one-on-one assistance to patrons plus instruction to library staff and volunteers. Some libraries worked with students to design additional programs, such as reaching out to home schooling groups for small group sessions, bringing mobile computer labs to senior lunches, and offering a “KindleGarten” workshop.
Advantages of this format included:
- Ability to offer 1:1 assistance
- Regular hours in a familiar location that encouraged learners to seek assistance as they needed it
- Assistance tailored to a learner’s interest, increasing the likelihood that they would practice the new skills
- Assistance offered at a public Internet access point, where beginners could return to get online and practice outside of interns’ hours
While libraries have wanted to offer this type of assistance, many lack the staff and volunteer capacity. The partnership with VSC solved this problem. In recognition of the innovative collaboration between the Vermont State Colleges and Department of Public Libraries to meet a previous unmet need, the Vermont Community Foundation awarded an Innovation and Collaboration grant to extend Internet Interns into the 2012-2013 school year.
The Internet Interns extension will allow time to expand on the lessons learned in the 2012 pilot and continuous to build a model that other libraries might follow.
In the second year of e-Vermont, the Community College of Vermont (CCV) developed the iConnect training program to teach skills for working with Internet beginners. Participants in the training learn:
- Different ways of measuring and assessing digital literacy
- Awareness of obstacles for Internet beginners as they first start to navigate the online world, including accessibility issues
- Communication skills for walking beginners through specific online tasks
- Core Internet skills a beginner needs to start learning more on their own
- Recommended resources and tutorials that will help Internet beginners improve their skills at their own convenience
Participants in iConnect trainings have included library staff and volunteers, volunteers working with seniors, assistance providers for Vermonters accessing state benefits, state government employees, customer service providers, supervisors in organizations switching to online processes, and individuals interested in helping family and friends.
In spring, 2012, CCV and VCRD developed an online toolkit that allows any organization to offer their own iConnect training. Materials can be modified as needed.
Some iConnect materials are also used independently of the training. For example:
- Computer Basics Manual - illustrating basic computer concepts, using images that are consistant across e-Vermont materials
- Glossary of Computer & Internet Terms
- Recommended Online Tutorials
- Handout on How to Reach a Website - Can be modified to show steps to reach any website
The iConnect training is focused on how to offer a very basic introduction to getting online and navigating a website. For those interested in a more detailed train the trainer program we recommend exploring these additional resources.