Each year, ECDL Foundation honours examples of excellence and best practice in implementing the ECDL and ICDL programmes around the world with the Best Practice Awards. The task of picking the winners falls to delegates to the annual ECDL Foundation Forum, and this year the challenge was as tough as ever, with entries from eighteen countries around the world, in four categories: ECDL / ICDL in the Workplace, ECDL / ICDL in Education, ECDL / ICDL in Society and Marketing.
Over the years, the Best Practice Awards have acknowledged many initiatives and projects that are considered as exceptional examples of the implementation of ECDL Foundation programmes, which help to increase levels of digital literacy, and which promote ECDL and ICDL.
ECDL / ICDL in the Workplace
There are few places where the importance of digital skills, and the danger of the digital skills gap, is more profound, than the workplace. Ever fewer jobs remain untouched by computers, and ICT skills are as essential to the world of work as basic literacy and numeracy. The ECDL / ICDL in the Workplace category highlights innovative projects and initiatives that have led to noticeable improvements in the levels of digital literacy in the workplace, and which improve the effectiveness of employees and contribute positively to the overall efficiency of the organisations for which they work.
ICDL Colombia won first place in this category, with a project to train and certify over 1,000 instructors at the national education service, to ICDL standards. In second place, was ECDL Cyprus, with an initiative to bring ECDL to seafarers using satellite technology.
Digital Skills for 1,000 Instructors at SENA
With a goal of strengthening the ICT competences of instructors at SENA, the national education service of Colombia, ICDL Colombia partnered with SENA to implement a project to help over 1,000 instructors gain the most benefit from investments in classroom technological infrastructure, by training and certifying them to ICDL standards. The project also aimed to help instructors impact their learners positively using ICT, regardless of the subject being taught. The project has also helped spread ICDL in Colombia, with Accredited Test Centres in all of the states where SENA has a presence. According to Carlos Martínez, a SENA Training Centre Coordinator, ICDL “will allow the instructors to be internationally qualified for a global teaching performance.”
The other winning project in the ECDL / ICDL in the Workplace category, in second-place, was an initiative by ECDL Cyprus to help seafarers to develop their digital skills while at sea. The project, in partnership with OTESAT-Maritel, offers ECDL via satellite links to crews of merchant vessels worldwide. Highlighting that digital skills are essential, no matter where you work, the project lets crew, from masters to engineers and workers, use their free time productively and improve their occupational prospects. The Master of one tanker remarked that, “After 4 months travelling at sea, I have managed not only to earn an ECDL certification recognised internationally, but also in parallel, to be able to use the Master’s personal PC and the installed applications needed for the ongoing daily communication with my shipping company at shore side.”
ECDL / ICDL in Education
Developing digital skills and confidence with ICT tools at an early age is essential to ensuring that young people are not left digitally illiterate. We have written frequently about the dangers of the fallacy of ‘digital natives’, where young people are assumed to be innately digitally competent, and about the importance of e-skills at school. The ECDL / ICDL in Education category of the Best Practice Awards recognises successful projects or initiatives in the education sector, from all levels of school education, further and higher education, and adult and continuing education, which help improve the effectiveness of education and can equip young people with essential digital skills for life.
As an excellent example of best practice in using ICDL in education, the Computer Society of Zimbabwe won first place in this category with a project to pilot the new ICDL ICT in Education module. In second place, ECDL Romania were acknowledged for their initiative to teach high-school students how to use 3D printing technology.
Certifying Teachers’ Digital Skills in Zimbabwe
In Zimbabwe, the new ICDL ICT in Education module was piloted in teacher training colleges, including Seke Teachers’ College. The college, which is a Government National Primary Training College, located about 26 kilometres south-east of Harare, ran the pilot project between January and March 2016, with very positive results. A trainer at the college praised the module, saying, “The module is exactly what we need. It will improve the skills of our learners.” Teacher training colleges in Zimbabwe are now keen to take up the module, with one college deciding that 600 final year students should take the module, with wider adoption as the module becomes fully available.
In Romania, students at several high schools had the opportunity to learn about 3D printing, thanks to an initiative of ECDL Romania to develop a pilot training programme. Predicting that 3D printing skills will become more demanded in the near-future, ECDL Romania ran the project to teach topics including designing with 3D modelling using computers, and gave students the opportunity to print their designs. Speaking at an event for the project in June 2015, the Romanian Minister of Education said, “Not only for high school graduates, but also for university graduates, as they become employees, demonstrating that they have mastered the knowledge of new technologies is a key criterion for employment. So, keep going on this road.”
ECDL / ICDL in Society
As the need for digital skills becomes ever more integral to our daily lives, it is essential that everyone has the opportunity to develop their digital competences and abilities. The cost of being left behind, on the wrong side of a digital divide, is too high. The ECDL / ICDL in Society category of the Best Practice Awards acknowledges innovative projects or initiatives that promote access to ICT skills for all, and which help marginalised, disadvantaged or excluded groups to participate in society and the workplace, ensuring that society benefits from a digitally skilled population.
This year’s winners in the category were OCG, the Austrian ECDL National Operator, in first place with a project to bring ECDL and language-lessons to newly arrived refugees, and the Computer Society of Zimbabwe in second place with an initiative to bring ICDL to orphans in a rural area.
‘OCG Cares’ Project Helps Newly Arrived Refugees in Austria
OCG’s project, ‘OCG Cares’, was awarded first place in the category for an initiative that aimed to equip newly arrived refugees in Austria with digital skills and an improved understanding of the German language. The overall goal was to facilitate the integration of refugees into Austrian society and the labour market, by giving them the opportunity to build essential workplace skills that are in demand. By conducting training in German, the participants also had the opportunity to develop their abilities with the language, helping them to settle into their new home in Austria. One trainer on the project remarked that, “I am proud to see how people from different cultures help each other and become a close-knit community, overcoming language barriers in their common aim to learn IT skills, the German language and our culture because they really want to integrate into their new environment.”
Coming in second place was a project to empower orphans with digital skills and give them a chance to lead a fulfilling life. Working in partnership with the Dzikwa Trust, the Computer Society of Zimbabwe brought ICDL to a local ICT hub, the Dzikwa ICT Centre. From initially delivering ICDL to students of the Dzikwa Trust, the project is now having a positive impact on the whole community, making digital skills certification available to local people, with presentations in local churches, the police and the clinic.
A number of studies have shown that there are often incorrect assumptions made about the level of digital skills that people have, whether it be in society, education or the workplace. Advocating the importance of developing digital skills and the benefits that digital skills certification can bring is an essential part of the work to raise ICT competences that ECDL forms part of. The Marketing category of the Best Practice Awards recognises effective marketing and communications activities and campaigns that help bring the benefits of demonstrating ICT skills through ECDL or ICDL to a greater audience.
The first-place winner in the Marketing category this year was ECDL Switzerland, with a major study of digital skills that compared self-assessed and actual digital skills, finding that a large majority of participants overestimated their skills. AICA, the ECDL National Operator in Italy, won second-place in the category with a project to promote IT security among young people using the ECDL IT Security module.
Danger of Self-Assessing Digital Skills Highlighted in Switzerland
As one of a number of studies of digital skills, comparing perceived and real abilities, ECDL Switzerland’s winning entry emphasised the importance of certification as an accurate measure of a person’s ICT skills. In the study, conducted in 2015 with a representative sample of the Swiss population, 78% of participants overestimated their digital competences. In practical tests of their skills, participants only managed to score, on average, 46%. Gaining widespread attention in the Swiss media, the study raised awareness of ECDL. Some schools have even used the results of the study to establish ECDL as an optional subject.
While there are clearly significant issues around levels of digital skills overall, there are also specific areas where skills shortages and gaps are particularly noticeable or problematic: IT security is one of these areas, and AICA, the Italian ECDL National Operator, won second place in the Marketing category for their project to provide all high school students with the competences to use the web safely. As part of the project, students were given access to an e-learning platform to train for the ECDL IT Security module, and had the opportunity to take the certification test for the module for free. The project, which is ongoing, will reach around 3,000,000 high school students across Italy, raising the level of knowledge about staying safe online, and encouraging students to progress on to study other ECDL modules.
The delegates to ECDL Forum each year are presented with a difficult task in choosing the winners of the Best Practice Awards. While there can only be eight winning entries each year, there are very many more examples of excellence in using ECDL and ICDL to raise the level of digital skills around the world. We’re looking forward to seeing the range of best practices that will take place over the coming year.