e-Learning for e-Inclusion: Promoting digital literacy for disadvantaged people
e-Learning can make a major impact for social inclusion. It provides access to education and training opportunities for all, in particular for those who have access problems for social, economic, geographic or other reasons.
ICT offers possibilities of transforming the learning paradigm and bringing knowledge to those who have not earlier been able to participate in education. eLearning can also play a significant role in implementing the concept of flexible and individualised learning, answering individual education needs, and avoiding the limitations of current systems, based mainly on pre-defined options.
Disadvantaged people must not be left behind - as an essential element of life-long learning, digital literacy is also needed by those neither in employment, nor in education. Frequently standard ICT courses will not attract them as they are offered in an environment that they would not enter, because they are too costly, or because the curricula does not fit to their special training needs.
The challenge concerns not only IT training for jobs, but also very basic knowledge. People at risk of social exclusion, and more in general,
technologically shy late-adopters, should learn how to use the Internet and on-line services. The current situation indicates room for improvement.
The lack of basic competence can be a psychological barrier to take the very first step even for those who could afford Internet-access. The high number of non-users that believes that the Internet is too complicated underlines this. Thus, it is important to address these people in an accustomed environment or in "neutral" surroundings which are not related to education or training. It is also important that trainers understand their specific learning problems.
For people less familiar with technical adaptation, it is also essential to be trained in a practical way targeted to their specific needs, rather than receiving a systematic and technical introduction. Initiatives should focus on the simple use of applications that improve the standard of living, such as basic competence for on-line public services.
Further, the specific needs of persons with disabilities need to be considered.
Certificates are clearly an incentive for learning and are a proof of skills valuable for jobs. This is particularly the case if the certificate is widely recognised like the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL). As this may be too comprehensive for some, ECDL Ireland Ltd has also developed a simpler on-line test for late adopters.
Pooling teaching competencies by a network of learning centres proves to be an important way to spread digital learning facilities at large scale, including disadvantaged areas which might otherwise not have access to appropriate training tools.
This text is a fragment, corresponding to chapter 2.3, from the Document "eInclusion. The Information Society's potential for social inclusion in Europe", adopted in september 2001 as a European Commission Staff Working Oaper.