Developing Digital Literacy in Adults

Shannon White, Siobhan Flynn, Michaela Black, Adrian Moore

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Digital literacy is defined as “the ability to understand and use information in multiple formats from a wide range of courses when it is presented via computers” [1]. In order to be considered digitally literate a person must have the following digital skills: the ability to manage information online, communicate via social media or email, perform transactions, create digital media from existing content and have the ability to solve problems that are encountered. However, approximately 35% of adults in Northern Ireland lack these basic skills [2]. This is higher than the UK average where 21% of the population is considered digitally literate. By 2020 the UK Government Digital Inclusion Strategy aims to reduce the digital illiteracy to under 10% [3].

IM HAPPY [4] is a project based in Coleraine, Northern Ireland, which aims to raise the aspirations and confidence of participants by providing a range of bite-sized IT modules to learners of all ages. Feedback from adult learners engaged on the IM HAPPY project indicated that there was a need for beginner adult computing courses in Coleraine to help build confidence and basic skills in technology. The project team responded to this feedback by offering courses such as ‘Introduction to Computers’ and ‘Effective Social Media’.
This paper analyses the feedback obtained from adult learners on the IM HAPPY programme. It also outlines the delivery method for the ‘Introduction to Computers’ course, the student profile and the overall success of the course as measured through confidence levels, pass rates and retention. The 12-week course was delivered three times to a total of 40 students aged 40+ across two community centres in Coleraine Neighbourhood Renewal Areas (NRAs) between September 2016 and March 2017. The course was tailored to suit the needs of the students by introducing material at a gentle pace with the aim of improving user confidence with technology. Simple concepts such as how to turn on a computer, use a mouse and keyboard and send emails were introduced. The students were split into groups and 3 to 4 mentors assisted the learners.

The findings of this study indicate that the delivery mechanism proved to be successful in improving participants’ confidence when using technology and an activity-led group-based setting is the most engaging when working with adult learners.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings from International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 16 Nov 2017


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