The Digital Skills, Workforce towards Technology for Learning and Development: A Survey Experiences and Attitudes of the Northern Ireland Social Care

Jonathan Synnott, Mairead Harkin, Brenda Horgan, Andre McKeown, David Hamilton, Declan McAllister, Claire Trainor, CD Nugent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Background: Continual development of the Social Care workforce is a key element in enabling better outcomes for the people who use Social Care services. As delivery of Social Care services continues to benefit from innovation and development in assistive technologies, it is important that the digital capabilities of the Social Care workforce are in alignment. Policy makers have highlighted the importance of the use of technology to support workforce learning and development and have highlighted the need to ensure the workforce has the necessary digital skills to fully benefit from such offerings.
Objective: This work aims to identify the digital capability of the regulated Social Care workforce in Northern Ireland and to explore the workforce’s appetite and barriers for the use of technology for learning and development. This study was designed to answer the following research questions: 1. What is the digital capability of the regulated Social Care Workforce in Northern Ireland? 2. What is the workforce’s appetite to participate in digital learning and development? 3. If there are barriers to the uptake of technology for learning and development, what are those barriers?
Methods: A survey was created and distributed to the Northern Ireland Social Care workforce. This survey collected 127 metrics which described demographics, basic digital skills level, technology confidence and access, factors influencing learning and development, experience with digital learning solutions, in addition to perceived value and challenges of the use of technology for learning.
Results: The survey was distributed from 13/12/2018 until 18/01/19. 775 survey respondents completed the survey. The results indicated a workforce which has an overall high level of self-reported basic digital skills and confidence. Face-to-face delivery of learning is still the most common method of accessing learning (83.7%), however this is closely followed by digital learning (79.0%). There was found to be a negative correlation between age and digital skills (rs = -0.262, p < .001), and a positive correlation between technology confidence and digital skills (rs = 0.482, p < .001). There was a negative correlation between age and the perceived value of technology (rs = -0.088, p = 0.021). The results also indicated a largely motivated workforce in which a considerable portion are already engaging in informal digital learning. The results did indicate that lower self-reported basic digital skills and confidence were associated with less interest in engagement with E-learning tools, and that a portion of the workforce would benefit from additional basic digital skills training.
Conclusions: These promising results provide a positive outlook for the potential of digital learning and development within the Social Care workforce. The findings provide clear areas of focus for the future use of technology for learning and development of the Social Care workforce, and considerations to maximize engagement with such approaches.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalJMIR Medical Education
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 4 Feb 2020

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