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Short IT courses welcomed as success


The Learning and Skills Development Agency has praised a programme of very short introductory IT courses as a success.

New research has evaluated a national initiative of 3 and 6 hour courses running in further education and adult colleges since spring 2000. The courses evaluated covered basic skills and introduction to learning courses as well as ICT – but the research findings focus on ICT.

Main findings
- There were 174,512 enrolments on short ICT courses in 2000/01 (in England), a large number for the first year of a new initiative. Nearly three quarters (73%) w ere people who were “new ” to learning, which includes a high proportion of people who had not been involved in learning since leaving school.

- Short ICT courses are four times more likely to attract men over 60 and three times more likely to attract w omen over 60 than other courses.

- Young people (aged 16-18) from ethnic minority backgrounds, particularly males, are more likely to enrol on short ICT courses than their white counterparts. Twenty per cent of learners aged betw een 16 and 18 were from minority ethnic groups, whereas only 10% of that age group in the population as a whole is from a minority ethnic group.About half of learners who enrolled on short ICT courses progressed to another ICT course, usually at a higher level. A key factor in encouraging progression was a positive first experience: only 17% of those w ho had a negative experience of their course progressed to another one.

- About 10% of people enrolling on ICT courses appear to have basic skills needs. This suggests that people feel more confident about admitting they need help with IT than with literacy or numeracy as there is less stigma attached. Front line staff (such as receptionists) as well as teaching staff need to be able to recognize people with basic skills needs and should be qualified to offer support.

- Most learners prefer a structured tutor-led approach and like to feel they have achieved something specific – they don’t like being “left to play”.

- Classes held close to home at venues (such as community-based learning centres) which don’t look like education institutions are preferred to those held on college premises, but they must have proper f acilities (e.g. equipment) and adequate tutor support.

Nearly three quarters (73%) of the 3- and 6-hour courses were free to all learners. They fell into three broad categories:
- true ‘tasters’ designed to increase confidence in using a computer
- introductory courses designed to prepare learners for progression to, say computing for beginners or a specific qualification like Computer Literacy and Information Technology (CLAIT)
- courses with more specific aims like “how to use a scanner”.

TrainingZONE says It's encouraging to see the uptake of ICT among previously less involved groups, but if this works so well, wouldn't a new ILA scheme be even better? The success of tutor-led training here also seems at odds with recent plans for free online ICT training. And where does this kind of initiative in colleges leave private IT training providers? Post your comments below.


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