The challenges of starting a digital learning programme during Covid-19

The challenges of starting a digital learning programme during Covid-19

Digital Horizons was one of the first programmes I worked on with ClearCommunityWeb, a social enterprise that provides digital advice and support to community groups, older people, vulnerable adults and carers. Digital Horizons started as an idea, to run a 12 week introductory training programme in using a tablet to help people get connected during Covid. 

The challenges of starting a digital learning programme during a pandemic with learners who have limited or no prior knowledge, their own individual needs, barriers and fears of technology is a complex process. I will navigate you through this journey, and unpack some of the key questions we faced along the way. 

Setting the Scene 

When we think of the horizon, it can feel like something distant, something unreachable. Sailing off into the sunset is an idyllic ending for a film. This voyage into the unknown is not fiction, it is not always peaceful or easy, and it is set in South East London. 

To be precise, the boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark and Croydon, where our beneficiaries start their journey of discovery with us. It can be bumpy, and comes with its own unique challenges, but with a bit of encouragement from our side and a lot of courage from theirs, it is possible. 

Martin, one of our other beneficiaries that joined our Digital Awareness For Older People classes during lockdown shared his experience with us, 

“It just seemed like another world I didn’t understand. So reluctantly, and with a bit of anxiety I got in touch with you and you’ve made it seem actually reachable. Which I very much appreciate. It’s something I could connect with, so that’s a big step forward. It’s not out of reach, because I really thought I was being left behind by the modern world.”  

Is there such a thing as the right device? 

Using a device for the first time can be daunting, overwhelming and scary. Caspar Kennerdale, the Managing Director of ClearCommunityWeb has likened this experience to, 

“If I walk into a DIY shop, I’m confused, I’m anxious, I don’t want to buy the wrong thing… It’s all the same thing but a different subject matter.”   

As a social enterprise, we don’t always have the luxury of purchasing the latest release or up to date model, and if we did I am not sure we would. Tablets have been the device of choice for this programme, due to being compact, with a larger screen and are generally easier to use. But they come in all different shapes, sizes, weights and price tags. 

Finding the most accessible and affordable option for a group that all have their own needs requires a bit of ‘trial and error’, we may need to return to the DIY shop a few times before we find the right drill bit or wall plug, may even make a few mistakes along the way. Its only through trying, and learning, that we find the right match. 

Can you identify the problem when you can’t see it? 

This can be the most challenging part of running a programme remotely. Asking someone to describe what they can see when they don’t know what they are looking at can take a few attempts. Solving the problem is the easy bit, figured out what the problem actually is, that’s a lot trickier. 

When technology feels so familiar, its easy to think its easy, but it really isn’t. The fundamentals have to be stripped right down, from writing ‘.’ instead of ‘dot’ in an email address or describing how to carefully close a pop up ad so not to be led down a rabbit hole for the remainder of the class. 

We don’t always get it right the first time, it takes patience, empathy and determination from both sides to support someone on to a Zoom class or log into their email for the first time. Its like piecing together a puzzle, it takes problem-solving and team work. The moment when you see their smiling faces on the computer screen, the feeling of happiness, pride and relief, makes it all worth it.   

How do you build relationships without meeting in person? 

We have run different piloted formats of Digital Horizons, a volunteer befriending programme and online group classes over Zoom but we do look ahead to running classes in person again. 

Like most things at the moment, it will be different but having the opportunity to actually meet learners in person, observe how they interact with the tablet and have that in-person teacher/learner relationship will make our work a lot easier and far less time consuming. 

We have all experienced, at some point, the cringing silence of a Zoom video call, the desperation on a facilitators face as they painfully pry responses from a shy virtual audience and the awkwardness of a breakout room with strangers whose video or audio is switched off. Developing relationships with a new group in the “real world” is hard, doing it on a screen is excruciating. 

It took a few sessions for our online group to warm to each other, have the confidence to ask questions and contribute in the classes. We did get there in the end though, with a good dose of silly humour and small talk, every class now starts with joyful waves and friendly chit-chatter. Its strange to think we have met never before, and may never will, but will always have fond memories of sharing this time together.   

And the result…? 

Weekly activities were provided to help practice and inspire to use the technology outside of the class and this has been the difference in the uptake of learning. 

By the end of the course, learners feel more connected to the community, safer onlineless anxious around using technology and helped to develop problem solving skills.   

Elsie, since, has decided to purchase her own tablet and will seek advice from ClearCommunityWeb to find herself a suitable choice and will continue to attend the Digital Awareness for Older People classes.

The Digital Horizon programme is an excellent programme to attend, if you are nervous about anything digital, you will be assisted with tender loving care from a team of experts. So get involved! It is the place to be guys!’  

Zoom Basics: Joining a meeting on a computer

Zoom Basics: Joining a meeting on a computer

Joining a Meeting on a Computer

If you are using a desktop computer make sure you have a webcam, microphone and speakers connected – most laptops have these. 

If you have been invited to join a Zoom meeting or help a friend or family member there are two ways you can join via a desktop computer or laptop – link or meeting ID.

You will have been given by the person hosting the meeting either or both the link or meeting ID.

To join by link, click on the link you have been sent. Zoom will automatically open or install when you click on the link.

To join by meeting ID, open Zoom on your desktop computer or laptop, click join and enter the meeting ID you have been given. Or, you can visit the Zoom website (https://zoom.us/join) or click on the button below.

You may be required to enter a password to join a meeting – enter the password you have been given when prompted. 

Click on the buttons below for more information and test out joining a meeting.

Desktop computer or laptop

Joining a meeting

Try out a test meeting first

Video from Zoom

Other resources

Digital Unite: Introduction to Zoom Meetings

Digital Unite: Hosting a Zoom Meeting

Digital Unite: Technology Guides

Zoom Basics: Joining a meeting on a computer

Zoom Basics: Joining a meeting on a smart phone or tablet

Joining a Meeting on a Smart Phone or Tablet

Before you join a Zoom meeting on a smart phone or tablet you need to download the Zoom application – view our Zoom Basics: Downloading resource if you need help doing this. 

Once you have downloaded the Zoom application you can join a meeting on your smart phone or tablet in two ways – link or meeting ID.

You will have been given by the person hosting the meeting either or both the link and meeting ID.

To join by link, click on the link you have been sent. Zoom will automatically open when you click on the link.

To join by meeting ID, open Zoom on your smart phone or tablet, click join and enter the meeting ID you have been given. You can also visit the Zoom website (www.zoom.us/join) or click on the button below to join a meeting.

You may be required to enter a password to join a meeting – enter the password you have been given when prompted. 

Click on the buttons below for more information and test out joining a meeting.

Smart phone or tablet

Joining a meeting

Try out a test meeting first

Video from Zoom

Other resources

Introduction to Zoom Meetings

Hosting a Zoom Meeting

More Technology Guides

Zoom Basics: Joining a meeting on a computer

Zoom Basics: Joining a meeting by telephone

Joining a Meeting by telephone

If you have been invited to join a Zoom meeting or helping a friend or family member but don’t have a computer, smart phone or tablet then you can join a Zoom meeting by telephone. 

You will have been given by the person hosting the meeting a meeting ID – you need this unique number to join the meeting.

To join a meeting by telephone, dial the teleconferencing number provided in your invite. Enter the meeting ID when prompted using your dial pad.

You may be required to enter a password – enter the password you have been given when prompted. 

If you don’t have a teleconferencing number on your invite click on the “Find your local number” link in your invite or click on the button below.  

Depending on the hosts account you may be charged, if a number is toll-free it will say “Toll Free” next to the teleconferencing number in your invite.

Click on the buttons below for more information about charges, dial-in numbers and rates. 

Joining a meeting by telephone

Dial-in Numbers

Dial-in charges

Dial-in rates

Video from Zoom

Other resources

Digital Unite: Introduction to Zoom Meetings

Digital Unite: Hosting a Zoom Meeting

Digital Unite: Technology Guides

Zoom Basics: Joining a meeting on a computer

Zoom Basics: Mute and Stop Video

Mute and Stop Video

When you are in a Zoom meeting you can mute your audio so people can’t hear you or stop your video so people can’t see you.

You may want to mute your audio when there is background noise, you are talking to someone else in the room or the person hosting the meeting has asked you to.

To mute your audio, click or tab on the microphone button when it says “mute”. To unmute your microphone again, click or tab on the same button when it says “unmute”.

You may want to stop your video when you leave the room, you are talking to someone else in the room or the person hosting the meeting has asked you to.

To stop your video, click or tab on the video button when it reads “stop video”. To start your video again, click or tab on the same button when it says “start video”.

In a Zoom meeting, the microphone and video button is located on the left of the toolbar along the bottom of the screen.

Click on the buttons below for more information on Zoom controls, testing your audio and try out a test meeting.  

 

Attendee Controls

Testing computer or device audio 

Try testing your audio and video 

Video from Zoom

Other resources

Digital Unite: Introduction to Zoom Meetings

Digital Unite: Hosting a Zoom Meeting

Digital Unite: Technology Guides



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