Telling us about their digitally delivered learning opportunities to help people into employment.
Important: Opinions expressed by Digital Pioneer interviewees are their own and don’t represent those of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.
Emma Whitelock, Chief Executive Officer at Lead Scotland tells us more…
Tell us about Tell us about Lead Scotland!
Emma: Lead Scotland is a voluntary organisation committed to the empowerment of disabled people and carers through learning, from age 16 through life, via our frontline services and Scotland wide helpline and information service. We support people who use our service to influence positive change in local and national policy, widening access to learning.
How have you been using digital?
Emma: Technology can offer a route to empowerment for many disabled people and we embrace it. We operate a home loan ICT scheme with laptops and tablets and have been doing so since the 1990’s when they were much clunkier and much less functional! We also facilitate assistive technology self-assessments, introducing learners to ways by which they can personalise devices to match their needs and preferences.
Alongside our loan scheme we have continuously been on a digital journey internally. We were early adopters of a remote server connecting staff across the country for example, a way of connecting which has been more efficiently superseded by the magic invention of the cloud!
Tell us about a recent digital change you’ve made.
Emma: We’ve developed a Thinking Digitally module (SCQF level 6, 12 credits) which we remotely deliver via GoToMeeting. You could liken the learning experience to that of participating in a small scale, well supported MOOC. Benefits to participants include increased confidence, putting new skills into action from day one, learning how to engage, communicate, collaborate online, promote inclusion and ultimately produce and curate their own digital artefact. We encourage people to think digitally from start to finish and try lots and lots of free tools like Slack, Appear.in, WordPress, Prezi, You Tube tutorials to name a selection.
These are some of the impacts felt by volunteers and staff:
Building confidence: “It is pushing me to try things I have always steered away from”
Broadened knowledge: “It has introduced me to a wide range of digital tools and platforms and given instruction on how they might be used”
Getting rid of the fear factor: “Honestly, I used to be a bit suspicious and dismissive of ‘cloud’ based apps. I am now a convert! I am enjoying being in the learner seat and can’t wait to share my new knowledge to collaborate on or facilitate digital artefact projects with learners and colleagues”
Empowerment to ask for needs to be met: “I liked the accessibility. The use of soundfiles, images, etc”. This volunteer has dyslexia and said he had been put off formal learning before because of the type of assessments, but he learned about new tools and ways that he could submit assessment evidence.
Accessible: “I can take part from home. Living in a remote part of the country, this is important.”
What motivated you?
Emma: We are aware of many disabled people and others who find it hard to get a job. Disabled people are also 3 times as likely not to have recognised qualifications. We saw a gap in the market for a flexible, person centred, context free, digital skills credit bearing course which would build confidence and demonstrate digital skills development. Pitched at SCQF level 6, the course assumes that people already had basic ICT skills and that they could independently and remotely link into the online webinars.
We decided on a broad range of assessment methods in order to make the course as accessible as possible. Many people also told us they would like to gain more confidence in understanding how to create accessible digital artefacts online and this has become a key part of the experience. In order to sustain the learning, the use of free tools means that people retain ownership of the digital artefact they have curated, to showcase their skills, keep learning and feature in their CV.
How did you go about it?
Emma: A staff and Board member liaised with a willing group of volunteers, including disabled people, and set about turning the idea into action. We developed the course in house. It took us several months, to write, deliver and evaluate the course and have it credit rated.
Who was involved?
Emma: A very keen Board member and one of our staff initially took the lead, then other people joined in! We’ve also very much relied on the goodwill of guest speakers who add tremendous value to the learning. We also had the help of Napier University staff who supported us through the credit rating process.
What’s been the impact?
Emma: Around 20 people have taken the course so far with the same again ready to go after the summer. We keep the cohorts small at around 5 to maximise the quality of the learning experience online. Our own staff and volunteers have also directly benefited as we are continually learning and finding digital solutions.
Emma: Time and money are always factors to consider but we had, and found more, willing volunteers and that helped us work around both of those potential barriers. We learned that whilst we started this journey to benefit disabled people looking for work, the initial interest has actually been from external staff and volunteers looking to develop their confidence and digital skills in order to engage and support the people who use their services.
Emma: If you have a good idea for a digital development that fills a gap identified by the people you support, go for it!
What’s on your digital horizon?
Emma: Delivering more Thinking Digitally courses, Cyber Resilience, GDPR compliance and sourcing an online case management system.
What’s digitally inspiring you at the moment?
Thanks to Emma from Lead Scotland for sharing how they’re using digital in the voluntary sector. We hope you’re feeling digitally inspired after reading it. Don’t forget to share it with your networks to keep the inspiration flowing and tell us what you think @digiscot using #digitalpioneers.
If you’d like to help spread some more digital inspiration across the voluntary sector then get in touch, we’d love to hear from you and share it with our networks.