Project Intro (Internet Recherche Kommunikation) is an online course that teaches essential digital skills to individuals, enabling them to use these skills in their job search, career orientation, and daily lives, as well as empowering them to participate in societal processes. Intro’s target audiences are refugees and migrants with no to low digital skills who are not proficient in German and individuals who are not in education, employment or training (NEET). Our implementation partner Grenzenlos Digital e.V. conducted three online Intro courses for German residents between June 2022 and August 2023, providing 51 individuals in total with the necessary digital competencies to thrive in the digital world. These individuals successfully improved their digital competencies by an average of 24% in Areas 1 and 2 from the European Digital Competence Framework for Citizens.
With the Intro Project, our partners at Grenzenlos Digital e.V. have implemented a new online course concept for teaching basic digital skills. This format combines live sessions via Zoom, an online learning platform for independent and flexible learning, and intensive individual support. For those who were unable to attend the live sessions, they had the option to watch videos with the input from the sessions, providing participants with 24/7 access to the materials. This allowed them to revisit and review the content at their own pace, reinforcing their learning. The course’s flexible learning style enabled participants to integrate their studies into their daily lives more effectively, ensuring participants had multiple options throughout the week to engage with the teachers, ask questions, and learn on their own terms. This aspect was particularly advantageous since many participants had additional responsibilities such as childcare, employment, or other courses. In fact, this flexibility accounted for Intro’s high retention rate of 85% (calculated as the ratio of people who were onboarded to those who were trained).
Intro’s course consists of ten training units, with each unit lasting 90 minutes. The training sessions were scheduled at a pace of 2 units per week for each course. In addition to the course, Grenzenlos Digital e.V. conducted two weekly Q&A sessions, providing participants with the opportunity to interact, ask questions, and even complete exercises and quizzes. Understanding participants’ digital skills levels through Skillify was highly beneficial for trainers, enabling them to design course content that caters to participants’ specific needs and abilities through a customised approach rather than a one-size-fits-all model.
Running three Intro courses enabled Grenzenlos Digital e.V. to successfully measure, adjust and implement key learnings from the first course into the two subsequent ones. This approach facilitated continuous improvement while ensuring that the courses are aligned with the learners’ evolving needs. The flexibility that characterises Intro’s teaching philosophy is designed to accommodate the individual learning pace of every participant. This made it specifically appealing to a large number of women, as 62% of Intro’s participants were female. The significance of this number cannot be overstated, considering that the majority of participants in onsite courses for refugees are typically men. Intro’s online course environment provides a safe space that encourages women to participate, while still welcoming men. What sets this approach apart is the ability for learners to personalise their educational journey, creating a pathway that aligns with their individual life narratives. By offering online accessibility and providing recorded content in the form of videos and screencasts, learners have the freedom to choose when and where they engage with the material.
Best practices from Intro’s successful implementation:
- Afternoon Course Times: Scheduling course sessions in the afternoon enables participants to take part in live sessions, which increases the chances of broad participation.
- Optimising Recruitment: Recruitment takes time but is essential. Live recruitment events, where people were able to get to know Intro’s course offerings, have proven very successful. Building personal connections allows for a more personalised and direct approach, which can foster trust, engagement, and a sense of belonging among potential participants. Personal contact with potential participants can make a significant difference and generate interest in the course offer. In a more general way, tailoring recruiting efforts to the needs of the target group results in successful outreach and engagement.
- Onboarding sessions are crucial for commitment: A successful onboarding session is a critical factor in participants’ commitment to the course. It sets the tone for their engagement and prepares them for the learning journey ahead. As a general rule, it is advisable to aim for a higher number of initial sign-ups than the envisioned number of students. This will help ensure that the course has a sufficient number of committed participants who complete the onboarding process and effectively begin the course.
- Building a Reliable Network: A solid network provides valuable support in participant recruitment and course promotion. Targeted connections with organisations and individuals pursuing similar goals are essential. These can also act as advocates for the course, providing greater access to the target group and amplifying impact.
- Recommendations and Positive Feedback: The voices of participants are invaluable for the success of a course. Former participants and individuals from similar organisations are valuable ambassadors for the course offer and can increase its visibility.
These best practices were essential for creating an inspiring and effective learning experience. After finishing the course, Intro’s participants expressed that they had gained substantial knowledge and now feel more confident in applying digital skills. Despite the significant obstacles some participants faced, such as language barriers, lack of technical equipment, and full-time work commitments, they successfully completed the entire course with initial support from dedicated trainers.
The Intro project is an excellent example of best practices for training basic digital skills online. It successfully enhanced the digital competencies of every learner, unlocking their potential for greater success in the digital age. Intro’s methodology allows for scalability, to continue promoting equal opportunities while enabling learners’ social and economic inclusion.