An alternate IT view of ECDL

Today I took my final ECDL (European Computer Driving Licence) module assessment. ECDL is a syllabus that has seven modules of assessment on what many people might consider to be the day to day forms of IT literacy in a typical workplace.  In my role as an IT professional (Head of ICT), with a masters degree in Computer Science, and a decade of IT industry experience, why did I decide to do this course?

My primary reason was because much of my work involves an element of end user support.  This course is essentially for end users and so by understanding the course I can get a better idea of what users can learn through completing this course. Overall I should then be able to either refer them back to their course notes where an issue that ECDL can help with is identified, or refer the user to the module they should study for.  Over time I would hope that this approach in combination with the course being available should reduce the support overhead or at least increase the complexity of the issues as people push their IT skills further.

The modules that the course covers are:

  1. Concepts of Information and Communications Technology
  2. Using the Computer and Managing Files
  3. Word Processing
  4. Spreadsheets
  5. Using Databases
  6. Presentation
  7. Web Browsing & Communication

Admittedly I could simply refer to the course syllabus to get an idea of what people should understand, but experience I always feel gives a clearer insight and so the option to actually study for and take the tests was, for me, part of the process.

I also had a secondary reason for completing ECDL and that was to learn.  I’ve been using the Microsoft Office package (on which our tests were based), the Internet and computers in general for many years, but  I’ve never been one to believe I know everything.  I’ve almost always been self-taught on systems and applications since leaving academia and as you might expect I always taught myself what I needed to know when I needed to know it - not having time to develop my understanding any further.  ECDL for me was an opportunity to fill in some tiny cracks that I didn’t even know I had.  Whilst I haven’t learnt anything radical during the course of my studies and examinations, I have become more familiar with systems I use infrequently and learnt of some new features and methods.

My third and final reason was simply to set a good example.  The uptake of ECDL in our organisation has varied with people’s workloads and more recently with the financial and political impacts on the UK HE sector.  However I hope that by taking the tests myself I’m actually encouraging others to take them too and assuming I do pass this might raise the profile for others who have as yet not taken advantage of this opportunity.

The ECDL experience hasn’t been the most challenging academic undertaking I’ve ever had, but likewise I know I haven’t scored 100% on every single assessment (though not too far off so far).  All I can do now is to wait for my final result - and hope that I haven’t failed … in my position that would be rather embarrassing!

Author: Stephen Millard

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