28 November 2022
By Daniel Jupp Kina, SCIE Research Analyst
Largely driven by the pandemic, the social care sector in Wales has seen a fast-paced switch from face-to-face to digital forms of workforce training and development. To better understand the benefits and challenges of digital learning, Social Care Wales commissioned SCIE to undertake an evidence review and activities with staff to hear about their experiences.
Amongst the issues discussed, digital literacy was one of the most common. Digital learning requires learners to operate devices and navigate through digital resources such as websites and learning applications. For staff that struggle with this, it can be a major barrier to digital learning. When we spoke to social care staff, they discussed two related issues:
The first issue is about digital skills themselves. The social care workforce in Wales is very diverse and includes people from different age groups and with all sorts of professional experience and skills. This means that, as in many sectors, some of the workforce requires specific training and support to develop digital skills to access digital learning resources.
The second issue relates to how comfortable and confident staff members feel when using digital learning resources. While the two are related, we found that developing digital skills does not necessarily equate to developing digital confidence. Often, individuals use digital devices for everyday tasks such as shopping, using maps, and web searches, but still don’t feel confident when accessing digital learning. For some people, this is related to how the digital learning platforms they have tried using have been developed. Some platforms focus more on recording progress and performance than on how the staff feel and experience the resource. As a result, staff can be unsure about key tasks such as logging in and navigating through the resource. A negative experience can affect how the individual feels about the learning process and be as much of a barrier to digital learning as a lack of digital skills.
Understanding digital literacy as a twofold issue can help to create joined-up solutions to support the uptake and experience of digital learning. While basic digital skills can be supported with training and upskilling approaches, the development of confidence needs a tailored approach with, for example, coaching sessions to support staff to transfer digital skills they already have, and, most importantly, providing user-friendly resources and devices that staff find intuitive.
You can find out more about the impacts, benefits, and challenges of digital learning for the social care workforce, as well as our recommendations to guide future approaches to digital learning in Wales in our report below.