Headlines: March 10th, 2003

A new web portal which will give easier access to basic IT skills training to thousands of National Health Service staff, is to go live this month. It will offer them the functionality and resources needed to raise their skill levels to the NHS standard and to support the successful implementation of many of the services forthcoming IT applications.The NHS ECDL Portal will include training materials, including assessments and quizzes which will enable staff using the system to evaluate their own achievements, as well as accredited tests on-line and practise tests which will allow candidates to check their competence before they have to take the actual tests. The system will also allow integration with instructor-led training as part of the programme to consolidate new skills. It will also permit the monitoring and tracking of all staff undertaking the qualification, for reporting at various levels of the health service.

The use of a web-based e-learning solution, with access provided from a single NHS portal at www.ecdl.nhs.uk, will mean staff can choose to learn at work, in formal training departments, at home or from any personal computer with an Internet connection. Staff will be able to register themselves once they have an NHS Voucher from a Learning Centre. There are currently 280 NHS Learning Centres, of which more than 200 are accredited to administer the formal ECDL Tests. Five hundred trainers are associated with the centers.

The system will go live on March 21st and during the pre-launch period 12,000 active learners have registered on the portal. Pete Bayley of the British Computer Society, and the director responsible for the ECDL in the UK, said, “The system is incredibly flexible and allows individuals to learn at their own pace and choose times which are convenient for them. Because the testing can be flexibly arranged, people don’t have to wait until theĀ  end of the term or year before they can attempt the formal assessment forĀ  qualification.”

Research undertaken with the Manchester pilot shows that staff who have completed the qualification save approximately half an hour per day not struggling with their IT and 96% of them said they now rarely needed to call IT support departments, compared with 71% who did so regularly before achieving the standard.