Internet training for pensioners by UWE volunteer

Issue date: 03 March 2011

Student volunteers from the University of the West of England, who are helping to close the digital divide, are set to gain national recognition.

The team of second year students is taking part in the government Race Online campaign by running a community Internet training project for older people. The students have already won a prize for progression of their idea and are hopeful of success in the final on Wednesday 9 March.

Dubbing their team Leading Edge, the students are running a valuable Internet skills training and awareness course for people over 65 in Portishead, near Bristol, in conjunction with NSHousing's sheltered housing scheme. They are also working with a group of people in the Henleaze area of Bristol where the training has been especially adapted for those who have a very limited knowledge of the internet.

The student volunteers are acting as course tutors in weekly Computer Club sessions every Friday afternoon at the housing association's new Jubilee Hall building.

Resident Activities Coordinator, Aimee Phipps, said, “The students are a real asset to our Computer Club, which has seen the number of participants rise. They have made the club more structured and enjoyable and I have had great feedback from all the members. I'm wondering what we did without them! The course is now full and we have had to set up a waiting list.”

Matt Deadman, team leader, is quietly optimistic that Leading Edge will achieve the national award. “We are having a great time working with older people at Jubilee Hall and we feel that we have really given something back to local people,” he said on behalf of the team.

The Leading Edge team are studying the highly successful IT Management for Business (ITMB) degree programme in UWE's Department of Computer Science and Creative Technologies, run in conjunction with e-skills UK, an employer-led body. They are pitched against colleagues in rival Universities in the national competition run by e-skills UK in partnership with Race Online 2012, whose ambition is to make the UK the first nation in the world where everyone can use the web.

Kevin Doyle, ITMB Programme Leader within the Department, added, “A focus on employability, through employer engagement in curriculum design and delivery, is a key feature of ITMB. We wish this entrepreneurial team well in reaching their goal on 9 March.”

Sue Stevens, Higher Education Programme Manager of e-skills UK, said, “Students are ideally placed to become digital champions in their communities, having grown up surrounded by computers, mobile phones and the internet. It is very encouraging to hear about the great progress the UWE team are making working with their community to share their skills to get people online, and I'm looking forward to hearing their progress report at our forthcoming review meeting”.

“This initiative is a landmark in the development of CAKE, our Community Action + Knowledge Exchange project”, added UWE academic Nick Plant. “CAKE encourages and enables student community engagement as a powerful extra-curricular complement to traditional academic programmes to boost our students' employability skills. This is a perfect example and I wish Leading Edge well.”

As Jo Earl of UWE Volunteering explained, the project was initiated entirely by the “Leading Edge” students, but formed a natural extension of the existing “silver surfers” scheme running at UWE. “We were glad to support Leading Edge in taking their project idea out of UWE into a local community setting. This complements what we are already doing by bringing local silver surfers up to the UWE campus on Wednesday afternoons for Internet training by student volunteers.”


Editors notes:

NSHousing Computing Club
• e-skills UK and
Race Online
UWE Department of Computer Science and Creative Technologies
UWE Volunteering

FFI: Jane Kelly or Mary Price, Press Officers


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