Curriculum Framework in IT skills for senior citizens

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IT Communication skills are highly valued and this course recognises that the acquisition of these skills is a life - long process, and central to personal, social and professional development and fulfilment for the senior learner (FETAC: 2009). Special-purpose level 2 awards may share some outcomes with a major award, but can also be stand -alone awards: As mentioned in FIN: (2009)

Level 2 awards recognize:

Knowledge that is narrow in range

Concrete in reference and basic in comprehension

Demonstrate limited range of basic practical skills, including the use of relevant tools.

Perform a sequence of routing tasks given clear direction

Act in a limited range of predictable and structured contexts

Act in a range of roles under direction

Learn to learn in a discipline manner in a well structured and supervised environment

Demonstrate awareness of independent role for self

Proposed Intake numbers: 10 learners (to increase the ratio of supervised activities with the learners)

Entry Requirements: To meet the entry requirements for Level 2 programmes in respective training centres.

A good understanding of the English language

Reading and writing skills.

A wiliness to learn.

This course ties in with the existing "Computer Literacy" level 3 and then "Information technology Skills" level 4 progressive courses and will provide formal accreditation and progression routes for senior learners who have successfully completed the full course. The "IT Communication Skills course for seniors" is aimed at seniors who are nervous or anxious at using technology and have no previous experience of using a computer. The main purpose of "IT communication Skills for seniors" is to get as many seniors online and confident in using a computer as possible. Therefore if the senior learner only wants to learn about basic word processing then they will only need to cover up to that module with a certificate stating such if they complete the 4 modules. In this way if the senior learner in future wants to return to complete the "IT communication skills course for seniors" to progress on to "Computer Literacy" course they will be exempt from modules already completed.

Overall aims of the course:

To reduced technology anxiety in seniors and create an awareness of the potential benefits of using IT communication skills.

To enable candidates to achieve knowledge and understanding of communication skills in IT.

To enable a candidate to use these skills to assist them in staying in contact with relations and friends and to receive necessary services within our society

To enable a candidate to live more independently and generate interest in life long learning.

Minimum training requirement: 60 hours. This must include 50 hours contact (100% of which must be spending working on computers and 10 hours additional study.

Objectives of the IT communication skills course:

To instil confidence.

To learn basic practical skills.

To become familiar with standard software and computer equipment.

To demonstrate material taught in lectures.

To bridge the gap between theory and practical

To stimulate and maintain interest in IT communication skills.

It is often difficult to judge what the impact of a particular experience has been. This curriculum is more than just about ticking off objectives. It will enable the senior learner to develop socially valuable computer knowledge and skills. Furthermore of especial significance are: the social relationships in the training centre, the nature of the teacher-learner relationship, the companionship and organisation of classes, all the positive elements of the hidden curriculum (Smith, M.K.: 1996-2000).

On successful completion of the modules the learner will be able to:

Learner Outcome:

Describe how to turn on and off a computer and the basic components of a computer, including how to use and what each part are used for.

Demonstrate how to create/save a word document and edit text.

Use the functions of an email account, including how to create, send and receive an Email with attachments'.

Apply and understand the importance of security when using the internet.

Create an online shopping account, purchase an item and pay a bill online

The learning outcomes are part of a hierarchy of learning objectives. The verbs used at the beginning of each learning outcome relate to a specific learning objective, e.g. Describe how to turn on and off a computer. The Verb "Describe" indicates a lower level learning objective. This level uses Knowledge which recognizes the learners' ability to use and recall certain facts, in this case how to turn on or off a computer. Therefore the Cognitive domain, the most used of the domains, refers to knowledge objectives is in the bottom level. In the IT communication skills modules the learners will cover knowledge, comprehension and application, but it is not concerned with analysis and above, which is more in keeping with higher level courses (Biggs: 2003). The hands on method used to teach IT communication skills to senior learners is aligned with the learning activities which will achieve the above mentioned outcomes.

Bloom's taxonomy of learning objectives is used within the behavioural paradigm to classify forms and levels of learning in the modules. Domains of learning are identified each of which is organised as a series of levels or pre-requisites. Usually higher levels of domains are not addressed until those below have been covered in the lesson. This provides a basic sequential model for dealing with topics in the lesson. For example: the learner can not use a web browser or Email until they have learned the basic components of the computer, including how to turn it on or off. In this way it categorises levels of learning in terms of the expected ceiling for the course. (Bloom cited by Popham 2009).

The modules in the course are:

MODULE 1. Computer basics

MODULE 2. Introduction to Windows operating system ( basic)

MODULE 3. System Security

MODULE 4. Basic word processing

MODULE 5. The internet and shopping

MODULE 6. Email

Indicative Syllabus Content for module 1, 3 & 6:

Module 1. Computers Basic

No

Content

% Alloc

Detail

1

Describe turning on and off the computer

5%

Brief explanation on the importance of using the correct method.

2

The Components

20%

The Tower, keyboard, monitor, and the mouse, additional may be printer, scanner.

3

The Tower

20%

similar to the engine under the bonnet of a car and holds the 'nuts and bolts' that makes everything work

4

The Keyboard

10%

Same as typewriter keyboard plus some extras, brief intro to short cut keys.

5

The Monitor

5%

Explain it is only to shows your work or the Desktop.

6

The Mouse

20%

Sends commands to computer by pointing.

Work through each of these finishing with the use of the mouse. Practical Exercise in Mouse use - Solitaire or other computer games. Describe window then practise with the mouse.

7

Hardware/Software

20%

Define what is meant by hardware and software - without going into a lot of technical detail.

Describe/ show the hard disk, USB, CD/DVD drive. Demonstrate a USB storage disk drive.

Module 3. System Security

Number

Content

% Alloc

Detail

1

Anti-Virus

40%

Explain viruses, spyware, and the need for a firewall, spam and bogus emails. Before going on line:

2

Backups

30%

Explain the importance of making regular backup of important documents and demonstrate.

3

Windows and anti-virus updates

30%

how to ensure windows and anti-virus updates are enabled

Reassure the learner that security is common sense like locking your front door when you go out. If you do it you are less likely to get burgled.

Module 6: Emails

Number

Content

% Alloc

Detail

1

Introduction to Email

25%

What is Email, Email address and Passwords

2

Common features of Emails

25%

Outbox, Inbox, sent items, delete items, address book. Etc.

3

Create an Email account

25%

Utilise a program such as Outlook, Outlook Express. Otherwise, sign up to a web-based email service such as Hotmail or Yahoo. Compose a message to the address you have just signed up to and show the message page-address

3

Components of an Email

25%

Subject, CC, BCC, text, sending or saving a message, reply to sender Reply, Reply to All, Forward. The address book. Folders: creating folders, moving messages to folders Email. protocols: where to place the reply, hiding or deleting other recipients' addresses Attachments: attaching files to messages, viewing attachments, saving attachments. Spam, junk mail, phishing.

Backing up messages and address book

Student learning

-Competencies: The IT Communication Skills for seniors' course will make a difference in the lives of the individuals. The measurable skills and abilities of the senior learner will easily identify successful learners when they approach a higher main stream level 3 course.

-skills: The successful learner will be able to demonstrate and describe how to turn on and off a computer correctly and have a working knowledge of what each part of the pc is: know how to edit a word document and save it: Crate and use the functions of an email account: Apply and understand the importance of security on a computer and can create an online shopping account to purchase an item or pay a bill online.

-knowledge and understanding: Grading scale/pass requirements: A pass grade is awarded if all the skill and knowledge assessments were passed. A merit grade is awarded if the pass standard is exceeded. A minimum score of 50% is required to pass knowledge assessments. All essential criteria must be demonstrated to pass skills assessments.

-relationship to the NQF: this certificate may provide access and transfer to other awards at level 2 in the Irish National Framework of Qualifications and or progression to awards at a higher framework level. Successful completion of each phase is mandatory and is measured through formal assessments of skill and knowledge. It is the accumulation of the results of these assessments that lead to the award of the IT Communication Skills for Seniors Certificate. (FETAC: Learner Charter:2010).

Teaching and learning strategies

Compared to children and teens adults have special needs and requirements as learners. To ensure an effective and productive course requires an understanding how adults learn best. The field of adult learning was pioneered by Malcom Knowles et al (1998) who identified certain characteristics of adult learners. Adult learners are usually self-directed; recognize the value of learning; must see a reason for learning. However they may not be interested in the knowledge for its own sake, therefore the learners must be informed why the course will be of use to them. Another aspect of adult learning especially senior adults is motivation. Therefore senior adults will need to be encouraged to do the IT Communication Skills course.

Stephen Lieb (1991) in his article "Principles of Adult Learning" lists sources of motivation for adult learners such as: Social relationships, to make new friends, External expectations: to fulfil expectations or recommendations of someone with formal authority, Social welfare: improve ability to participate in community work, Escape/Stimulation: to relieve boredom, to provide a break in the routing of home and Cognitive interest: to learn for the sake of learning, to satisfy an inquiring mind.

Brown et al (p119:1997) states that it is a good idea is to have the students as teacher. The idea is to ask the learners to provide ideas and assistance for the next learner group. For example the learners can mention:

Things to watch out for during the course.

Problems encountered during parts of the course and what was done to over come the difficulties.

Mistakes easily avoided.

Couple of things that are worth doing before the computer session are…

Easy and acceptable short-cuts are…..

The list will be useful for new learners as well as to highlight any changes that need to be made to the course. This will also be useful to the learners when they do an evaluation of the course.

Brown et al (p108:1997) also suggests that the senior learners can keep a learning diary of their experiences with the course. This can also include their written thoughts while trying to do practicals and assignments. In this way Brown suggests that the learner could develop more from their thoughts on the practicals than from the practicals alone.

Another way to reinforce the learning from practical sessions is to stage a review session. Brown, et al (p 108:1997) suggests that the learner look at their work and write down learning points. In this way the lecturer can summarise the main points of the computer course and show the links between the various computer sessions in order to give the learners the full picture. Assignments or examination questions can then be set that are based on the methods of enquiry and findings and possible errors in the computer class.

Assessment strategies

This course will be run as a FETAC Certified course. (FETAC: 2009) Senior Learners who wish to achieve a FETAC level 2 certificates must complete an IT Communication Skills for seniors performance based assessment and submit a collection of work. The assignments will be given to the learners at the end of each module and the collection of work must be submitted to the teacher 1 week following each module completion. The collection of work must be signed off by the learner's teacher before submission.

Assignments will depend on the module. For example:

Assessment strategies for Module 6

Assessment will consist of practical work and performance assessment which will reflect the module content and integrate skills acquired by the learner. The learner will integrate knowledge of relevant Email technologies skills in the creation of an Email account.

Learners must submit a printed copy of an Email received by them from the instructor with the date and their Email address on the document. In this way the assessment assignment will validly assess the third learning outcome "Use the functions of an email account, including how to send and receive an Email". This will ensure that the assessment is valid.

Assessments for Module 6 (Email)

Number

Category

Method

Additional Info

% Alloc

Learning outcomes

1

Continuous Assessment

Practical

Create an Online Email Account and send Email to teacher

40%

1,3,4

2

Continuous Assessment

Assignment- Out of Class

Email back to teacher with a word document attachment explaining what bogus emails are.

60%

1,2.3,4

Performance assessment refers to the process of assessing a learner's skills by asking them to perform tasks that require those skills (Jonassen & Howland: 2003). Assessment consists of direct observation and assessment of learners' behaviour on tasks that they produce. The tasks are designed to resemble activities commonly required for functioning in the world outside the learning centre. A Rubric checklist and will be used for recording observed learners performance. 

The checklists must be completed in sequential order. (I.e. a learner must successfully demonstrate each competency in module 1 before beginning work in module 2).  

The Rubrics checklists will be kept private by the teacher, available only to individuals involved in test administration and not used as the teaching tool, nor given to the learners as part of their portfolio work.  

Checklists and documentation of the senior learner's competence will be filed in the learner's permanent file in the training centre and can be accessed if the senior learner wants to progress into further IT skills courses.

Example of a checklist for Module 6 (Emails)

Time in Minutes

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10+

Listens to instructions

Opens Browser and type correct URL: Address

Seeks advice of another member

Seeks advice of the teacher

Attempts to create an Email account

Checks Email account is working properly

Figure 1.1

Estimate the proportion of time spent on each activity.

Performance indicators

-attrition: the marketing research questionnaire was used to establish the ratio of senior adults who did standard computer literacy courses but did not finish them. The results of the question "Have you done a computer course, and if you have done did you complete it" can be seen in figure 1.1. As noted in the table out of a group of 57 over 65 year old participants only 26 had done a computer literacy course but 8 failed to finish it. When asked why, the main reason given was that "it was too complicated and did not cater to our needs". The "IT communication skills course for seniors" specially caters to senior learning abilities with repeat hands on instructions. Chaffin, A. & Harlow, S. (2004) provide suggestions to encourage learning with older learners and state that older adults learners learn much the same as learners of any age. However when undertaking learning computer skills they may well need special attention and accommodations which IT communication skills courses already in existence do not provide.

Have you done a computer course? * If you have done a course did you complete it? Crosstabulation

Count

If you have done a course did you complete it?

Total

Not Applicable

Yes

No

Have you done a computer course?

Yes

0

18

8

26

No

31

0

0

31

Total

31

18

8

57

Figure 1.2

--employment prospects: Many senior adults are anxious to remain in an environment that will keep them challenged and motivated. The "Third Age" (2009) foundation, an older people's organisation based in Summerhill Co. Meath is one such centre run by older people for older people. The organisation run an Internet Café every Monday afternoon aimed specifically at older people. The advantage of having successfully completed senior learners from the IT Communication Skills course teaching and helping other seniors to get to grips with computers would encourage them to overcome their anxiety towards IT technology and further reduce the digital divide.

-further studies: Senior learners who successfully complete the " IT Technology Skills Course for seniors" can progress with confidence into the main stream " computer literacy " level 3 course already available by FETIC and then on to "Information technology Skills" level 4 progressive courses for life long learning.

Evaluation procedures

Ornstein et al (2008) defines evaluation as a process whereby people gather data in order to make decisions.

Haywood (1989) states that policy makers believe that student evaluation of teaching are the best measure of teaching effectiveness. This has been viewed with various criticisms as mentioned in Haywood's book "Assessment in higher education", however the chapter concludes that although relatively simple enquiries are of value the results need to be interpreted with caution. Student evaluations of teaching effectiveness have many dimensions which are supported by factors that are supported by principles of learning (Marsh cited by Haywood: p 96, 1989). These factors are adjusted to evaluate the basic IT Communication Skills for seniors by the learners in a rating scale under such headings as:

Example of an Evaluation Checklist:

Headings

Question

Rating Scale

Learning/Value:

Do the senior learners consider their learning to have been of value?

As a result of the course have their interest in IT communication skills improved

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Instructor enthusiasm:

Was the senior learner's interest in the course developed by the teacher's enthusiasm for the subject matter?

Is the senior learner motivated to learn more about IT communication skills by the instructor?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Organisation/clarity:

Did the organisation and structure of teaching the course help or impede the learning.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Group interaction:

How was the extent of the interaction between the learners and the teacher?

As organised by the teacher between members of the class?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Individual rapport:

How was the extent of contact between the learners had with their teacher and the guidance they received?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Breadth of coverage:

Did the learner find the teaching meaningful and do they believe they can generalize the knowledge obtained into their every day lives.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Examinations and grading:

Did the senior learner felt the procedures for assessment were relevant and fair and feedback received helpful?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Assignments/reading:

Did the assignments and handouts enhance or impede learning.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Workload/difficulty:

Was the workload and any perceived difficulties enhance or impeded learning.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Summary

According to the CSO Ireland (2006) in the state there are 467,926 adults who are over the age of 65yrs. 13% of those aged 65-74 have ever used a computer, and just 9% of those aged 65-74 have used the internet. Of the thousands of senior adults who take up computer courses every year some 40% give up at an early stage claiming that's "it's too difficult". Not a satisfactory result for any point of view. The majority of seniors come into contact with a computer through a relative, workmate or friend. As with any learning this is not always the best way to learn. Courses that are out there do not really cater to the needs of senior adults. If a senior adult makes the huge step to join a main stream computer literacy course there are often left frustrated and confused. It is easy to frighten someone off giving it a try if the teacher makes it look so easy. It can be overwhelming. Computer courses need structure that caters to the senior learners' abilities and knowledge. Courses such as the IT Communication Skills for seniors will provide structure and standards in the training of seniors. Seniors must learn the "computer ropes" sequentially in a pre-determined manner. If taken seriously and properly organised, it doesn't take too long to grasp the basics. Sometimes simply trying to understand the computer "jargon" can be one of the biggest problems in computer literacy courses. (Austin, B: 2007-2010). 

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