Free computer courses in Kortrijk

Published on: 24/10/2007

Without the knowledge of what one can do with computers and the internet, people will have no incentive to start learning about them. Without the basic skills needed to work with computers and the internet, people will not start using them. We are then talking about the digital divide. The digital divide is connected to existing social-cultural, social-educational and geographic divides. Through the free computer lessons new social contacts between people are created. Bridging the geographical divide fits in with the city’s policy to provide more e-services to all citizens, but it brings a surplus value for the boroughs.

Policy Context

De wwwereld is van iedereen – The wwworld belongs to everyone This is the title of the ICT-project the city of Kortrijk started in September 2004. The goal of this project was and is to bridge the digital divide for the people of Kortrijk and its boroughs. The project is aimed towards those people who do not have a computer and/or internet access and those who can’t work with a computer and/or internet. One the one hand the city of Kortrijk installed a network of PIAP’s in the form of internet kiosks and public pc’s. On the other hand the city of Kortrijk provided free (basic) computer lessons.

Description of target users and groups

The target group of the project was initially defined as non-users of computer and internet. Inside this target group a number of sub-target groups were defined. The sub-target groups the city of Kortrijk wanted to reach with the project were: - people with no access to computers and/or internet - people with-out knowledge about computers and/or internet - people who can't use a computer and/or internet (for example people with a handicap, the elderly) - people who are not interested in computers and/or internet - people who do not use computers and/or internet to communicate - people who are not helped (enough) by existing computer training initiatives Gradually, the (sub-)target groups were redefined an divided into three groups. - people with a disability - socially excluded people - the untapped mainstream There is an overlap groups between the first and the second group. People from the untapped mainstream are people who have all the basic skills, but who don't feel called to use a computer and/or internet. Among this group are many people who are to old to have learned it in school, but to young to do without for the rest of their lives.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

The pilot partners are: The city of Kortrijk Mentor is a society without purpose of gain for training, guidance and orientation. They provide occupational training with the end goal of long-lasting employment. Mentor is a part of OCMW (social welfare) and is a centre for education, guiding and orientation for high-risk groups. They help those who have a hard time on the job market: the long-term unemployed, the lowly-educated, ethnic minorities etcetera. Every Belgian city has a OCMW that helps all the vulnerable or weaker groups in society, Mentor is specific of Kortrijk. Vlaamse Dienst voor Arbeidsbemiddeling en Beroepsopleiding VDAB is the Flemish Service for Employment-finding and Occupational training. In short: they help you to get a job. Bus2Business, a company from Bellegem, provided computer lessons in a bus. It is a mobile and digital classroom witch formed a nice eye catcher. The sponsors of the project are: Minister van Werk, Onderwijs en Vorming Frank Vandenbroucke (minister of Employment and Education supports the project by subsidizing the lessons VDAB gives (witch is 25% of all the lessons). The subsidy amounts to €31.012 Regional television station WTV-Focus sponsored the project by making a promotional movie, witch was broadcasted. Multi-channel issues: October 2004 every resident of Kortrijk and all the surrounding boroughs received a letter, a folder and an invitation to take part in the free computer lessons. There were articles in the city’s newspaper and an item on the local television. 3638 people reacted to this, witch was about a thousand more than the expected maximum amount of students.

Technology solution

Conventional technology was used. The same type of computers that you would find in an average household.

Main results, benefits and impacts

These are the numbers of students for the city of Kortrijk and all the boroughs. KORTRIJK 1846 ROLLEGEM 134 AALBEKE 165 BELLEGEM 228 BISSEGEM 280 KOOIGEM 39 MARKE 453 HEULE 493 TOTAL 3638 42% of all students were male, a majority of 58% female. 48% of all student were between the ages of 40 and 59, 41% was 60 years or older. The oldest student was 87, the youngest 10 (they both received a small gift). They all shared one common feature: they had no or very little experience with computer. And of course they were all inhabitants of Kortrijk and its boroughs. The lessons teach the students step by step the most important elements of computers and the internet in groups of 10-12 students. No basic skills are needed. There are 7 lessons of 3 hours each (so 21 hours total) in a complete course. The following items are addressed: • What is a computer, a keyboard, a mouse, a printer, windows • How to make, save and print a text or a letter • How to make a greeting card • What is the internet and how can you search for and find information • What is an e-mail, how to make your own e-mail address, how to send and answer an e-mail • Revision exercises • A look at the internet kiosks and filling out a n evaluation questionnaire • The electronic identity card The course is mainly practical in nature with a lot of exercise. Goal is to be able to work with a computer and the internet. The pace is adjusted to the slowest student. All students got the opportunity to evaluate everything at the end of the course. These evaluations were taken along during the discussions in the regional study group consisting of all teachers and institutions connected with the project. Apart from the six questions shown on the previous page, the was an seventh and last question: Any other remarks? The remarks were, almost without exception laudatory and full of praise (for the teachers). Every student that completed the course received a diploma (certificate). These diploma’s were presented during special evenings that were attended by an average of 300 people. Innovation: The novelty (for us) was the scale and the fact the lessons were free.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Track record of sharing

After the (first) free computer lessons have ended, the city of Kortrijk has been searching for further initiatives to help people in their search for individual help in using computers and the internet. The library has been expanded into an “open school”. This has been done in close collaboration with the ICT department, the library and Mentor. The open school wants to provide individual guidance to people in their first and further steps on the internet. The (central) library has been a well-known place for internet guidance ever since 1997. Internet education was and is an essential part of the library’s work and the library is -of course- accessible to everybody. The library’s network now consists of 20.000 members and 200.000 visitors. After each free computer course the library has registered a peek of new users. The internet kiosk and the public pc’s in the central library are constantly occupied. From October the 20th 2006 every inhabitant of Kortrijk can go to the central library every Friday from 15.30 till 18.30 for individual help and guidance in using computers and the internet, this initiative is known as “Friday computer day”. This help and guidance in provided by experienced teachers of Mentor, volunteers and the desk clerks of the library. The next step is to organize more free computer lessons. The city of Kortrijk keeps receiving requests from citizens for these lessons frequently. For these new lessons the city of Kortrijk will be directing its attention towards those target groups that have not been reached previously and recruit students amongst them.

Lessons learnt

1- If you do this and advertise it, you will get many applications (thousands). If you don't have enough capacity it means you have to disappoint a lot of people. 2- It is wise to make as uniform groups of people as possible, especially when it comes to age. 3- Make the lessons a social event. Give the people coffee and pie and a change to interact with each other. This is a big motivation to attend the lessons. 4- Create a ceremony to award diploma’s. People like very much to get recognition by receiving an “official” diploma. 5- When you stop giving lessons, people will keep asking for more. Think beforehand if you want and can give more lessons in the future.

Scope: Local (city or municipality)