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EPALE Interview: Improving digital literacy in the middle of Scandinavia

27/10/2020
by Altheo VALENTINI
Language: EN
Document available also in: FR

Anna Sollén

What is your programme about and how does it support the development of basic digital skills among adult learners in remote areas?

eRUM Lycksele is a place for the people of Lycksele to be inspired and to develop their digital skills. The eRUM (eROOM) is a space within the Lycksele Public Library and also an office where people can find some privacy. The eRUM is a service for the whole municipality so there is also a lot of outreach work involved. Lycksele is situated in northern Sweden and is quite rural with a population density of 2.23 people/km², compared to Sweden’s average of 25.4 and Europe’s of 117.7.
eRUM Lycksele started as a joint project with three municipalities in the region of Västerbotten. During the project, structures and methods were tested and shared in order to find out how municipalities can work together long term to increase the digital participation and competence of their inhabitants. The main target groups were senior citizens and immigrants. The project was funded by EU regional funds, the Region of Västerbotten and the 3 municipalities.
After the project ended in December 2019, eRUM Lycksele became a permanent service in Lycksele. In March 2018 eRUM opened to the public. The first year flew by. I set up the office and presented eRUM in the municipality. I also spent a lot of time networking and learning from colleagues as well as tutoring in digital skills. By Year 2 it was clear to me that my job was more than just F2F tutorials and outreach work.
My clients were finding it difficult to understand the digital world around them. For example, they could not understand where the internet comes from and they did not know when or how to use Wi-Fi, mobile data, routers, fiber, access points, and hot spots. I wanted to give my learners some context and to explain to them more about the digital world. So I started teaching on different topics inspired by the DigComp framework. The courses were very popular and I ended up running four courses a day for some time.

An example of a course activity:

  • “Find things using Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth! Find your parked car, find a hotel in Malaga, share your position with family members, find your phone etc.
  • Digital photography: Take and edit pictures, save, organise and find your pictures, share your photos and make an online photobook.
  • Buy & Sell course (see picture) – secure shopping online, return purchases online, buy a ticket for the bus, train, flights. Buy and sell secondhand, different ways of paying online, understanding your internet bank etc.)

I tried different methods for the courses. First, I gave theory class in a big group and then I divided the class into four smaller groups for the practical exercises. The theoretical part of the classes lasted 30 minutes, followed by a coffee break, and then 1 hour of exercises. I had 8 groups a day, with 5 students in each group. It became quite stressful for me as a tutor to rush between the groups and assist the students; some groups just had to wait.

My top tips for creating good courses for digital beginners are:

  1. If you can, separate complete beginners from those who have some knowledge of how to use their phone. I noticed that it was stressful for some students if they were put with others working at different speeds.
  2. Think about what kind of digital device the participants have. If possible separate iPhones from Android devices.
  3. Senior citizens like to have instructions written out for them on a paper, in handout form. This can be hard given all the different models, operating systems (OS) and versions of OS as one instruction doesn’t fit all phones. To overcome this problem, I have purchased 7 android phones so everyone has exactly the same model and version. I can then print out the instructions that I know are suitable for that model and will work for everyone. This is a special course I will try out in the rural areas where one village at a time can borrow the phones for the duration of the course. The course will also include “translation” of the course material so that it also works for their own devices.
  4. Have max 5 people per group, and 1 tutor per group if possible. It is important that every person handles their own phone, which will take time. Also, if the exercise requires 5 steps to complete and the students want the tutor to verify every step (which is often the case), it means that the tutor will have to verify 25 steps per group for 1 exercise. It will take time, but you will also have the chance to give lots and lots of positive comments to the students on their progress.
  5. I went from a general course on digital skills for 8 weeks during the autumn and spring, to shorter thematic courses with 3-5 meetings. It is easier for participants to commit and complete the full course.

How are you planning to exploit the results achieved so far within the framework of European collaboration programmes and opportunities?

During the 2nd year I focused on creating courses based on the very useful DigComp framework. I was also looking for what else was out there, regarding adult learning, digital skills and European collaborations. I found a blended course entitled: How to prepare an Erasmus+ ka2 strategic partnerships project proposal in the field of adult education and digital skills, organised by ALL DIGITAL and EGInA. It was a fantastic course, intensive, professional and fun. Besides meeting other wonderful adult learning providers such as AUPEX and EOS, our work resulted in an Erasmus proposal called the ALAISTER protocol, a training program for trainers on AI, and a protocol for gathering data from adult learners and their digital skills. It has been an eye opener to see the multitude of collaborations and projects that are taking place within the European Union. I am looking forward to more collaborations and sharing of ideas among those of us who are fighting for every person´s right to have basic digital skills and their democratic right to be a part of, and contribute to, our digital societies.

How the COVID-19 outbreak affected the activities you were carrying out at local level and how did you react?

Coffee and cookies go well with learning!

I had to postpone an outreach program for the rural areas of Lycksele, as well as courses in digital skills.
During the winter and spring I did not notice much of a decline in F2F bookings.

However, since the end of the summer I have seen a significant drop in visitors. As a result I am bringing forward my plan to create a learning platform with online courses and a blended learning approach. I will use an email newsletter format, with QR codes that will take the reader directly to interactive exercises or links/videos. I will also use Instagram or YouTube for short tutorials. I might also try streaming lectures via Office365.

I still have a lot of F2F visitors. To keep social distancing I have a small ShortThrow projector, where the learner can mirror/cast their phone screen and we can watch it together with ample space between us. I am also using Teamwiever for distance tutorials.
The program and app let me see the learners’ computer screen or phone screen and I can guide them while talking on the phone.

Current competence development that I am taking part in both regionally and nationally:

  • Digital First – with the user in focus. To promote digital competence among the general public, the Swedish government is investing in a national digital competence boost for library staff. The courses on the learning platform “Digiteket” is based on the DigComp framework.
  • DIGAD, Digital competence for administrative staff in the region of Västerbotten. The project's goal is to increase the digital competence of employees in municipal administration and to strengthen the organisation's ability to lead and implement digital change.

During 2020 I also acquired a Certification in the Framework of Leading Digital Transformation. For continued development of a digital service center I really recommend making a digital transformation plan and strategy.

What I learned from my Course in digital transformation?

  1. Clarify the values, vision and mission of your organisation. Communicate with customers and stakeholders.
  2. Build a strategy on how to document and share your work and results, internally and externally.
  3. Decide what culture you want in your organisation and what competences are needed.
  4. Evaluate all processes that support your organisation and your services. What processes support your organisaton, what´s missing and what can you do without.
  5. Review your infrastructure, does it support your processes? Do you have the right technology in place?
  6. What data should be gathered and analysed?
  7. What services should your organisation offer that could benefit your learners? How do we scale up and reach more learners?
  8. Research and pick the right channels for contacting and marketing to different target groups
  9. Work on your customer relations. How do we interact with our customers, and integrate our services?


Anna Sollén was hired to set up and run the digital service center based at Lycksele Public Library during a 2018-2020 project. Her background is not as a librarian but in project management, event planning and graphic design. She has qualifications in Media and Communication, International PR and Marketing and has completed several computer courses, mainly in graphic design.

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