Newest Review: ... of fire, how a computer operates but in very basic terms. Word Processing - You will learn how to type a document and to do basic t... more
I've Passed My Driving Test!
The European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL)
Member Name: collingwood21
The European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL)
Advantages: Flexible, Affordable, Widely recognised, Looks great to employers
Disadvantages: Needs time, effort and money putting into it!
The answer seemed to be that I needed some sort of qualification to demonstrate clearly to employers the level of IT competence I had - and if possible, to improve it. I really had no idea what sort of qualifications existed to do this, so I went about researching my options, knowing that I needed a qualification that:
1) Could be completed in my own time, without the requirement to attend classes
2) Had flexible start times, so I could begin straight away
3) Covered the most commonly used applications for an office environment
4) Was at the right level for me to prove what I could do (and learn a bit more if possible)
5) Was affordable
6) Was a widely recognised qualification
It became apparent very quickly that the academic qualifications I was used to (GCSE and A level) were not going to fit the bill. Delving further, I found that there were a wide range of IT qualifications at a variety of levels, in about every application you could think of. I looked first at Microsoft Office Specialist certification; this was certainly a recognisable qualification and was widely available, but was expensive (over £350 in most course providers) and included Project, which I didn't think I needed at this stage in my career. CLAIT, although more affordable (I could do it for around £60 to £100 via distance learning) was too basic for what I wanted, and many courses I looked at offered in-house certificates that I was concerned employers would not recognise. If I was going to spend a lot of time and money doing a course, I wanted to make sure it was the right one for me - that was when I came across the European Computer Driving license (ECDL)*, which seemed to fit the bill perfectly.
- What is the ECDL?
The ECDL is an end-user IT qualification governed by the ECDL Foundation, which is currently available in, and recognised by, 148 countries worldwide (see www.ecdl.com/publisher/index.jsp). The foundation is a non-profit organisation seeking to promote IT education, and is backed by the European Commission and UNESCO amongst other organisations. This backing and international availability has made the ECDL is the world's largest computer skills certification programme, which has 7,000,000 candidates enrolled on it at any one time, and is intended to both improve access to IT, and to help make those who pass it more employable. It is a course intended for people who want to demonstrate competence with a PC, and who have ideally used a computer before**; you are by no means expected to be an expert, but if you were able to access this review, then you have sufficient prior knowledge to become an ECDL candidate! The ECDL is what the National Qualification Framework would class as a "level 2" qualification; this puts it in the same band as GCSE grades A* to C and NVQ 2 (where "level 1" covers GCSE grades D to G, NVQ 1, and CLAIT; and "level 3" covers A levels and NVQ 3). The ECDL course is administered in the UK by The British Computer Society or BCS (www.bcs.org).
- What does ECDL cover?
The ECDL is made up of seven modules that cover the most common uses of PCs, with candidates needing to pass a short test in each module to be awarded the certificate. Modules 1 and 2 are mostly theoretical, while modules 3 to 7 each cover an application area:
1) Introduction to IT
2) Managing files and using a PC
3) Word processing
6) Presentation software
7) Internet and electronic communication
One of the advantages of the ECDL is that it is vendor-neutral (i.e. it isn't specific to one software package). This means, while most people will study using Microsoft Office (i.e. they will use Word for module 3, Excel for 4, Access for 5, PowerPoint for 6, and Internet Explorer/Outlook for 7), you could also apply the course to any other comparable software (such as Open Office, for example). I will from now on refer to the MS Office applications, however, as these are the ones I used to take my ECDL, and which most people will use on this course.
The ECDL syllabus is regularly updated to make sure that it remains useful, relevant and meaningful to candidates; the current syllabus is version 4 (see www.ecdl.com/products/index.jsp?b=0-102&pID=10 8&nID=204) ***, and this can be taken in MS Office 2000, 2003, or 2007 - or a mixture, if that suits you. I took most of my exams on Office 2000, apart from Word, where I was more used to the 2003 version. This flexibility allows for candidates who have upgrades during their course, or for people used to using one package at home and another version of it at work, for example.
- How much work is involved?
The amount of study required for each module will vary on your level of competence and training provider, but the ECDL Foundation suggest around 30 hours per module for beginners. Personally, I found that about half a day going over the syllabus was necessary for the modules I felt confidant with at the start (1, 3 and 7), up to about 15- 20 hours for the Access module, which was an application I had never used before (although I had used other databases), so was my weakest module. With this amount of study it took me three months to pass the ECDL, from initially registering as a candidate to passing my final test, whilst working full time (and moving house!). Candidates are allowed a generous three year period from the date of passing their first test to finish their ECDL, so can take the course at their own pace.
- How much does it cost?
Costs will vary depending on how you choose to do the course. It is available in local schools, colleges and adult education centres with taught classes, by distance learning from a range of providers, or you can just do the tests if you feel you are already up to the standard required. The cost of classes and distance learning materials varies (classes will be priced locally, but to give you an idea, distance learning materials advertised online at the time of writing cost from around £40 with e-careers.co.uk, up to £200 with ICS). The variation in price with distance learning is dependent on the type of materials you want and whether you feel you need tutor support in your course (which makes it more expensive than going it alone). A word of caution, though; some of the cheaper courses are cheap because your payment buys access to online materials for a limited time only rather than your own copy of books, CD ROMS, etc. If you are in receipt of means tested benefits (such as Job Seekers' Allowance) it is worth contacting Learn Direct (www.learndirect.co.uk) for information about free or subsidised ECDL courses in your area.
I bought a textbook ("The Complete Coursebook for Office 2000" for £15, currently £20, see http://tinyurl.com/22yatf) and interactive CD ROM ("Teaching You ECDL" for £9.99, see http://tinyurl.com/226qe9) from Amazon, which gave an easy, accessible and inexpensive entry into ECDL. The book and CD ROM balanced each other out in terms of study methods, and helped build on what I already knew by filling in the gaps in my knowledge. I recommend this as a good approach if you already have a reasonable level of IT literacy; if you are more of a beginner or lack confidence, then it might be worth considering paying more for a tutored course.
On top of course fees, you must pay to register as an ECDL candidate (about £25) and pay an exam fee for each test you do (about £20 each, although some providers will offer you a discount for paying for all seven tests up front). So, the total cost for me for study materials, registration and exams was £190.
- How is it examined?
The test at the end of each module lasts 45 minutes, and asks 32 questions based on the material in the syllabus. The pass mark is 75%. This sounds like quite a lot to fit into the time allowed, but I found that I managed to complete each of the tests in 10-20 minutes without any problems. There are two formats for taking ECDL tests; some test centres offer paper-based exams (that are sent away to be marked), while others offer the online versions via a programme called Enlight (where your marks are produced straight away by the computer). You can take the tests in any order as soon as you feel ready to do so; the only restriction is that you must complete the entire course within three years of the date you pass your first test.
When you feel ready to take a test, visit www.bcs.org/server.php?show=nav.7062 for a list of local test centres. Listings are arranged by postcode, and include information on whether a test centre offers tutored courses, distance learning options or "test only" facilities (i.e. you can take a test without having to attend a course at the centre). For a society based around professional computer use, however, I found this search facility to be not that good - it was often slow, the results weren't always up to date, and you could only produce a limited range of local centres with each search. If these centres weren't appropriate for any reason, you would need to key in another local postcode or town to widen your search - having further pages of results getting gradually further away from your original location choice would have been much more sensible. Equally, listings didn't include the opening hours of testing centres (a vital consideration if you work or have other commitments) or the format of the tests offered (paper or online), so you then have to contact centres individually to find out these things for yourself.
Once you have chosen your test centre, you will then need to register through them as a candidate with the BCS - your test centre will take your details and a payment (around £25), and then the BCS will issue you with a logbook (which looks like a passport, and is stamped and signed by the test centre when you pass each test) and a candidate number. You cannot take any of the tests until you have received and signed your logbook, as this holds the record of your tests. Once you do have it, you are ready to go. All you need to do is contact your test centre at least two working days before you want to take your test(s) to book it, then turn up on the day with your logbook and some ID (such as a driving licence or passport). I cannot speak for the paper exams, but the process I went through in taking the online exams was to sit an untimed practice test first (included in the price of the exam) before taking the real thing. You are permitted to do some extra study or take a break before the real test, but once it starts, you are under exam conditions - mobile phones off, revision materials out of sight, and no asking for the answer! Questions usually took the format of asking how you would perform a certain task (e.g. "where would you click to save this document?") and you can respond by clicking on the appropriate place in the screen shot below the question (in this case, the save button or the file menu would both be correct) and then selecting the "accept answer" button when you are happy with your choice. The computer programme can tell you if have clicked on the correct place, so it is able to give the results of your test as soon as you have finished it. When you have finished your last test, your logbook is returned to the BCS, who will then issue you with your certificate after about two weeks.
- Is it worth doing?
Absolutely! The ECDL is an excellent qualification to have, as it shows practical competence across a range of useful skills at an appropriate depth for most office based jobs - someone who has an ECDL can not only type a letter and send emails, for example, but also build databases, create PowerPoint presentations, and will know about computer health and safety. This is a valuable qualification to employers because of this. When I was interviewed for my current job, I answered the inevitable question on IT abilities by stating that I was studying for the ECDL in my own time; this not only satisfied the interviewer that I was capable of doing the computer-based tasks of the job, but it also impressed him that I was doing it on my own time and money. Aside from that, I found it a satisfying and enjoyable process, and it has improved my confidence it in using computers - especially in using Excel, which I had quite an aversion to previously!
Highly recommended - I just wish I'd done it sooner.
*Outside of Europe, this qualification is known as the International Computer Driving License or ICDL.
**If you know someone who wants to start at a more basic level, the ECDL Foundation offers beginner courses too, see www.ecdl.com/products/index.jsp?b=0&pID=102&am p;nID=115.
***There is also a syllabus version 4.5, but this is only available in and recognised by the UK. Version 4.5 has minor adjustments to modules 1, 2 and 7 to bring it into line with other UK IT course standards.
© Collingwood21 2008
Summary: An excellent end-user IT qualification
More reviews in the field of Profession / Occupation
- Who do you know in the publishing world?
- Best Job in the entire world
- Doing it the independent way
- To PA or not to PA, That is the Question!
- Would You Work 7 Days a Week For No pay?
- Fell in to caring
- There's always going to be a need for carers
- You're either a natural with customers or you aren't, its not something you can ...
- Looking into doing Community Care Work? Read this first!
- An insight into my customer service experiences