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The European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL)
The European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL)
Date: 21/02/01, updated on 18/11/02 (1109 review reads)
Advantages: Excellent way to get a recognised qualification.
Disadvantages: There's never any disadvantage in learning ;)
Somewhere deep in the bowels of Europe a devious plot was being hatched. "Ze computing eet ees not jist for ze boffins, eet ees for all". And so a Europe-wide recognised computing qualification was to become accessable to Joe (or Josephine) Public. I am sure we all know someone who could benefit from a basic course in computing skills, particularly when it has the added bonus of a recognised certificate at the end! I know you have many questions (even if you don't know it yet), so I will attempt to answer as many as I can.
1) Does ScotGirl know what she is talking about??
Not usually! But on this occasion I have a wee bit of insider info. I work in Further Education so I have been aware of this ECDL lark for quite some time. But more importantly, I have just completed mine, so the memories are still fresh.
2) What is the ECDL?
Leaving aside the fancy title, the ECDL is a very basic introduction to computers. Before its introduction the choices available for learning computing were restricted to non-vocational Saturday morning type classes, or going the full hog into NC or HNC modules. The ECDL is really a bridge between the two - as simple and (allegedly) as enjoyable as the Saturday classes, yet providing a recognised qualification.
3) Why did she say 'allegedly'?
Sorry, nothing to worry about there. It is enjoyable, but it does involve sitting exams at the end of each of seven modules. The word 'exam' is enough to fill many people with dread, but really they are no more than simple little tests. I will explain them individually in more detail further down - but don't worry, they are easy really!!
4) Who would benefit from it?
Basically I think many different people would benefit from doing this course. If nothing else it is another thing to stick on the old CV! The first group of people who spring to mind are those who have already had a little bit of exposure to computers
, and perhaps want to take it a step further - people who know how to boot-up the PC (or Mac!) and open one or two applications. But I am sure there are many people who work with a computer daily, yet don't know much about it at all. I know that I work with people like that, people who know how to use an Accounts package and a spreadsheet but don't know how to move a file, or copy it, to another folder. There may be people who are thinking of buying a home computer, but don't know the first thing about them. Even if there is no other reason, the sense of achievement in getting a qualification will be reason enough for many people. Hey, doesn't "I've got a European Computer Driving Licence" sound impressive??
5) So what do I have to do?
Ah, down to the nitty-gritty then. The ECDL comprises of seven individual modules and at the end of each module you sit a test. Don't worry though, if you fail the test you get another chance (up to three times). There are various ways to do it, probably the most common being attendance at night classes at a local college. Depending on local demand there are also various Training Centres, which run the course either in the evening or during the day. You can find out what is available in your area by visiting the official website (link at bottom). The number of weeks varies with each College or Training Centre, but it could be anywhere between 10 and 30 sessions. The other way to do it is to self-teach at your own pace. You will still have to attend a test centre to sit the exams, but you can do a few at once if you have built up a level of confidence.
6) What are the modules?
The following are the module titles and a brief synopsis of what each one involves:
* Basic concepts of IT
I suspect that this will be the scariest module for lots of people. This module clears up some of the 'jargon' associated with computers, such as ROM & RAM, the Data Protection
Act, the difference between input and output devices, computers in the workplace/home and general topics like that.
* Using the computer and managing files
Hey great, a chance to delete some stuff. Not only do you get to delete things but you also get to move things between folders, create more folders to move things to, copy files and delete some more things (usually by mistake - sshh it wasn't me!!). You also learn a bit about what different file types are, the size of files and general 'My Computer' type stuff (sorry Mac users, but I don't know your equivalent).
* Word Processing
This is an introduction to the basic functionality of a word processing package such as Microsoft Word (jeez, the Mac users will really hate me now!). It really only involves formatting text, inserting clip-art and things like that.
An introduction to MS Excel (or similar) spreadsheet application. Again this is quite simple stuff like formatting cells, sorting columns and learning very basic functions.
Again just a simple introduction to the basic functionality of a database. This teaches how to create a simple database table and use a query to extract information. Input forms and reports are also covered, but none of it is gone into in any great depth.
Woohoo, a chance to show our artistic side! Learn how to set up presentation slides. Insert images and text and play about with slde transitions. I liked doing this one most because I had never used it before (OK, sorry Macsters, it was MS Powerpoint).
* Information and Communication
...or an introduction to the internet and e-mail with a fancy title. I must say that this was by far the easiest one for me, but I suspect not so for new users. It is probably the one that most new users will be interested in though, and it does give a good intro to the 'net. Learn how to send, receive, forward, r
eply and add attachments to e-mails. The web part is quite simple and really only goes as deep as using a search engine to find information.
The test at the end of each module is allocated 45 minutes. The pass marks are pretty generous too, so it isn't too stressful.
7) So cut to the chase - what's the cost?
Ah, it always comes down to money eh! But.... have you heard of 'Individual Learning Accounts' (ILA's)? I will outline the typical cost of the ECDL here, but do yourself a favour and read the bit below about ILA's too. Again the cost will much depend on where you receive your tuition. The bulk of the cost though is centrally set by the good ECDL people and is £12.50 per module for sitting the test and a one-off charge of £25 for a 'log-book' which is really a record of which modules have been completed. The cost of tuition will be around the £40 - £50 mark depending on where you decide to study. If you decide on home study you obviously won't pay the tuition fees (oh, bad words eh!!). So, the total cost will probably be around £150. That is actually very cheap for companies who are looking for basic I.T. training for their staff, so well worth asking the boss to pay for it! Oh, but if you can't beg borrow or steal it from the boss there's still good news on the cash front - read on...
8) Tell me about ILA's then!
ILA's, or to give them their Sunday name, Individual Learning Accounts, are a government scheme to entice people into further education. Basically you can apply for an ILA and get £150 of free education. Unfortunately, as they say, there is no such thing as a free lunch, but this comes close. To activate your ILA you need to pay the first £25, but after that the ILA kicks in to cover the next £150. As you can see from the figures above, £25 should be all you need to pay to do the ECDL. ILA's are a separate thing which can be used to offset the cost of just about
any FE course, but they are worth mentioning in association with the ECDL since that is what a lot of people are using them for. Even if you don't fancy the ECDL course, it is worth bearing the ILA's in mind in case you want to do another course. The amount of available ILA's is limited, so get in quick if you are genuinely interested in further education.
Further info on ILA's can be found at:
England, NI & Wales - http://www.my-ila.com/
Scotland - www.learndirectscotland.com/home/funding/ILAs/
9) When it's all over
After the seven modules have been successfully completed you send your logbook to the ECDL people. They will then swap it for a certificate. And that's it - you are now a qualified computer boffin!
Working in FE placed me in a position where I was actually *required* to do this course. Personally I don't know that I actually learned too much, but it was enjoyable. Having done the course myself though, I can honestly say that I do think it is a worthwhile thing to do. One of the first questions most employers will ask at interview or look for on a CV is "does this candidate have computing skills". A qualification such as this gives firm evidence that you do have computer skills and might be enough to put you ahead of the competition. For new users, or technophobes, it is an ideal introduction to computing, and the thrill of actually getting a certificate would be hard to beat! At only £25 for the entire course (with an ILA) I think it is really good opportunity and I have certainly been encouraging everyone I know to give it a bash. There isn't much to lose, and a lot to gain. Thanks for taking the time to read this, I hope it can be of use to you or someone you know. Oh, and best of luck if you do go for it :)
More info can be found at the ECDL website: