Bridging the Gap

Westminster Adult Education Service

This project actively engaged learners with diverse needs and disabilities to access components of the Essential Digital Skills (EDS) qualification by simplifying them into bite-sized tasks. Key to the success was the collaboration of EDS tutors with Diversity and Inclusion tutors who together reviewed and redesigned existing materials to better suit the needs of these learners.

You can download a PDF of this report on the Excellence Gateway (link pending).


We have been mindful that the EDS qualification is complicated and challenging for many learners with diverse needs and disabilities: components include navigation elements such as menus, hyperlinks and browser navigation control. There is a vast gap between Entry Level qualifications and the EDS qualification so our project aimed to bridge the gap so that learners with diverse needs and disabilities would be able to progress without feeling disadvantaged or overwhelmed.

Furthermore, we identified a need to support their daily digital literacy, thereby preventing them from being excluded from everyday tasks, e.g. universal credit, accessing medical appointments, etc.

One of the significant tasks was to adapt existing resources to make them more understandable by reducing words and adding images, to ensure that they were inclusive and accessible.

Other Contextual Information

Our action research was part of the Education and Training Foundation’s OTLA 8 programme. It took place in the Diversity and Inclusion department of Westminster Adult Education Service. We started working with the Pre-Entry Level beginners ICT class over a 12-week period. For some learners, they had never used a computer before and were very unfamiliar with typing, using a mouse and any functions that many of us take for granted. 90% of learners did not own a mobile phone. In term 2 we were able to extend the reach of the project to include an additional group of learners, whose digital operating level was more advanced at Entry Levels 1 and 2.


Our team took the following approach:

We started by trying to encourage learners and carers to engage with computers by sharing a simple PowerPoint and an A4 set of visual images providing step-by-step instructions on how to log on at home. Due to limited uptake of this, it was difficult to provide homework tasks. Also, some learners did not have computers at home.

In the classroom, with one-to-one support, all learners were able to log on to a computer. We discovered that without being able to practise between sessions, much of the learning was forgotten. A further consideration was that without a teacher or support assistant at home, learners did not have the confidence or ability to work outside the classroom. We therefore took the decision to extend the duration of the course for this group of learners so that they could practise and repeat small tasks to aid their long-term memory development.

In term 2 we worked with Entry Level learners, which led to more success. These learners were able to log on and follow instructions, though still needed support before moving on to EDS content. We also found that these learners were more actively involved because they were more aware that they are taking part in the research project.

The research project team devised simple tasks and resources in collaboration with the EDS tutors. Each step was broken down for learners and practised, to ensure sequential learning and to aid long term memory, before moving on.

As learner confidence grew, we were able to increase levels of activity to two tasks over a five-week period. One learner in the first group has now become a digital champion and is supporting other learners. As the project progressed, we recorded our progress on a Padlet, which is shown in the screenshot to the right.

Outcomes and Impact

Teaching, Learning and Assessment

Having realised that we needed to try our approach with a different group of learners, we found that the resources were extremely effective. Our ‘what’s in a name?’ resource (Appendix 4.2) enabled learners to show how they could change the font, embolden text, underline, change colour and this led to a visible sense of achievement with the learners. The second resource was a research task that involved learners using the cut and paste function to add images and text to a PowerPoint template. This task invited learners to choose images themselves and also encouraged them to find out more about iconic people, such as Nelson Mandela. The third resource was an internet quiz comprising 15 questions in which learners were required to research and/or upload images. Their engagement, motivation and increased confidence were evident as they competed against each other to complete the task within an hour. It was clear to see that they had all progressed during the project and it was so encouraging to see how much they enjoyed taking part.

With each of the tasks described above, breaking them down into step by step verbal instructions was important. Not only did this lead to success with the tasks themselves, it also increased confidence and learners were able to take pride in what they had achieved. We learnt that the best results came from modelling the task rather than giving written instructions.

Below we share some feedback from learners in relation to task 1:

I was able to do the task easily as it was explained to me.

– Learner, LA

I found the task easy.

– Learner, SH

Because I was in the ICT Beginners class I was able to do the task and I was able to work by myself.

– Learner, HS

Feedback from task 3 was very positive and they collectively asked if they could do something similar again. (Learners in Foundation Skills L2).

Organisational Development

We collaborated with the digital skills department to better understand the EDS curriculum and the current challenges faced in its delivery to mainstream learners. We identified ESOL specific challenges and used this knowledge to inform how best we would break down the EDS tasks to meet the needs of our learners with diverse needs and disabilities. The experiences broadened our horizon on the complexity of the EDS qualifications and the difficulties our learners face in terms of employment as well as daily life if they remain disengaged with the digital world. In addition to this, digital poverty was an underlying issue that is present for learners with no requirement for additional support. This in turn emphasised the ever-increasing gap between those who are fully conversant with the digital world and those who are not.

Learning from this project

What worked well:

  • Two digital champions have been appointed within the Diversity and Inclusion team (both learners). The digital champions are going into lower level groups to support learners there. This is a very positive outcome of our research project and will be beneficial for all involved, in terms of employability, learner self-esteem etc. This initiative will continue after the project and will potentially lead to a more structured peer to peer support system within the organisation.• Liaising with the digital team was key to the success of this initiative and closer collaboration will continue after the research project ends.
  • We learnt that modelling and visual resources are more effective for learning than written instructions.
  • We learnt that breaking down tasks into small steps led to success.
  • The third task demonstrated the distance the learners had travelled during the project.

Even better if:

  • We are hopeful that the gap will be bridged so much that learners will be able to progress into a formal EDS class. Some learners are likely to do this in September, but we hope that our project will make it easier for others.
  • The first group would benefit from an extension to their course, so they can complete some of the resources and can visibly identify their progress on a termly basis.
  • We were inspired by a project being carried out by the project team at Haringey Adult Learning Service which involved peer to peer mentoring. This could be an outcome for us and perhaps we could collaborate with this team to make this happen.

Professional Development

Using the ETF’s Professional Standards for teachers and trainers. Please note, this report refers to the 2014-2022 standards.

  • 2. Evaluate and challenge your practice, values and beliefs.

    Our project provided time and space for us to come together to challenge our assumptions that learners with diverse needs cannot attain EDS qualifications. By engaging in research activities with the learner, we found that they are able to perform tasks and produce assignments, as it is tailor made for them. We started from a position of learners being novices at using the computer and moved onto learners who can complete basic digital skill tasks.

  • 3. Inspire, motivate and raise aspirations of learners through your enthusiasm and knowledge.

    Our research project demonstrates this standard through the following quotes from learners:

    “I have enjoyed being the class, I learnt in login and wait, I did a PowerPoint presentation, I have done some quizzes, I did some typing, and I sent my work to you via Teams and id CHECKS and telling time. Also researched Black history, we did famous Sportsmen”.

    “We learnt about emojis and put things in the chat”.

  • 5. Value and promote social and cultural diversity, equality of opportunity and inclusion.

    We were able to provide a learning experience where all of our learners thrived together in a mixed ability setting. Their uniqueness provided a richness and depth to learning outcomes.

  • 13. Motivate and inspire learners to promote achievement and develop their skills to enable progression.

    HS has been asked if he wants to move into another a more advanced group where he will be studying Digital Skills Entry Level 1; he has agreed.


Appendix 2: Learner Case Studies

Appendix 3: Project Padlet

Appendix 4: Project Activities and Resources


Digital Poverty Alliance. (2022). ‘Together we can end digital poverty once and for all’. [online]. Available at: [accessed 30.3.22].

Holmes, H and Burgess, G. (2021) ‘Pay the wi-fi or feed the children. Coronavirus has intensified the digital divide’. University of Cambridge [online]. Available at: [accessed 30.3.22].