Supporting a new learner

Being a Digital Champion is more about people than it is about digital.

Before you start supporting someone to use their new iPad or Chromebook, you’ll need to take some time to understand their motivations and fears about getting online.

“We have trialled a variety of methods including drop ins, structured sessions and 1:1 session by working in partnership with specialist providers. Anything that is viewed as “teaching” or classroom based hasn’t worked for us, or anything that hasn’t been asked for by the community. However, the brief intervention model where we support with a specific issue – from accessing UC journal to how to play Candy Crush has worked. We don’t assume we know what people want. In terms of resident engagement – we establish what they want and try to provide it, rather than assuming we know what they need.”


Debs Allan, Project Coordinator, Linstone Housing Association

Understanding that it will take time

Getting your learner comfortable with, and confident about, being online may not happen right away.

Regularly suggest and show them different online options. It will help build their curiosity about, and knowledge of, the digital world.

Find out what will motivate your learner to use the internet

One of the most common reasons given for not being online is that people have ‘no interest’. So learners’ motivation is one of the biggest challenges for Digital Champions.

This may have changed for some people during lockdown, but not for everyone.

Find out what matters to people. It will be what motivates them to improve their digital skills. This is called the ‘hook’.

The hook will vary for different people. The best way to find it is to listen.

Understanding your leaner’s interests and needs will help you find the hook. It could be:

  • keeping in touch with friends and family
  • supporting their hobbies
  • managing their finances
  • accessing services

Knowing what motivates your learner will make it easier to engage them, and keep them engaged.

In this video, Janette, a tenant at West of Scotland Housing Association, talks about the support she got from her Digital Champion:

Keep your support frequent, informal and flexible

Giving digital skills support should be informal and fun, instead of a dry IT skills lesson.

It’s important to be flexible and tailor your approach to meet your learner’s needs.

You might want to set up specific sessions to focus on digital skills. Or you may want to include it as part of your regular sessions.

This will depend on what your relationship with the learner is like, and how your service delivers support.

As a Digital Champion your goal is to keep your learner motivated and excited about being online. So each support session should focus on what the learner wants to achieve.

You may also want to set them some tasks in between calls. For example, you might ask them to find a YouTube video of their favourite singer and send you the link.

Support sessions with your learner

As a Digital Champion your goal is to keep your learner motivated and excited about being online.

Each call should focus on what the learner wants to achieve. You should schedule calls, or engage often, to keep up the momentum for learning.

Calls could be weekly or a couple of times a week. Usually 30 minutes is enough time to make some progress without overwhelming the learner.

You may also want to set them some tasks in between calls. For example, you might ask them to find a YouTube video of their favourite singer and send you the link.

Build digital skills support into everyday interactions  

You can help your learner to build their digital skills during one-off interactions.

For example, if your learner calls you to ask about any events your organisation is delivering over the next few weeks, you could talk them through your website and how they can find information online.

Regularly talking about the benefits of being online with enthusiasm and patience will help to build their confidence and motivation.

Don’t re-invent the wheel

Instead of creating new resources from scratch, adapt the resources that are already out there so they work your learner. It will allow you to spend more time supporting them.

Learn My Way is a simple and accessible platform for new learners to build their digital confidence.

It includes interactive video tutorials on a range of topics including online basics like searching the internet and using email.