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7 ways to improve digital literacy skills on a budget

Digital literacy skills have become essential. Computers and other digital devices are increasingly part of everyday life; they’ve changed how we do things, and they’re going to keep changing how we do things. To keep up, we need to keep learning so that we can continue to thrive at home, at work, and in the community.

Being digitally literate means being able to adapt to the changes brought about by computers and digital devices in ways that make sense to your life. However, not everyone has access to expensive courses, devices, or even the Internet to develop their digital literacy skills. Furthermore, adult literacy programs have limited funding, and may struggle to provide enough hardware for learners to practice their digital literacy skills.

Fortunately, there are many ways to improve your skills on a budget. We outline seven of them below:

1. Use free online courses. If you’re comfortable using the Internet, one of the most cost-effective ways to improve your digital literacy skills is through free online courses. Websites like the ABC Skills Hub offer a wide range of free online courses covering various topics, such as searching safely online, identifying spam email, using Zoom, as well as other skills improvement courses.

Literacy practitioners can also sign up for the program on behalf of their learners. The ABC Skills Hub includes teacher and organization portals, where teachers can set up virtual classrooms for learners, and where organizations can keep track of multiple teachers and groups of learners across a variety of courses.

2. Visit the library. The library is a great place where you can access free Internet and computers to brush up on your digital skills. Some libraries also offer other services such as classes to improve your computer skills, printing and scanning facilities, and the opportunity to borrow a laptop or tablet to take home with you.

3. Attend free webinars and workshops. Many community organizations, including libraries, offer free webinars and workshops that cover various digital skills. These events are usually open to the public and are a great opportunity to ask questions specific to your needs.

For organizations that want to bring a digital literacy workshop to their community, ABC Life Literacy Canada offers ABC Connect for Learning. This program is highly flexible and adult learners choose what they want to learn. All workshop materials are available online and can be adapted according to the needs of individual groups. With over 50 lesson plans to choose from, adults can learn how to use social media, navigate a smartphone or set up email.

4. Apply for grant programs. If access to a device is a challenge, consider signing up for a technology grant program that offers free or discounted computers, tablets or phones. For example, Reboot Canada provides computers at below retail cost for people receiving social assistance. Non-profits and adult learning centres are also eligible for hardware through programs like Free Geek Toronto. Do some research online to see if there is a similar program in your province or territory.

5. Check out online resources. From YouTube videos to online forums, there are many free online resources that can teach you about technology. If you’re just getting started online, consider downloading materials from the ABC Connect for Learning program.

6. Ask friends or family. Many younger people have grown up on the Internet and are very comfortable using technology. Consider asking friends or family members such as children or grandchildren for help using specific technological features.

To limit frustration on both ends, ask someone who you think would be a natural teacher and happy to help. Allocate some dedicated time together so you’re not asking someone for advice when they’re least expecting it. Have a list of questions or specific topics that you would like to ask them about.

7. Learn from podcasts and audiobooks. Podcasts and audiobooks are a great way to learn new digital skills while on the go. They are often more affordable than physical books and courses, making them a budget-friendly option.

Digital technology continues to grow and change. Keeping your digital skills sharp with the tips above is a great way for you to be prepared.