Dr Nigel Watson explains what the European Computer Driving Licence is and how it will help healthcare professionals make the best use of their computers

The majority of clinicians, managers and support staff in the NHS use computers on a daily basis.

Training in the use of specific work-related software packages in the NHS is sometimes of good quality; however, most of those working in the NHS receive little training in the basic concepts of information technology (IT), including the use of a personal computer (PC), Microsoft Windows, and common computer applications such as word processing (e.g. Word), spreadsheets (e.g. Excel), databases (e.g. Access) or software for presentation (e.g. PowerPoint).

To make the best use of computers it is essential to have comprehensive training focused on the important fundamental issues.

The European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) is an internationally recognised qualification certifying that the holder has knowledge of the basic concepts of information technology (IT) and a basic level of competence in the use of a PC and common compu|er applications. The International Computer Driving Licence (ICDL) is essentially the same concept with a different name.

The ECDL was started in Finland in 1994, and since then more than 26 000 have gained their licence there. The ECDL Foundation was established in 1995 and started to introduce the ECDL throughout Europe.

The EDCL was launched in the UK in 1998 by the British Computer Society. It has more than 160 000 candidates in the UK, and more than a million worldwide.

The ECDL is available to all, irrespective of age. It has been structured so that everyone, from an individual with no prior knowledge of IT to someone who uses a computer at work on a daily basis, will benefit from the course.

There are seven modules to the course:

  • Basic concepts of IT
  • Using a computer and managing files
  • Word processing
  • Spreadsheets
  • Database
  • Presentation
  • Information and communication.

Module 1: Basic concepts of IT

This requires the individual to understand the physical make-up of a PC and some basic concepts of IT, e.g.:

  • Memory
  • Data storage
  • Software applications
  • The use of information networks
  • How PCs may affect health
  • Security issues
  • Legal issues, e.g. data protection.

Module 2: Using a computer and managing files

This requires the individual to demonstrate knowledge and competence in using the basic functions of a PC and its operating system (e.g. Microsoft Windows).

The individual needs to be able to:

  • Organise files in a directory/folder
  • Copy, move or delete a file/ directory or folder
  • Use desktop icons
  • Manipulate windows
  • Use simple editing tools
  • Use print management facilities.

Module 3: Word processing

This requires the individual to be able to use a word processor on a PC.

The following tasks need to be understood and carried out:

  • Creating a document
  • Formatting a document
  • Creating standard tables
  • Using pictures and images within a document
  • Importing objects
  • Using mail merge tools.

Module 4: Spreadsheets

This requires the candidate to understand the basic concepts of spreadsheets and be able to use a spreadsheet on a PC.

The following tasks need to be understood and carried out:

  • Creating a spreadsheet
  • Formatting a spreadsheet
  • Standard mathematical and logical operations using basic formulae and functions.

Advanced features include:

  • Importing an object
  • Creating a chart
  • Creating a graph.

Module 5: Database

This requires the individual to understand the basic concepts of databases and demonstrate how to use a database on a PC.

This module is divided into two sections:

  • The individual must design and plan a simple database using a standard package (e.g. Microsoft Access).
  • The individual must be able to retrieve information from an existing database by the use of the query, select and sort tools that are available within the database.
  • The individual must also be able to create and modify reports.

Module 6: Presentation

The individual is required to demonstrate competence in using a presentation package on a PC. The following tasks need to be performed:

  • Creating a presentation
  • Formatting a presentation
  • Preparing a presentation for distribution and display.

The individual is required to demonstrate the ability to create a variety of presentations to reflect differing audiences or projects.

The individual must also demonstrate the ability to create graphs and charts and to import graphics within a presentation to produce different slide show effects.

Module 7: Information and communication

This section is divided into two subsections:

  • Information: This requires the individual to demonstrate basic skills on the world wide web in the following areas:
    • Basic web searches
    • Use of browser applications
    • Use of search engine tools
    • Bookmark searches
    • Print web pages
    • Search reports
  • Communication: This requires the individual to demonstrate the ability to use electronic mail (email) software to send and receive messages. He/she must also be able to:
    • Attach a document or file to an email
    • Organise and manage message folders or directories.

The amount of training required and the time it takes will depend on the basic skills that the individual has at the start of the course.

Someone who has all the necessary skills may take approximately 3-4 months to complete all the tests for each module, whereas someone with no previous knowledge who wishes to take his/her time has to complete the programme within 3 years of passing the first module.

It is possible to take the ECDL without participating in any formal training course. An individual with sufficient experience and knowledge can simply take each modular test.

The first thing to do is to register, and thus become enrolled in the programme. Registration is with the National Licensee of each country.

In the UK the registration fee is £25. For this a skills card or log book which lists all seven modules is supplied. The log book is used to record the results of each module. Once all seven modules have been passed, the ECDL is awarded.

Employees of the NHS can access their Individual Learning Accounts (see Box, below) to fund up to 80% of the training required.

Computer skills are becoming increasingly important as computers become an integral part of all aspects of work within the NHS.

Although computers are now used on a daily basis in the home and at work, basic computer skills have either been ignored or never taught to many computer users. The ECDL offers a standardised way of developing an individual's skills and interests and backs this up with a qualification.

Consider talking to your local IT department in the primary care trust (PCT) or hospital and explore the possibility of establishing a training programme for all primary care staff, including GPs. Some local hospitals, health authorities and PCTs are considering setting up training courses for local healthcare professionals.

Individual Learning Account (ILA)
  • A Government-backed source of funding that enables an individual to gain up to 80% discount on certain types of training, to a maximum of £100 per year.
  • A small number of computer 6kills courses attract a discount of 80%, to a maximum of £200 per year.
  • The ECDL is eligible for the ILA.
  • For further information contact the Individual Learning Account Centre on 0800 072 5678
Table 1: Useful website addresses for the European Computer Driving Licence

European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) http://www.ecdl.co.uk/

CTTglobal – a sample of online training available http://www.cctglobal.com/ecdl/benifits_individuals.html

ECDL testing at Lancaster University http://www.lancs.ac.uk/users/isstrain/ecdl/

ECDL resources at Bangor University http://www.bangor.ac.uk/ecdl/onlineres/resources.html

ECDL resources and training at the University of Wales,Swansea http://www.swansea.ac.uk/lis/ecdl/index.asp

  • The views expressed in this article are the personal views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the BMA.

Guidelines in Practice, October 2001, Volume 4(10)
© 2001 MGP Ltd
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