Digital skills: succeeding in a digital world
Digital skills: succeeding in a digital world

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Digital skills: succeeding in a digital world

1 The importance of being digital

Water, water every where,

Nor any drop to drink.

(Coleridge, 1834)

Although technology is all around us, some people are still excluded (The Tech Partnership, 2017). This is often due to lack of opportunities to access the internet or ability to afford the necessary equipment. There are all sorts of benefits for society when people and organisations are able to use the internet to full effect.

  • On an individual level, gaining digital skills can reduce isolation, increase career prospects and enable people to access health information.

  • For organisations, becoming more digital is likely to increase visibility, efficiency and competitiveness.

  • For society in general, being digitally confident empowers people to make their voices heard on issues of importance to them.

  • Digital skills are also highly important when it comes to studying.

There is more to succeeding online than just knowing how to do specific tasks. It is also important to be able to judge who and what you can trust, understand the essentials of ethical behaviour online and communicate well with others. Being ‘digital’ is about using technology to achieve your goals, whether those are related to work, everyday life or study. It involves thinking critically and making the decisions that are right for you and your life.

In the next activity Manuela, Michael and John, your three ‘digital companions’ on this course, will introduce themselves, and talk about their aspirations and goals.

Activity 1 Starting your digital journey

Timing: 10 minutes

In the following videos, Manuela, Michael and John introduce themselves and share what they hope to get out of this course.

As you watch, think about whether any aspects of Manuela’s, Michael’s or John’s stories reflect your own experience.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 2: Manuela’s introduction
Skip transcript: Video 2: Manuela’s introduction

Transcript: Video 2: Manuela’s introduction

Hola! My name is Manuela and I’m originally from Spain. I’ve lived here in the UK for 20 years now. And I have two teenage children.

I work as a receptionist for an accountancy firm, but that job isn’t really going anywhere. What I would like to do is to work in marketing. My goal is to get a marketing job within the motorsports industry.

I’m not very confident with computers. I’m OK and I can do what I have to but it’s all moving on so quickly. Sometimes I feel I can’t keep up. And Sam and Isabel, they’re my children, I feel like they’re leaving me behind. Isabel’s even got her own fashion blog and it’s really popular.

I love racing, bikes and Formula One. In fact, when I was a teenager, I used to fix bikes and cars. And I’ve kept it going so I’m pretty good at it. I love Harleys. Who doesn’t?

This course will be good for me because I need to get up to date with the technology. I feel I need to be more confident with things like social media because that’s important for marketing.

It’s been while since I studied. So this course will help me get back into it and show me what I need to know to study online courses.

End transcript: Video 2: Manuela’s introduction
Video 2: Manuela’s introduction
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).
Download this video clip.Video player: Video 3: Michael’s introduction
Skip transcript: Video 3: Michael’s introduction

Transcript: Video 3: Michael’s introduction

Hello, my name’s Michael. You don’t really need to know how old I am, but I’m no spring chicken. I’m married to Margaret. I’ve got a couple of kids, although they’re not kids anymore. I mean, our daughter, Juliet, has just had a baby girl. That’s my granddaughter, Lulu. And my son, James, is a gas engineer.

I’m not very confident with technology. Don’t get me wrong, I can use a computer. But all these iPads and smartphones, I just can’t get my head around it. I mean, my wife’s always on her phone texting and shopping and using Facebook. I mean, just the other week, we’re in the pub with James, and he reckoned his mum was ‘phubbing’ me, you know, snubbing me by using a phone. Can you imagine? Good-looking fellow like me.

Anyway, moving on. I’m a railway engineer. Have been for quite a while now. But recently, I’ve been getting itchy feet. I want to try my hand at something a bit different. See, last year my boss asked me to mentor one of the young guys, and I really enjoyed it. I’ve been thinking about becoming a trainer ever since. You know, train the train engineers of the future. So I need to learn how to train.

See, at work at the moment, a lot of the courses I’m having to do are online. It’s mostly compliancy stuff, but it’s given me a wee insight into the whole online training thing. I mean, not much, man, but enough to make me realise that I need to improve my basic skills. So I’ve been looking around for free courses, which is how I ended up on this one.

And I think I just need to get back into the swing of studying. And I definitely need to get on the digital bandwagon, join the twenty-first century and all that, you know. And I’m hoping this course will help me with that as well. So Margaret, if you’re watching, I’m going to be the digital king of the North.

End transcript: Video 3: Michael’s introduction
Video 3: Michael’s introduction
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).
Download this video clip.Video player: Video 4: John’s introduction
Skip transcript: Video 4: John’s introduction

Transcript: Video 4: John’s introduction

Hi, I’m John. I still live at home with my mum and dad, but they’re great. My dad is kind of oldschool, so he wanted me to get a job as soon as possible. I love cooking, so I decided to become a trainee chef. And that’s what I do!

I think it’s a great job and one day I really want to open my own restaurant. I watch all the cooking programmes. My family can’t get enough of my food. My Christmas dinners – legendary.

I love football, obviously. Me and my mates are in a pub team, and we’re quite good, but I don’t think we’re going to get signed anytime soon. And I play pool every Friday, but that’s more to get to know Sarah a bit better. To be fair, she did look pretty impressed with my guitar skills at the open mic night, so...

And I think I’m pretty good with technology. I mean, I’ve got a smartphone and I’m never off social media. I look up all my recipes online, and I buy everything off Amazon anyway.

I think the main reason I’m doing this course is that, I think it’s about time that I just get my head down and put in the work to further my skills and my career. That does mean I have to study again. I mean, I left school early, so had to retake my GCSE Maths recently, which kind of reminded me what it was like to study, but I need the extra qualifications.

Ben, my mate, recently finished a course online. And he said he found it really difficult, because he wasn’t used to it – doing it online. So he suggested to me that I build up my skills before I start working on my qualifications.

End transcript: Video 4: John’s introduction
Video 4: John’s introduction
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Note your own aspirations and goals in your Digital plan.

(Remember, you can use a different tool to record your notes, if you prefer, but have a look at the Digital plan template provided to give you some guidance.)

In the next section you will identify your starting point for this course, by thinking about what technologies you currently use and what you do online.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371