Chapter 1: Digital inclusion explained
Digital inclusion refers to the activities necessary to ensure all individuals and communities, including the most disadvantaged, have access to and use of digital devices and media. It requires intentional strategies and investments to reduce and eliminate historical, institutional and structural barriers to access and use technology. Inclusion is also on-going and must evolve as technology advances.The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA)
Five inclusion activities
Five inclusion activities are described by the NDIA. In addition, working in the field of adult learning and literacy, we recognize that language, literacy and numeracy must be integrated with digital learning. We have extended the understanding of digital literacy training to include this important aspect of inclusion (in italics):
Affordable, robust broadband internet service
Internet-enabled devices that meet the needs of the user
Digital literacy training that incorporates language, literacy and numeracy
Quality and affordable technical support
Applications and online content designed to enable and encourage self-sufficiency, participation and collaboration.
LBS plays a key role in inclusion efforts as a provider of digital learning opportunities for adults — learning opportunities that are free and responsive to the goals of learners. LBS programs deliver digital training in various ways as part of their wider aim to support education, employment and learners’ personal aims.
Technology is often integrated to facilitate access to content and interactive learning activities that align with learners’ goals. For example, digital literacy is developed when adult learners use videoconferencing, email, or a Learning Management System (LMS) (e.g., Blackboard, Brightspace, Google Classroom or Canvas) to connect with instructors, access content, complete assignments, have discussions, etc. Since the pandemic, educators have expanded their use of video conferencing and other content organizers such as websites.
LBS service providers might also offer stand-alone digital literacy workshops and short courses with a focus on initial operational skills and an introduction to particular applications, such as Microsoft Word or Excel. Important topics like privacy and online security, online searches, evaluating sources and truthfulness of information, are also included.
Programs and individual educators also provide on-demand support for learners, assisting them with specific and often time-sensitive digital demands, such as helping them find and complete online forms, apply for jobs online or set up accounts for government services and benefits.
Some programs and educators also directly integrate technology with literacy and numeracy instruction to develop new digitally mediated literacy and numeracy practices such as digital storytelling, preparing employment applications for e-recruitment, developing a small website to support a community project or initiating a small data collection and presentation project to explore a local issue.
Some LBS learners participate in comprehensive online learning programs through e-Channel providers that offer complete courses in literacy, numeracy, digital skills and numerous goal-oriented and culturally relevant courses for Deaf, Indigenous, and Francophone learners.
However, LBS does not have mechanisms in place to address the remaining four elements of inclusion in learners’ lives, even though the adult learners in the system might not have the device and an affordable, high speed connection they need for learning. Although adult educators curate, adapt and help learners find useful online content, they and other experts aren’t regularly involved in province-wide efforts to develop applications and content designed for unique learners — adults who need to meet complex digital demands in their lives, with literacy abilities roughly equivalent to elementary and secondary school levels.