Use Computers with Skill and Competence — Computer Driving Licence Certification Standard is the Education and Workplace Benchmark for the Digitally Literate
Posted Under: Computer User Skills Certification,Digital Literacy,Employment,ICDL testing
What’s in the name “ICDL”?
ICDL stands for International Computer Driving Licence but it has little to do with cars and trucks. Most people get it right away and tell us they think the name is a great idea. Others think as a metaphor ‘computer driving licence’ is ‘hoakie’. The story we heard back in 1998 when learning all we could ahead of getting ICDL started in Canada went something like this:
Several people showed up one day in the late 1980′s to the Finish Computer Society looking for help. They had seen all the computers that had been introduced to the workplace and realized that to get a job with an up-to-date employer would require the ability to use computers with skill and confidence. Many however described feelings of trepidation or even downright fear about using computers. They felt intimidated by the computer because of their lack of skill and understanding. They used the “phobia” word.
The people at the computer society were welcoming and offered to help, so first arranged an exploration session for the delegation and their friends and colleagues. At the outset the facilitator suggested “You deal first with your apparent phobia” and asked a question: “How many of you have a drivers licence?” As expected, everyone put their hands up. “Well, you obviously know that it takes skill to drive a car and your licence shows that you have mastered those skills sufficiently to be drivers. But did you know it takes probably as much or more skill to drive a car than it takes to use one of these (pointing to one of the computers in front of them)? To get yourself into a position to be capable and confident users of computers all you need to do is acquire skills, a feat you know you can accomplish because you have already done that for driving cars.”
The facilitator went on: “We will give you computer skills training and practice. You will know yourselves when you are ready to ‘drive the computer’ without our instructor beside you. At this point we will give you a test. You can imagine that you won’t need the test to know that you know, nor will you need it to prove that you do know to us. What the test will achieve though is to prove that you are a competent and confident computer user to the employers you want to approach for a job. And, the Computer Society will issue to you a ‘Computer Driving Licence’ as your certificate”.
The Computer Driving Licence program was quickly successful and became known to other computer (informatics) societies within Europe who started offering similar programs in their countries. A few years later the subject of this Computer Driving Licence was discussed at one of the Council of European Professional Informatics Societie’s (CEPIS) gatherings. The member countries (more than 20) agreed it was a great program but one that was putting the informatics societies directly into the training industry for the general public. But there already was a well established training industry quite capable of training the general public in computer use. What was missing was a widely accepted generic norm or standard for computer user skills. The decision was made to withdraw from the training activity but instead to offer the needed vendor-neutral standard that the training industry could use along with a computer user skill certification process to go with it. It was envisaged that, well done, such a standard could become European-wide and would therefore be called the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL). A task force involving ten of the CEPIS member countries was established to formalize the ECDL standard and the procedural framework for its delivery and maintenance. The ECDL was to make clear what an individual should know and be able to do to be considered a competent user of computers at work. This effort went on for over a year and ultimately included considerable pilot testing across the ten countries. In October of 1996 the first ECDL Syllabus was completed. At that point three things then happened:
Firstly, the question arose ‘Who would regulate the use of the standard and keep it up to date in this fast changing field?’ It was decided to establish a not-for-profit governing body, the ECDL Foundation, to coordinate the ongoing work of the participating countries. This organization would be owned by the informatics societies with the initial board to be taken from the ten member country task force. Its headquarters was set up in Dublin, Ireland and the first Managing Director was appointed – Dr. Dudley Dolan from The University of Dublin – Trinity College. The ECDL intellectual property was then vested in the ECDL Foundation.
Secondly, South Africa and Australia wanted to participate too but it would be difficult to call it ‘European’ in their countries. So, they, and later others outside of Europe, were encouraged to call it the International Computer Driving Licence or ICDL. (By the way, Canada was the 14th country to join the ECDL/ICDL community — there are now 146 countries worldwide and approximately 30 of these continue to use the ECDL designation.)
ICDL Computer Use Skills –Tools for learning
Thirdly, the ECDL/ICDL standard quickly became a benchmark in education as well as in the workplace. It was the right definition of which skills were needed as tools for learning. One of the early formal adoptions of this role for ECDL/ICDL was heralded in IFIP/UNESCO’s informatics curriculum framework 2000 for higher education which subsumed ECDL/ICDL as the base computer skill and knowledge suited to entry into informatics programs in higher education. Today there are thousands of colleges and universities that recognize or require ECDL/ICDL certification for all kinds of students and most of these institutions grant their own equivalent transfer credit or advanced standing for individuals entering their institutions with ECDL/ICDL Certification.
Today the original ECDL/ICDL standard is designated as CORE so it is distinguished from additional standards added to broaden the scope of computer user skill certifications offered in the ECDL/ICDL community. In Canada the certification spectrum from beginner to power user is reflected in e-Citizen, ICDL Core and ICDL Advanced and each has its own vendor-neutral generic syllabus.
Vendor neutrality and the sheer scale of adoption of ECDL/ICDL Core Certification have made it the de facto digital literacy benchmark in more countries worldwide than any other computer skill definition.