Ultimate guide to: Essential digital skills

30 March 2022

Digital literacy is essential for many of us these days, almost every job has an element of digital skills required, and we’re using more technology in our personal lives and around the house too. Knowing what the basic digital skills are and how to develop your own digital know-how can be really useful.

In this blog we’ll explain why basic digital skills are so important, what the Essential Digital Skills Framework is, and how you can improve your digital skills.

Why are digital skills important?

Having digital skills – even just basic ones can make a big difference in both your personal and work life. Having digital skills for the workplace can make you more employable, and knowing how to use personal devices to keep you connected with friends can help you to avoid being isolated.

Digital skills are considered to be so important, that in 2019, the UK government updated their national standards in the Essential Digital Skills Framework to provide support and guidance for adults across the UK to develop their digital skills. These include: communicating, problem solving and online safety, to help not only with their personal lives, but in the workplace too.

Many employers look for digital skills when recruiting staff, so it’s useful to have some digital abilities if you’re on the hunt for a new job.

four older people smiling and pointing at a laptop screen | Ultimate guide to Essential digital skills | Digital Wings blog

What are basic digital skills?

Digital skills in the workplace can help with many different parts of the day-to-day running of a business, including helping staff communicate more effectively and efficiently, keeping it compliant with rules and regulations required by law, and also to help the business grow and make money.

Some of the basic digital skills required for the workplace include being able to use email effectively, knowing how to browse the internet safely and using data tracking tools to help analyse things like stock levels and staff rotas.

You can find out more about useful digital skills for the workplace in this blog.

What is the Essential Digital Skills Framework?

The Essential Digital Skills Framework defines the digital skills adults need to safely benefit from, participate in and contribute to the digital world. It was created in 2015 to support providers, organisations and employers across the UK who offer training for adults to secure their essential digital skills. You can read about the history of the framework in this GOV.UK blog.

Just like in construction, when you’re building a framework for a house, it’s vital to have a really solid foundation. So before you get started, or help someone else get started with the Essential Digital Skills Framework, it’s important to understand the basics first. Here’s a list of the digital foundation skills which underpin all essential digital skills in the framework:

Digital Foundation Skills

Examples

I can:

  • turn on a device
  • use the available controls on my device
  • make use of accessibility tools on my device to make it easier to use
  • interact with the home screen on my device
  • understand that the internet allows me to access information and content and that I can connect to it through Wi-Fi
  • connect my device to a safe and secure Wi-Fi network
  • connect to the internet and open a browser to find and use websites
  • understand that my passwords and personal information need to be kept safely as they have value to others

I can:

  • turn on the device and enter any account information as required
  • use a mouse and keyboard on a computer, use a touch screen on a smart phone or tablet
  • use settings menus to change device display to make content easier to read
  • find applications by choosing the correct icons on the home screen
  • connect a device to the internet using the Wi-Fi settings, and insert the password when required
  • locate the browser icon on a device and find a website

If you want to find out more about digital foundation skills, there’s learning available for each topic in Digital Wings.

The Essential Digital Skills Framework outlines five key skills and provides examples of tasks that people should be able to complete to demonstrate each skill. Each skill has a distinct focus, but the fifth skill – being safe, legal and confident online – is also embedded across the other four.

The five categories of essential digital skills for life and work are:
  • communicating
  • handling information and content
  • transacting
  • problem solving
  • being safe and legal online

Let’s take a closer look at each skill:

1. Communicating

Knowing how to use email, and other communication apps, use and share electronic documents, and post updates on social media platforms can help you keep in touch with other people, but can also be useful in the workplace too. See what digital skills you might already have and what you might find helpful to learn more about:

Skills for life

Examples

I can:

  • understand the importance of communicating securely
  • set up an email account
  • communicate with others digitally using email and other messaging apps
  • use word processing applications to create documents
  • share documents with others by attaching them to an email
  • communicate with friends and family using video tools
  • post messages, photographs, videos or blogs on social media platforms

I can:

  • set up a group on messaging platforms, such as WhatsApp or Messenger, to talk to friends or family members
  • use word processing software to create a CV or a letter
  • send photographs and other documents to friends and family as an email attachment
  • set up and use video-telephony products such as Facetime or Skype for video communications with friends and family
  • be a member of and manage personal networking sites, such as Facebook
  • post appropriately on social media, visit and post to forums such as Mumsnet or Reddit

Additional skills for work

Examples

I can:

  • understand and conform with my organisation’s IT and social media policies
  • comply with my organisation’s security protocols when accessing my email or working remotely
  • communicate in an appropriate way for my organisation by using email, online and collaborative digital tools
  • use digital collaboration tools to meet with, share and collaborate with colleagues
  • use professional online networks and communities

I can:

  • use the email address book of my organisation to send emails to colleagues and use the ‘cc’ option when requested
  • work remotely using a virtual private network when provided by my employer, and use the requested authentication to connect
  • use different document formats such as PDF to make it easier to share documents with colleagues
  • use document sharing though web based applications such as Google Docs to work on a document in collaboration with colleagues
  • use video-conferencing products such as Skype and Facetime to communicate with colleagues on conferences and calls
  • be a member of and manage my account on professional networking sites, such as LinkedIn
Woman speaking on a phone and looking at her laptop | Essential digital skills Digital Wings

2. Information handling

Being able to store, manage and find digital information securely can help you to stay organised and keep control. Knowing how to search for trustworthy sources when researching something can help you avoid misinformation and scams, and understanding how to store pictures in the cloud can help give you peace of mind that even if you lose or break your tech, your precious memories are still available to you. Here’s some more examples:

Skills for life

Examples

I can:

  • understand that not all online information and content that I see is reliable
  • evaluate what information or content may, or may not, be reliable
  • use search engines to find information and make use of search terms to generate better results
  • use bookmarks to save and retrieve information on my web browser
  • access information and content from different devices
  • understand that the cloud is a way that I can store information and content in a remote location.
  • organise my information and content using files and folders on my device or on the cloud
  • use the internet to legally access content for entertainment including films, music, games and books

I can:

  • understand that not all entries in online encyclopaedias, such as Wikipedia, are true or reliable
  • search for news using a browser such as Chrome, Internet Explorer or Safari
  • use a cloud storage account for a music or photo collection (from legal sources such as Apple iCloud, Instagram) and access the collections from different devices, such as a laptop or a smartphone
  • stream music from legal sites such as Spotify or Apple Music, or watch streamed movies from legal sources such as Netflix or Amazon Prime

Additional skills for work

Work examples

I can:

  • understand and conform with my organisation’s policy for IT use
  • synchronise and share information across different devices including computers, tablets and mobile phones

I can:

  • search for information requested by a supervisor using browsers such as Chrome, Internet Explorer or Safari
  • manage a calendar or appointments system on multiple devices, including work computer and phone or tablet
young woman in a room with lots of houseplants looking at her laptop  | Ultimate guide to Essential digital skills | Digital Wings blog

3. Transacting

Being able to complete digital forms, and make purchases online are useful skills to have. Using your device to keep your bills paid on time, and buy that last minute gift can be really handy too. Take a look at some of the other skills that sit under transacting.

Skills for life

Examples

I can:

  • set up an account online, using appropriate websites or Apps, that enables me to buy goods or services
  • access and use public services online, including filling in forms
  • use different payment systems, such as credit/debit card, direct bank transfer, and phone accounts, to make payments for goods or services online
  • upload documents and photographs when this is required to complete an online transaction
  • fill in online forms when required to complete an online transaction
  • manage my money and transactions online and securely, such as my bank, through the use of websites or apps

I can:

  • set up online accounts for public services such as with your local council or a government department
  • set up online accounts with retailers to order and pay for goods online such as through Amazon or eBay
  • use travel websites and apps to book tickets and make reservations
  • make a GP appointment online
  • complete online forms to apply for a television license or road tax
  • set up and use online and telephone banking through websites or apps, keeping access information secure
  • upload a CV to an online recruitment site
  • complete an online application form, for example for a job

Additional skills for work

Work examples

I can:

  • complete digital records for absence, holidays or expenses online
  • access salary and expenses information digitally including password protected pay slips

I can:

  • submit requests for annual leave, record absence from work or submit expenses claims online
  • review own pay slip and salary payments when received digitally

4. Problem Solving

The internet can help us solve problems quickly and easily – if you know how to do it. Knowing where to find FAQs (frequently asked questions) and how to use chat facilities can help you answer questions and solve problems. Being able to find and watch a tutorial on YouTube might even be able to get you back on track with the project you’re working on. Here are some other ways digital skills can help you solve problems:

Skills for life

Examples

I can:

  • use the internet to find information that helps me solve problems
  • use the internet to find sources of help for a range of activities
  • use chat facilities (where available) on websites to help me solve problems
  • use online tutorials, FAQs and advice forums to solve problems and improve my skills in using devices, software and applications

I can:

  • use the internet to find specific information related to Life tasks that need to be carried out, for example finding a recipe, or finding information that helps plan travel
  • use the help, FAQ section or chat facility of a manufacturer’s website or other related content to work out how to fix an issue with a device
  • find out how to do something by using a tutorial video such as those found on YouTube

Additional skills for work

Work examples

I can:

  • use the internet to find information that helps me solve problems at work
  • use appropriate software to present information to others
  • use appropriate software, including a spreadsheet, to manipulate and analyse data to help solve problems at work
  • understand that different digital tools can improve my own and the organisation’s productivity

I can:

  • use the internet to identify alternative ways of resolving a problem encountered at work such as checking out a business competitor
  • use spreadsheets to plan the cost of a project.
  • use analytic tools to monitor website usage and spot trends that enable decisions to be made about marketing tactics
man smiling broadly writing something on a piece of paper with his laptop open next to him  | Ultimate guide to Essential digital skills | Digital Wings blog

5. Being safe and legal online

This section of the Essential Digital Skills Framework is part of each of the previous four skills.

Everything you do online should be done safely and securely. Having a good understanding of your responsibilities for the use of digital tools in the workplace is something you’ll need to demonstrate, but equally, being able to spot something that’s not quite right and knowing how to report things when you’re online at home can keep you out of trouble.

Read the list below to see what things you should be aware of and how you can make sure you’re using the internet safely and home and work:

I can:

I understand:

  • respond to requests for authentication for my online accounts and email
  • keep the information I use to access my online accounts secure, using different and secure passwords for websites and accounts
  • set privacy settings on my social media and other accounts
  • recognise suspicious links in email, websites, social media messages and pop ups and know that clicking on these links or downloading unfamiliar attachments could put me and my computer at risk *make sure that any information or content is backed up frequently by making a copy and storing it separately either in the cloud or on an external storage device
  • the risks and threats involved in carrying out activities online and the importance of working securely
  • that viruses can damage my computer and that security software should be used to prevent this
  • that my online activity produces a permanent record which could be accessed by others and used both now and in the future
  • that others can capture and use my data and that I can protect and secure my personal data against such threats through privacy settings
  • that I must not share other people’s data online without their consent
  • why it is important to keep my computer systems and security software up to date and I allow them to be updated when prompted
  • why I cannot take and use content (images and documents from the web) that belongs to others without their permission because I know that online material is subject to copyright and intellectual property legislation

Skills for life examples

Skills for work examples

  • make sure that online login information is not shared with anyone
  • ensure your posts on social media are not offensive or inappropriate
  • ensure that nothing is posted on social media about others, including children, without their permission
  • use a second device to receive codes when a website provides dual factor authentication and input the code to access the associated account
  • create passwords using three random words or with at least 8 characters, using lower- and upper-case letters, numbers and symbols
  • apply privacy settings to Facebook to ensure only friends can see posts and shared content
  • activate pop-up blockers on my web browser to reduce the threat from malicious sites
  • set automatic updates in the settings menu for the computer operating system and security software
  • use search tools to find and access images and other online content that can be used by others
  • use an external storage drive and copy any new documents on to it at the end of the day
  • follow organisational guidelines and policies for choosing login information including choosing secure passwords and changing them when prompted
  • know whether your organisation has IT use and social media policies and be able to apply them
  • know and use specific procedures to report suspicious emails to IT support staff in your organisation
  • follow specific organisational guidelines to allow updates of software
  • know that open source sites are available for content that can be used in the workplace and make use of them
  • follow specific organisational guidelines to allow backing up of content from work-based devices
older couple sitting on a sofa smiling looking at a laptop  | Ultimate guide to Essential digital skills | Digital Wings blog

How to develop digital skills

There are many ways to learn and develop your digital skills, and help others to develop theirs too. Learning what your strengths and weaknesses are first can help you to prioritise what skills you want to brush up on.

Digital Wings might be able to help you with some of the topics you’d like to learn more about, but there are other options available including: local colleges, online learning courses, and maybe even learning through your place of work. Do some research and find out what might suit the way you prefer to learn – make sure to read any terms and conditions, and check to see if there are any fees to pay on any of your digital learning.

Once you’ve got a good understanding of the digital foundation skills, you’re ready to move onto the Essential Digital Skills Framework to help you build and grow your confidence and skills, to help you make better digital decisions and become more digitally savvy in the workplace. Continue your digital learning today with Digital Wings.

 

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