ECDL – The European Computer Driving Licence
I've worked for Poplars Surgery in Birmingham for twelve years. I have been using the computer in my work for many years, and was about to take on more IT responsibilities in my new role as IT Manager. We were about to change from System 5 to Synergy and with the new GMS contract looming I thought it might be an idea to sharpen up my computer skills.
About two and a half years ago, I was asked if I was interested in taking the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) course via Learn Direct. What appealed to me about this course was that I was given the option to do it on line and would be able to access the training from home, so I was not committed to doing the course at specific times. Being a working Mum I could work at my own pace and when it suited. The only time I had to visit the test centre was to do the actual tests, and here I sat at least two at a time.
The ECDL course consists of seven modules:
Each module has several chapters of training material. After working through the training material, you can test what knowledge you have learned by taking assessments. The questions are based on the chapters covered, and at the end you are given a score. You are also able to perform Tasks, which simulate the software that you are learning. In the training material you can do pre-assessment tests and fast track any area of the modules you feel necessary. You can do a 'quiz' and will be given a score; you can also do practice tests during your training before sitting the actual test.
Basic concepts of IT does what it says on the tin! It covered the basics of a PC such as hardware, software, storage; and IT, society and viruses. Here I learned a great deal about computer terminology and computers in everyday life.
Using the computer and managing files covered the basic functions of a PC, organizing files and folders, working with desktop icons, and Windows Explorer. I was surprised by the number of keyboard shortcuts I was unaware of, which I now use every time I access a computer. I frequently show other members of staff these shortcuts. These easy-to-do tasks really do make computer life easier!
Word Processing: self-explanatory really, but it included advanced word processing functions such as tables, images, importing objects and mail-merge. Before I started the ECDL course, no one at our practice was competent at using mail-merge: we now use this feature regularly. I also find it very handy to use keyboard combinations (macros) when entering text .
Spreadsheets. I kept putting this one off, fearing it was going to be boring and laborious: the thought of formulae. Yuk! Hey, not so bad: here we covered entering and editing data, formulae, charts and formatting cells. Being able to wrap text in a cell was a great find. I have recently installed Bart's Excel Add-in and I hope my Excel background knowledge will be advantageous here.
Databases. I had great fun with this one. The task took us through all the stages of designing and planning a database. It taught us how to retrieve information from an existing database using the query, select and sort tools, and how to create and modify reports. I am currently working on a database of practice protocols, a handy tip I picked up from John Lockley's 'An Access Database for Protocols ' at the user group Annual Conference back in November.
Presentation. We looked at creating, formatting and preparing presentations, and how to use various slide-show effects. Another enjoyable topic: I learned some useful tricks!
Finally, Information and Communication. This module covered e-mail and the Internet. I learnt how to set up message rules that enabled me to organise my e-mails. Being a member of several user groups this has come in very useful.
The ECDL course has been beneficial to me in my work. It has improved my computer skills, enabling me to work more efficiently. In today's computerised society, the course proved to be a great information source. I have been able to cascade my knowledge to other members of staff at the practice: several, including a GP, have now either completed or started the ECDL course. I would encourage anyone considering doing the course to do so. When your fourteen year old son asks the odd question about Access or Excel and you know the answer, it really does make the course worth doing!
Where, when, how.
The NHS now has its own test centres for ECDL. Contact your PCT or local centre for the ECDL voucher. Further information can be found at www.ecdl.nhs.uk The course is free to all NHS staff.