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‘On Target’ for better digital skills

U3A Benalla’s Building Digital Skills in Regional Areas Pilot has seen locals make leaps and bounds when it comes to technology.
Text reads "Building Regional Digital Skills. Merredin Community Resource Centre." Good Things Foundation Australia, Wesfarmers, and U3A Benalla logos.

When it comes to keeping up with technology and the shift to online, Margaret Jenkins from U3A Benalla says “it all needs confidence and it needs [digital] skills”.

And with the ‘On Target’ short course – run as part of the Building Digital Skills in Regional Areas Pilot – community members at U3A Benalla are developing just that, boosting their confidence and competency getting online and using technology.

U3A Benalla were one of three community organisations that participated in the pilot, which is a joint initiative by Good Things Foundation Australia and Wesfarmers to help communities impacted by the closure of local Target stores.

For Benalla residents, following the closure of their local Target their next large department store was over 40km away. As part of the pilot, U3A Benalla learners were taught how to shop online to purchase the goods they need and track their order with email notifications.

It’s not just all about online shopping, though. U3A’s Digital Mentors also supported learners to create passwords and email addresses, and how to use social media and online banking. For those without access to devices, funding provided by Wesfarmers was used to purchase smartphones for learners to put into use the skills they’ve learnt at home.

“It’s definitely made a difference to the people who have participated,” says Margaret, who managed U3A Benalla’s Building Digital Skills in Regional Areas Pilot program.

Dorothy Webber, one of the Digital Mentors, recalls a learner in their 80s who at the start of the program had only ever used a flip phone. But with one-on-one support from Digital Mentors, the learner is now confidently taking photos, attaching files to messages, and using QR codes with her smartphone.

“She [the learner] said she’s planning to master using technology and be confident with it before she turns 85,” says Dorothy.

“She has put her mind to it that this is what she is going to achieve, and she is.”

Such motivation and the support of their Digital Mentors has been key to U3A Benalla’s learners being able to achieve so much in just four months. Inspired by their time in class, Dorothy explains it is then the application at home of what they have learnt that makes all the difference.

“It was very heartwarming for myself and the other mentors to hear these stories of people that were achieving. The members were going home and practicing…they would go home and have a try and, as in all learning, that’s the way you learn.

“We like to say that [self-motivation] is due to the wonderful mentors at the program, we’ll take the credit!” adds Dorothy with a laugh.

Although U3A Benalla’s Building Digital Skills in Regional Areas Pilot program has come to a close, it’s not the end for their learners. U3A Benalla continues to support their digital skills journeys with free Be Connected classes and, using part of their pilot funding, have provided all program participants with a U3A Benalla membership to undertake any of their other digital literacy programs.


You can read how the Building Digital Skills in Regional Communities Pilot has made a difference across more regional communities in our case study series below.

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