Lots of Digital Champions projects use regular drop-ins sessions as a flexible way to help clients with whatever digital skills problems are concerning them. Brian and Linda Dove have been running The Spire Drop-in for nearly a decade and have helped hundreds of learners. They've worked with a team of great volunteers, many of whom are Digital Champions and are part of a long-running Clarion Futures initiative which we've been supporting since 2012.

As Brian and Linda prepared to step down in Autumn 2023, we asked them how they set up the drop-ins and what they're learnt from the sessions over the years...

Getting Started

Linda says “we became aware that many older people needed help understanding technology. The computer stores were happy to sell equipment but were not very interested in showing people how to use it…

Within a short while we realised that the trickle of requests for help had become a stream and we needed to hold regular sessions. With help from Clarion and Digital Unite, we secured space in a local Church Café and our weekly sessions began.  

We operate on a ‘one-to-one’ basis and cover Apple, Microsoft, and Android software as well as the internet, and cloud working.

We quickly realised that people did not want a ‘classroom teaching’ type approach but just needed help with their current problems."

drop in session in session

What the sessions cover

As Linda says, the drop-in sessions are tailored to what ever it is the client wants to learn in away that suits them. 

"Our aim has always been to solve the client’s current difficulty in a friendly manner and at a pace that they feel comfortable with. We mostly cover problems with browsing, emails, photos, updates, etc. but occasionally have had more unusual requests, like changing a laptop to the Greek language and updating a ‘computer driven knitting machine’'!

More recently we have noticed that problems have become more complex due to the vast variety of equipment and Apps available.

With most companies and organisations now insisting that clients use digital access, we frequently show our clients how this can be achieved and try to build their confidence in this digital world.

Top Tips for Successful Drop-Ins

Linda and Brian's advice from the hundreds of session they've delivered:

  • Provide an informal service that people feel comfortable to use frequently.
  • Establish the client’s technical knowledge so that you can talk to them at the right level and solve their current problem without making them feel inadequate or embarrassed.
  • Define the limits of your help – such as no hardware problems (if applicable) and not getting involved in sensitive areas, such as online banking. 
  • Don’t be afraid to ask  for help from your other volunteers if it is an area outside your expertise. 
  • Advise the client on other areas to avoid future problems – e.g., backups, scams, and updates.
brian helping a learner

We were delighted to have had our sessions recognised by Central Sussex Rotary and to win the MSDC Stronger Communities Award in 2019. However, our greatest reward has been from giving older people the confidence to use their computer equipment in their everyday lives.

Linda Dove
The Spire Drop-In
Linda helping a learner
Find out more...

...about the first hand experience of our clients, from setting up private-public partnerships to running rural digital skills sessions where's there's no wi-fi...