Someone help another person with digital skills using skypeWe’ve been chatting with lots of our Network Digital Champions over the past few weeks about how to provide digital skills support when you’re social distancing.

Here is a quick-fire round-up of some of the top tricks and tips. We hope they help.

  1. Focus and listen. Less visual clues mean it’s easy to miss when someone’s got confused or panicked by your instructions.
  2. Zoom, Facetime or Skype? Zoom seems to be the popular choice but experiment and see what works best for your learner.
  3. Don’t underestimate the telephone. 81% of remote Digital Champions are giving their help this way.
  4. Take. It. Slowly. Remember it can longer to learn virtually compared with face to face.
  5. The top three things people want help with right now are using video tools, online boredom busters and using email.
  6. Talk their language. If it’s a ‘pointer’ rather than a Cursor or a ‘button’ rather than a Computer Key, let it be so.
  7. Break the task down into distinct steps, however simple. It will help you and your learner feel like you’re making progress. And progress is a wonderful thing.
  8. Taking notes aids memory and understanding. Give your learner time to write stuff down.
  9. Go easy on yourself, this is hard.
  10. It’s about small steps, not giant leaps. Teaching online shopping? Start with browsing a supermarket website and writing a shopping list a neighbour could use. Leave the online transaction for another time.
  11. Email is great but save it for afterwards for sending links, questions, guides so you can keep the flow, man.
  12. Location still matters so make sure you’re both somewhere where you’ll not be disturbed.
  13. Don’t try to do too much in one go. The average adult attention span is 15-20 minutes.
  14. Not every detail is important when describing an online thingy. So leave some out. You just need to get the main point across.
  15. Try and use the same browser/device as the learner so you can see what they see.
  16. Allow time to sit back and let your learner practice on their own. It will help them remember what you’ve said.
  17. Need kit? These guys might be able to help: FutureDotNow and Wavelength.
  18. Need connectivity? Lots of internet companies have removed data caps, and some, like BT Basic, offer low cost phone and broadband packages.
  19. Create your own demo. Some devices and programmes like Macs and Windows 10 have built-in screen recording.
  20. Use a Voice Recorder for 'How to Do' instructions and email it as an MP4 file.
  21. Take screen shots. You could send these separately ie via Whatsapp.
  22. If the internet’s dodgy make sure you and your learner are sitting as close to the router as possible.
  23. If the internet’s still dodgy, use the ethernet cable and/or reset, otherwise known as the classic turn on and off again approach. Our guide might help too.
  24. Make it fun. Help them play online scrabble, take virtual tours, plan a holiday, learn the ukulele.  
  25. Pause a little and listen to their fears.  What aspects of digital technology can help ease their personal concerns?
  26. You don’t have to have all of the answers. No one does. Why not refer to a digital helpline, like AbilityNet that’s manned by expert tutors? 0800 048 7642.
  27. Be encouraging, even if someone is doing it wrong, over and over, and over again. Encouragement gives hope.
  28. Print a couple of our how-to guides and pop them in the post. We’ve got hundreds, literally hundreds, of them.
  29. Talk about scams. There’s some great advice here. And you can report suspicious activity to the National Cyber Security Centre via
  30. Further your knowledge and skills with our free technology guides.
  31. If your remote digital skills session turns into a chat about the weather, the neighbours or the weekly bin collection that is more than enough at this time.
  32. Remember, we are all learning.

If you like this advice, we’ve got more: