Our guide to ECDL courses


Established to provide universally-recognised standards of academic teaching, the European Computer Driving Licence has become the most widely-recognised computing qualification in the world. Known outside Europe as the International Computer Driving Licence, ECDL courses offer students the chance to become proficient in a wide variety of individual modules, each covering a specific element of computer use, from word processing to operating systems. The achievable targets of these modules are ideally suited to novices or occasional computer users, who wish to expand their knowledge of IT at a time when the world is becoming ever more technology driven.

The aim of any ECDL course is to improve the way students interact with our modern computer-powered society, and this is particularly essential in the workplace. There are few jobs nowadays where computers aren’t involved at all, and careers where no PC skills are required tend to be low-paid or unskilled positions. An ECDL qualification can therefore be invaluable for improving job prospects, as well as enabling people to fully engage with the burgeoning worlds of social media and online communications.


History of the Licence

ECDL courses were first launched in 1996, as a way of improving digital literacy throughout Europe. A not-for-profit organisation was established in Dublin the following year, to ensure standards were universally implemented by each teaching body and participating nation, and by 1999, demand from other continents for a similar scheme led to the creation of the ICDL for non-European countries. Advanced courses were introduced in 2003, and today, the ECDL (and its international sibling) is the world's most recognised IT certification scheme for computer skills.

Examples of current modules include:

·         Word processing

·         Spreadsheets

·         Databases

·         Presentation software

·         Windows 8

·         IT security.

There are also advanced modules for a number of these topics, enabling people to expand their knowledge in more technical areas like databases or macros. Each completed module rewards the successful student with a standalone certificate, and these can be accumulated into any combination of qualifications, enabling people to focus on areas they are interested in or have a need to understand more about.

Although students can opt to study separate modules on an individual basis, the full ECDL qualification will be particularly impressive to potential employers. Nowadays, recruiters and HR personnel are typically looking for a degree of fluency and competence in computers from any candidate who approaches them, even if the job doesn’t involve using a computer on a day-to-day basis. A level of basic IT literacy is far more valuable in the workplace than second language skills or unpaid volunteering experience, so the ECDL is well worth considering for anyone seeking to bolster or enhance their CV (which they can then produce using skills learned along the way!).


In the driving seat

A few statistics will highlight the global success of ECDL certification programmes:

·         They have been taken by over 12 million people

·         Subjects have been examined in over 40 languages

·         Students in almost 150 countries have sat ECDL courses

Furthermore, because ECDL courses are designed to be accessible to all citizens, regardless of their age, ability or social status, they represent a truly democratic and universal qualification that is worth the same wherever you go, and whoever you speak to. This universality has seen the ECDL programme being embraced by some of the UK’s biggest employers, including local councils and Government departments, as well as banks and police forces.


Driving up standards

Since computing is a rapidly-evolving and ever-changing science, the ECDL Foundation goes to great lengths to ensure that each individual module is still relevant, current, valid and informative. This is achieved in tandem with a roster of international experts, focusing not just on the content of each syllabus, but also on its ultimate value to employers and students. Teaching institutions are monitored and overseen to ensure that ECDL modules are being taught correctly, and any new topics are rigorously scrutinised before being launched.


Is the ECDL right for me?

These are some of the stated aims of the ECDL – if you think you would benefit from more than one or two of them, a course might be the perfect way to improve your computing knowledge and IT confidence…

An ECDL course will:

Enhance job satisfaction and respect from colleagues

Complement any existing computer and IT knowledge by steadily building on it

Decrease time spent trying to resolve computer-related issues

Look at day-to-day use of essential Microsoft Office programs like Word, Access and Excel


Welcome students regardless of their lack of prior qualifications or IT background

Optimise computer fluency in line with the packages and software currently in popular use

Refresh CVs and show potential employers that new skills can be learned and implemented

Keep students up to date with the latest developments in packages and software updates

Streamline productivity and efficiency, both at home and at work.


By Neil Cumins

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