Smart Chicago’s Civic User Testing Group (CUTGroup) conducted focus groups on digital skills and digital skills resources in Chicago. One of the goals of the focus groups was to understand how we can better connect residents to technology resources in their neighborhood.

To read all of the lessons and access all of the data from these focus groups, see this blog post on the Smart Chicago Collaborative’s website.

Lessons on Connecting Residents to Resources

The majority of these testers were interested in taking in-person courses where they could have personal support. Taking an in-person course over an online course, however, was dependent on the subject matter. Testers described many resources that could be found online but online resources are mainly useful for learning a quick skill (fixing something quickly) not an entire skill set like learning a new software platform.

Testers are looking for free classes that are in their neighborhood, and not everyone is aware of the resources that are near them. In the second focus group, we discussed how free classes are generally basic classes and there are not as many intermediate or advanced courses available for free.

Connecting residents to resources is dependent on marketing of those resources. In our last focus group, we talked about cross-collaboration between organizations. If you participated in  a class at one organization, those staff could and should help determine the next class you should take based on your new skill set. This extra guidance is key to driving learners to continue their trainings.

Testers  are not sure how to rate their skill set and need guidance in determining if a new class is right for them. As an organizer and designer of this test, I found it is hard to rate the skill levels of others and rating your  own skill level is even harder. Guiding residents to know what is the best class for them is extremely important and can be done in multiple ways:

  • Digital skills certifications provide a structure towards the next step in the learning continuum
  • Instructors or trainers at organizations can provide  better information to their students on next steps even when that class is outside of their organization
  • Showcasing what benefits come from  learning digital skills whether that is progression in skills or work-related can encourage new residents to participate
  • Being transparent in the class documentation and syllabus will allow residents  to review and determine if the class is too advanced or too easy based on what they already know