Blog Post

What difference can a small intervention make to help Newcomers access hybrid services?

By: Marco Campana
January 2, 2024

​I've written about the YMCA of the National Capital Region's WESO (Wired: Evaluating Settlement Online) project a few times. Their evaluation toolkit and resources are available on the Y's website, with additional resources on the way. If you haven't been persuaded yet to access their materials, now, as you prepare your IRCC CFP proposal would be a good time.

One of the pieces of their work that was somewhat indirect from the main goal of creating a hybrid services evaluation toolkit should also be of interest: a client experiment focused on Newcomer digital literacy.

The experiment sought to answer a simple but complex question: what is the bare minimum training for Newcomers that would improve the likelihood that they might access online services? The ultimate goal of the training was to change clients’ behaviour and get them to use online/digital services.

It turns out, a little goes a long way. Read on.

Why it matters

Throughout the pandemic our sector learned that client digital literacy is a barrier to accessing hybrid services. WESO's Newcomer and staff surveys confirmed the importance of digital literacy interventions. 70.8% of 240 Newcomers surveyed agreed that they need training and digital literacy supports to access SPO online services. 87.7% of 260 staff agreed.

Image of survey data related to breaking down digital barriers for Newcomers

Many digital literacy resources have been created in our sector, including by staff who completed the survey:

  • 133 staff members out of 260 are developing "how-to" resources for accessing virtual resources.
  • 112 staff members out of 260 are digitizing materials for newcomers remote use.
  • 82 staff members out of 260 are securing/ distributing devices for those who lack access to laptops/ tablets.
Image of survey data answering the question what can SPOs do to bridge the Newcomer digital divide?

But there are still many questions about how to get it right.

Now that IRCC is funding digital support services to help Newcomers access your remote and hybrid services, getting it right is important to everyone.

The experiment

The WESO team worked with clients who had previously only accessed in-person services to identify their barriers and ways to transition them to using online services. 40 clients were recruited. The WESO team created a training curriculum that covers basic digital literacy skills needed to access online services:

  • web search
  • sending emails with attachments
  • joining Zoom meetings
  • filling and signing PDFs

Participants got 6 hours of in-person training over two days, with follow up 1-on-1 support. They got a comprehensive handbook to use and take home with them.

Support and follow-up were key. Follow-up activities included post-training phone calls, a survey after 15 days, and a post-survey after 3 months to monitor habit and knowledge changes.

The result

In their evaluation the WESO team found that one of the important aspects of digital literacy is actual practice. Many of the taught materials in the training were acquired by most people with practice rather than formal training. 15 days after the training, 60% of participants indicated an improvement of their knowledge and practice. 75 days after the training, with practice, support, and the handbook, that number jumped to 72.5%.

85% of participants reported having a positive experience with online services.

Image of graphed data indicating changes in digital habits among Newcomers trainees post the training intervention

Given that these were Newcomers who had previously not accessed online services, these numbers indicate that even a short, well planned, and supportive intervention can make a huge difference in service access. The WESO client experiment shows that creating and implementing a simple targeted intervention can have a dramatic impact for Newcomers digital literacy.

WESO's experience with an in-person intervention and all of their data reinforces the need to fully understand the people you’re serving. In particular, are they interested and able to access your full suite of hybrid services? It turns out that asking that and then providing a simple in-person session that covers some basics, as well as some more advanced skills can make a huge impact.


Download WESO's full infographic The Difference a Small Intervention Can Make to Help Newcomers Access Hybrid Services and find their Digital Skills Training Client Handbook on the WESO website. ​

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