From Carer to CarerPlus: developing digital competences in the care worker sector

by Steven Warburton


At the 2014 EDEN conference in Zagreb, Steven Warburton described how the CarerPlus project has addressed the challenges surrounding the development of a training programme for enhancing the digital skills of care workers to enhance the quality of life of older persons.

The aims of the project have been twofold: to provide a pathway for the development and professionalization of care workers through the acquisition of a set of digital competences; for the care worker to play a central role in combating social exclusion in older persons through the care context, utilising and passing on the newly acquired digital skills and knowledge.

One of the key challenges has therefore been to define a set of digital competences relevant to the domain of the care worker sector and then translate this into a meaningful programme of activity. Four research phases have investigated the relevance of digital competences in the care sector, and the digital knowledge and skills likely to emerge within future care worker activities. This work has produced a framework with three core domains: general digital competence; enabling digital competence in care; and care-specific digital competence for independent living and social participation for care recipients.

The architecture of the CarerPlus training and development programme has been created with the competence framework acting as a primary reference point. The final programme is made up of five course areas that comprise around 200 hours of study delivered in a blended learning mode:

  1. Foundation: development of baseline skills to build confidence and awareness of ICTs and understand their potential application to home care settings.
  2. Designing Social Care Interventions: enabling digital competence in care that is sustainable and accepted by both care workers and care recipients.
  3. Professional development: to enhance participant competences in the areas of planning, communicating and professional networking.
  4. Providing Social Care with ICTs for Independent and Assisted Living
  5. Providing Social Care with ICTs to enhance Social Inclusion

The design approach of the programme references Bruner’s notion of the spiral curriculum where to advance knowledge and skills they are revisited at higher levels. In an innovative twist the participant care workers are situated as ‘designers’ of ICT based interventions and care recipients are located as ‘co-participants’. The aim is to empower the care worker and the care recipient by promoting the use of short design cycles based on a scaffolded micro-project approach.

Pilots are now underway in five European countries and the team is monitoring the successes of the project. For care workers, an increased understanding of their professionalization needs and for older people, clear enhancements to their quality of life.

About the project

The project is set against the background of an aging European demographic and the implications this has for the quality of life of older persons. With better health care and improved living conditions we are now living longer. The shift in the dependency ratio is creating a pressure on healthcare systems and the social service support structures. As a result we can expect to work longer, experience later retirement and suffer higher taxation rates. To help mitigate these pressures, there has been an effort to increase the autonomy and independence of older people, for example by taking measures to support older persons in their homes rather than move them too swiftly into the medical care system. The CarerPlus project has identified the domiciliary care worker, and the set of digital competences they possess, as a key mediator between ICT-based opportunities for ageing well in the home, and their integration into older people’s lives.

Acknowledgments: The CarerPlus project (297304) is co-funded by the European Union under the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme - ICT Policy Support Programme.

Professor Steven Warburton is Head of Technology enhanced Learning at the University of Surrey, UK.

A full version of this paper is available:

Warburton, S., Hatzipanagos, S. and Valenta, L. (2014). From Carer to CarerPlus: the translation of a digital competence framework into a blended mobile learning programme for the domiciliary care sector. Proceedings EDEN Conference 2014, Zagrab, Croatia.

About the EDEN 2014 Annual Conference


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The Conference entitled E-learning at Work and the Workplace - From Education to Employment and Meaningful Work with ICTs was organised by EDEN - European Distance and E-learning Network in collaboration with University of Zagreb, University Computing Centre - SRCE.