at risk of social exclusion have still not been reached and those keen on experimenting with eLearning are mostly well-educated people. (HELIOS 2006: 16)
Therefore, dedicated efforts are needed to make sure that everyone is able to acquire the necessary digital competence in the information society and to learn and develop other key competences via ICT for participation in society. Learning objectives for emancipation and empowerment, such as social competence, critical thinking, knowledge sharing and cooperation techniques, are considered to be essential preconditions for inclusion, well-being and success in the knowledge-based society. ICT-enabled learning should be designed so that it embraces disadvantaged people, families and groups. It can offer new chances to those who want to learn again and to those who were not able to benefit from traditional obligatory education and training, or who were not able to perform at school. ICT-enabled learning could allow them to plug-in again though this will not happen automatically (Punie & Cabrera 2006).
There is some evidence that ICT can give greater opportunities for accessing learning to those who need it the most. The eUser survey reveals, as mentioned above, that eLearning can extend the reach of training offers. Almost every second person taking an eLearning course states they would not have done training if it had not been available online (eUser 2005: 73).
Case study research also shows positive results on the potential of ICT-enabled learning for supporting low-achievers and young people with complex lives outside the education system, but they also highlight some important challenges. The “Notschool project” in the UK involved early school leavers again in learning through the creation of a community of researchers (the young people themselves) who enter information about themselves on their own web-page, and communicate with their peers, and with tutors and mentors. Tutors “encourage interest, prompt for ideas, set formal work, assess work, look around the community and tell their researchers what’s new...”. The project focussed on areas such as mathematics, literacy, dance, saxophone playing, juggling and the environment. The result was that most participants who had very low levels of literacy when they joined Notschool.net improved their literacy substantially. Also over 50% of the young people achieved formal accreditation of some sort. This model, however, was thought not to work with seriously dysfunctional families. Another problem is that it is difficult to upscale and mainstream, given the number full-time equivalent staff needed (circa 1 tutor per 20 students) (Davies 2005).
Another project looked at the use of computer-simulation techniques to boost the learning experience of low achieving pupils in the 12th grade. They were doing final electricity studies as part of a blend of general and vocational education in comprehensive high schools. As a result of the use of computer simulations of electronic systems, the students rapidly developed far more independent working procedures than those anticipated by the teachers. The pupils’ dependence on the teachers reduced progressively. Another positive outcome was that that it transformed the teachers' self-perception from a technical-vocational perception to an emphasis on the development of pupils’ thinking skills and self-esteem (Davies 2005).
Motivation and self-esteem are important factors that can allow the less privileged to take up learning again. Learning motivation to a large extent depends on the social context of the learner, especially for the most disadvantaged. In many social contexts, the obvious levers of motivation – such as increased employability or increased income – may not be sufficient to motivate people to learn. New levers have to be found to enhance the motivation of disadvantaged categories, linked not only to professional development but also to personal,