The aim of the project is to prepare a methodological base for ICT courses provided for women with hardly any technological experience, and for teachers who are going to take the courses. One of the main reasons behind the project is the ever-increasing threat of losing one’s job, which is becoming a major problem in most countries of the European Union. The most probable victims of this tendency include those with basic and lower education who have so far worked in positions where they were not made to further their education, or those who have been unemployed for a long time. There are few opportunities for these people on the labour market and retraining is often the only way to improve their prospects when searching for a new job. Long-term unemployment, moreover, brings some negative phenomena, such as a lack of social relations and impaired communication skills, loss of expertise in modern technologies and the very dangerous loss of self-confidence and self-respect. All of these minimize their chances of finding a job.
Middle-aged women seeking to re-enter the labour market after maternity leave ends rank are one the most endangered social groups. Considering the rapid advancement of information technology and its inevitable presence in most professions, these women have a huge handicap. They often have no experience in using ICT (information and communication technologies) in their previous employment, or have lost contact with developments in ITCC since leaving their jobs. For these reasons they are not professionally prepared to meet the new requirements of employers relating to ICT or to adapt to the new labour management in place where they work. On the other hand, women are renowned for having a number of characteristic features which potential employers may find very beneficial: efficiency, conscientiousness, patience, perseverance, creativity and the ability to concentrate on more than one problem at the same time.
If backed up by good ITCC skills, these features may prove to be great advantages to employers in both the state and private sectors. Obtaining the ICT certificate should become a priority for women falling into one of these groups (those threatened with losing their job or likely to have trouble finding a new job), and besides the women themselves, it should also become a major issue for Employment Agencies and employers. Given this certificate, women will suddenly see new opportunities emerging for them in getting a new job or starting in private enterprise. Also, their self-confidence and self-respect is likely to increase as a result of acquiring new technological skills. The women become more able to define and determine their aims and consciously further their qualifications.
While they are attending the courses, the women are likely to discover new ways of establishing contacts both on the actual course (often with people in the same situation) and via the Internet. A lot of women who have not worked with a personal computer before, or only did so a long time ago, are afraid of modern technology and do not believe they will be able to cope with it. They need maximum encouragement from their teacher and their surroundings when dealing with the computer for the very first time. They need to overcome substantial mental obstacles in their relationship with this new and relatively complex technology, and they have to be assisted even when trying to manage things, which might seem rather banal, such as handling the mouse.
The majority of ICT courses fail to take into account the difference in the way men and women think. The teachers are mostly men who approach teaching from their own perspective. They assume their students will necessarily be as enthusiastic about technology as they are themselves and that there are no mental barriers hindering tuition. A lot of women, then, choose to leave courses like these feeling down and with an almost total lack of self-confidence. The feeling that they are incapable of dealing with technology is even more intense than before taking the course. The ITCC skills they acquire, if any, tend to be rather shallow and the women are not willing to improve them, which is a basic precondition of working with this technology.
The aim of the e-Chance for Women project is to design an appropriate methodology respecting the inherent differences in the way males and females think. The effectiveness of the course is conditioned by the methodological preparation of pre-courses organized for both ICT teachers and prospective students – the women. The pre-course will be designed in such a way as to exemplify various techniques to be used whenever there is a need to remove some of the above mental barriers or feelings of fear towards the new technology. The teachers will be shown what approaches the women expect them to use in any ITCC course, whereas the women will be told what they are supposed to expect from the courses (a pleasant and friendly atmosphere, individual approach, step-by-step tuition, teaching games, an abundance of practical examples, illustrated stories about how computers may help them, etc.).
The pre-course will take the shape of an interactive CD ROM and it will be available for both ICT teachers and the women. The purpose will not be to teach the women to work with a computer, but rather to show a method that can be used in teaching, how to overcome mental barriers, how to explain ITCC technology to the women and how to make it appeal to them.
A questionnaire survey was carried out by all of the partners under the project, among women who had taken part in an ICT course, and ICT teachers. Around 228 women were addressed in total and 63 teachers from all of the partner countries. The survey was processed and assessed. The achieved results seconded the intention to carry out the project and they will be used to design the above courses. The opinions of the women who expressed their thoughts about some of the aspects of the ICT course will be reflected in all the outcomes of the project.